We can’t get rescued from a remote island if we remain comfortably in the middle of it. We need to be at the edge, out on the beach where we are exposed and vulnerable, but visible for others to see.
I had the pleasure to hear Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank fame speak on a couple of occasions last year. As always, I take notes when I get to hear from someone like him; notes of inspiration or thoughts that may wind up in a blog. He shared the phrase, “comfort is the death of innovation.” A requirement of innovation is becoming “uncomfortable” in our comfort zone. We will not reach our potential by remaining comfortable. In sports we need to push our body to get stronger, a team needs to push its competition level to get better; in business a company needs to seek new markets and provide new solutions; in a family we need to have those hard conversations. Change and improvement is uncomfortable.
How willing are we to be uncomfortable? There is a direct relationship between uncomfortableness and finding growth, accomplishment, and transformation. We are where we are because that is exactly where we want to be, whether we admit it or not. What we do, what we work for, and what we get, depends on what we’re comfortable with. When stretching ourselves to experience more, we cultivate courage and live a more vibrant life. Staying in a comfort zone and seeking only safe options thwarts growth. Some people even become settled in poor or terrible situations, possibly by default or accepting their ‘fate.’ Be aware of mundane daily routines and how they make us feel. Start noticing the things done on automatic pilot. Anxiety, pain, uncomfortableness are all feelings of being vulnerable and exposed. Leaning into and valuing these feelings will create opportunities for personal development.
A life storm, like a worldwide pandemic or racial unrest, exposes our vulnerability and uncovers erroneous and nonessential truths around our daily lives, especially our priorities. These storms should disrupt our comfort zone. Have we have allowed ourselves to become dull and numb to the very things that could strengthen our lives? Have we have let generations of decisions, processes, and comfort put us on autopilot? A comfort level for some can adversely affect others. This is a mindset we must be willing to change. This change cannot happen overnight, but it needs to start now. Our journey needs to move us away from the center of the island.
“What keeps so many people back is simply unwillingness to pay the price, to make the exertion, the effort to sacrifice their ease and comfort.”- Orison Swett Marden
I heard Colonel Gary Steele speak a few years ago. Talk about leaving the comfort of the middle of an island, he was the first African American football player at West Point. He built his family mantra on an excerpt from the Cadet Prayer – “Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.” Be uncomfortable by choosing the harder right. Accepting half-truths often means staying in our comfort zone.
“Livin’ on the Edge” is a song by Aerosmith, released in 1993. The song talks about how the world is a crazy place, but people remain stuck in their routines and refuse to change. They stay comfortably in the middle of their island. Ironically “Livin’ on the Edge” met with dismissive reactions from music critics because it was an example of “playing it safe according to strict late-Eighties directives.” If we are not living on the edge, we are taking up too much space. “You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Roy T. Bennett
This blog and my involvement in Christian based nonprofits have been huge in strengthening my faith. I made myself vulnerable as well as visible and exposed to challenges about my faith and why I embrace being Catholic.
Pope Benedict XVI said it well: “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” Pope Benedict did not mean “greatness” in its earthly, material sense, but rather greatness in faith, greatness in service, greatness in sacrifice. Our personal world of comfort has dulled our senses to what can be a difficult world for others.
The Bible observes repeatedly how important our discomfort is to God. He called Abraham to leave his home and wander around in foreign lands among strangers. He called Moses to stand before the most powerful ruler in the known world and demand the release of the Hebrew people. He called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to defy the Babylonian King’s idolatrous command and be thrown into a fiery furnace.
Jesus also spoke about the importance of our discomfort. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), He called people “Blessed” who were grieving, hungry or poor in spirit, or suffering persecution for His sake. We are not going to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” if we’re too comfortable. Finley Peter Dunne coined the phrase that Jesus came to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Our greatest triumphs can happen when we are feeling uncomfortable. Discomfort can force us to look for different ways. He is the One nudging us to move out from the comfort of the island’s middle.