Leaving My Comfort Zone

My profession is training and development. My best skill (in my opinion) is teaching others. I can remember as a child, we had a shed out back, and my sister and I would gather there and play ‘school’. We’d take turns being the teacher. She’s now a teacher, too. Not surprisingly, we are both ENFPs according to our MBTI profiles. ENFP’s are strongly suited to be teachers, ministers, counselors and journalists…. and probably divorcees, too.

It took me a long time to realize where I belong career-wise. I wanted to be a corporate manager. I wanted to be a ‘suit’. But, I couldn’t change my spots. I ended up minoring in journalism in college. I kept being pulled into training positions at work even if I was a supervisor or project manager. I believe we all have callings, and I believe that no matter what we do, our callings will find us no matter how stubbornly we resist.

When I finally went to see a career counselor after I was at the end of my rope as a corporate manager, I was so relieved. I wondered why I couldn’t make myself happy as a corporate manager. It was what I had worked for all of my life. I had moved and taken risks to get there. The evidence was right there in black and white. One of the ten worst jobs for someone with my personality was a corporate manager. Why had I waited so long to figure this out? I was 40 and should have been at the top of my game, but I was on the wrong playing field. So, I took a risk, and I went back to school to get on the right track in one of the fields that the test said I would like.

I took a risk based on what the assessment told me. I looked at that list – teacher, pastor, counselor, curriculum designer and journalist – and I tried to figure out which one I wanted to pursue. I made my decision like any ENFP would. I just picked one. It seemed like a curriculum designer would have a role in a corporate environment, and I was comfortable there. The others seemed so foreign to me. I took a risk. I signed up for the Masters program in Instructional Technology at the local campus of Purdue. I’m glad they didn’t ask me what interested me about this field, because I had no clue. I basically wanted a job that I cared about, and the experts said this would fit. Sometimes I trust the experts more than my own research.

I got out of my comfort zone. Fortunately, for us ENFPs we take a lot of risks. We need variety and change to flourish. Our comfort zone traps us, and for me it is terrifying. I start to feel like I’m in a cage. I literally feel like one of those tigers pacing back and forth behind the bars anxious to find a way out. And, once I’ve decided it’s time for a change, it’s hard to stop it from happening. I’ve become gifted in creating change for change’s sake. I guess some would think it’s a detriment. But I know that most of my growth has occurred in those times when I was pushing my own boundaries. It’s stressful and sometimes scary, but it’s where I feel most at home.

Silly as it seems, I’m having to get out of my comfort zone in my workouts. I’ve been with Jessica for the past two years following her workout routines. It’s been really great because it’s kept me consistent. Now, that my trainer has been cut due to budget restraints, I’ve been trying to get to the gym for weights with limited success. But, honestly, I find it really boring. I don’t have a workout partner to encourage me. So, I’m going to go to a class tonight. I’ve been to a few Body Pump classes. I like them in some respects, but they feel too fast. And, I’m having to work out with others. Classes are out of my comfort zone. I’m going to make myself continue to try them because I need the motivation and structure they provide, so I’m going to try a new class tonight. A part of me really doesn’t want to go. I’d like to distract myself with walking my dog or cooking dinner, but I need to go to the gym. I’ve worked too hard to get in shape to let it go downhill now. So, at 6:30, I’m going to a class called Triple Threat. It’s supposed to target the full body as a strength-training workout and couple it with cardio. It honestly sounds awful and awkward to me right now.

What would happen if a child never took the risk to stand up? Do they ever even think about it? They don’t know fear yet. Fear is the biggest detriment to learning. Because if fear keeps you from stepping out of your comfort zone, you can’t learn. You can do all of the reading and research you want, but you have to step out of your comfort zone to learn. When I train, I have to push participants to try new skills. They hem and haw and play on their blackberries pretending that their team back at the office can’t do without them for a minute. That is their comfort zone. To be present in class with a room full of strangers and practice a new skill is not fun. It illuminates their weaknesses, and nobody wants that. Even though I know that I have to step out of my comfort zone in my workouts, I still don’t want to go. But, I’m going to change clothes now, and I’m going to illuminate my weaknesses.

Where do you need to venture outside of your comfort zone? What’s stopping you? What do you need to do to take that first step to step over that line? Who do you need to support you? What are you afraid of? What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Name the fear … feel the fear … and do it anyway.

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