When we decided to move our family to Europe, our two teenage daughters were hoping that we were suffering from a temporary lapse of sanity. They held onto the hope that we would wake up one morning and say, “What were we thinking?” and scrap the whole idea. It’s totally understandable that they would have this reaction. After all, we were asking them to take a huge leap of faith with little to no experience in such matters. But I have to admit, the “crazy” thing crossed my mind too – more than once.
Moving a family of four across the ocean was not only daunting, but was chock-full of mental and emotional landmines that threatened to blow up my shifting reality with each step we took. Where will we live? Can we earn a living in another culture? Even simple things like How does the blasted gas pump work? posed daily challenges. So many things were not instinctive from years of enculturated habit.
But isn’t that what “waking up” is all about: breaking out of old habits and shedding limited ways of thinking that no longer serve us? We all battle the old habits of “I can’t because…” or “That will never work for me because…” Moving to another country is not required to break free of the chains that bind us. But moving outside our comfort zone is.
Stepping outside your comfort zone isn’t easy, but seems to be more and more necessary, whether we want to or not. Our world is moving and shifting so quickly that we, too, need to move and shift. We need to become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. In this New York Times article, Brené Brown states that living outside your comfort zone when you choose to helps prepare you for the times when life forces you out of it. We build a type of resiliency and adaptability.
Even though moving to another country was a big leap outside my comfort zone, it was just the right mix of discomfort and adventure. It's important to know where your zone begins. You don't have to force yourself to do huge, scary things like skydiving or quitting your job. The key is to know what pushes you just enough to break free of a limited perception of yourself and to expand and grow toward something that stretches you (somewhere between totally chill and freaking out). You'll find that the juiciest stuff happens there.
I was walking with a friend of mine the other day and she was sharing that when she has stepped outside her comfort zone, toward "unusual life choices," her family, in particular, got very UNcomfortable. She, too encountered the, "Are you crazy?" vibe.
Why is it that deviating from the prescribed path is often subject to a sanity check? It seems that the collective program of “don’t stray too far from the straight and narrow” has hijacked our inherent nature to explore, wander and even break the rules from time to time. Maybe a bit of crazy is just what we need.