Get outside your comfort zone


    By Sue Ellen Haning
    Preview Columnist

    “What the heck is a successful nut and why would I want to be one?” you may ask.

    First let’s define “nut” as we will refer to it here: A nut is one who does the opposite of what everyone else does.

    With definition in hand, let us proceed.

    What? You’re not sure you want to embrace the idea of being a nut? I’ll let you in on a little secret: You already are one. No offense intended, but there is a part of you that begs to be real, free and escape the rut you call life. If this scares or encroaches upon you, run for your life. If you are still holding this paper, congratulations, living a life you never thought possible is yours.

    How do I know? My life is one such life.

    Our fears surround us and often drown us. There are more fears in this world than anything else. Well, grains of sand could be a close second.

    Flying used to be one of my greatest fears. I had my first opportunity to fly when I was sixteen. My father asked me if I would like to accompany him on a business trip to Rome, Italy. Already, at sixteen, I was terrified of heights, and although my father was fascinated with airplanes, I was afraid of them. After all, if I boarded one, it would leave the ground and, with it, my feet! My ten toes are supposed to be on the ground, not hanging from a few miles straight up.

    I declined, and my father went alone to enjoy the wonders of Rome. My fears continued to dictate to me daily for the next 40 years, triumphantly robbing me of opportunities to experience the many gifts of life. Forty years later, I had another opportunity to challenge my comfort zone. My 21-year-old daughter invited me to backpack with her in Italy for three months. Her idea of travel included no credit cards, little money, no cell phones and no itinerary or hotel reservations.

    “Why?” I asked, to which she offered, “We can’t learn the Italian culture if we stay in hotels with Americans.”

    Her solution was to ask Italians on the street if we could go home with them and sleep on their couches. Most nights, at midnight, I had no idea where I would be sleeping, but we always landed in someone’s home and the ensuing conversations with people who lived across the ocean in another culture skipped through my mind and changed my life.

    Now, granted, you don’t have to step this far outside your comfort zone to make improvements to your life, and I guarantee leaping buildings in a single bound is not what this is about.

    During those three months in Italy, I experienced the magic that materializes when I dared step outside my coveted comfort zone. I found, at the ripe old age of 56, an exciting world, electrifying opportunities and a new, enlivened me. Before this experience I had never driven, alone, farther than 40 miles from my home. And, yes, you read that right. Fear, that four-letter word, got me every time.

    Seven years later, I continue my quest to obliterate my comfort zone. Some people might think I’m nuts, and maybe I am. But, if enjoying life to the max makes me a nut, I am proud to be one.

    We allow our lives to become weary since we permit the same things day after day and identical thoughts hour to hour. We even get comfortable with the illusion that we will always be here. We are distracted by our “stuff,” or we come to believe there’s nothing more for us.

    A few years ago, I read a quote by Vance Havner that says, “A rut is a grave with the ends kicked out.” In this column, I intend, if you wish to be a part, to guide you down the path of getting outside your comfort zone.

    Wake up. You can be a successful nut, too!

    I hope you enjoy this poem that appeared years ago in the “Dear Abby” column.

    “To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

    To weep is to appear sentimental.

    To reach for another is to risk involvement.

    To expose your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.

    To love is to risk not being loved in return.

    To live is to risk dying.

    To believe is to risk failure.

    But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

    The people who risk nothing, have nothing, are nothing.

    They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, or live.

    Chained by their attitudes, they are slaves; they have forfeited their freedom.

    Only a person who risks is free.”

    Poem from “The Book of Positive Quotations,” compiled and arranged by John Cook.