"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anaïs Nin
What a perfectly exquisite image -- and what a perfectly ideal day for me to find it. You see -- yesterday I took a step outside of my comfort zone. You know what the "comfort zone" is -- for most of us it is that part of our lives; physical, mental and spiritual in which we feel safe, secure and for the most part in control. It is our everyday life -- the familiar, the steady, the dependable -- where risk is not standard fare and a certain amount of predictability is the norm. But what is comfortable and safe for one - is not the same for another. One person's risk is another's everyday existence. And no one has complete control over what outside forces in their lives can turn a quiet morning into turmoil. Our existence can never be completely predictable -- and all of us have to wrestle that dragon in our own way.
A full life is all about stepping outside of our comfort zone. Ask the parent -- who is sending their child off to school for the first time -- when they realize that they cannot and will not always be there to protect them from the unknown. Ask the high school student -- who defends a classmate against the cruel words of a bully. Or ask the employee as they cross the threshold into their new place of work. Risk is everywhere - and avoiding it is nearly impossible -- and when you think about it -- would you really want a life where you could predict down to the last detail, the outcome of every action you take, word you speak and change you make? What motivation would there be to move forward, to learn, to grow, to explore? (For an excellent examination of courage and vulnerability -- take a look at Brene Brown's Daring Greatly.)
Let me tell you a little story.... Ever since I was a little child -- I have wanted to fly. I dreamed about flying night after night, I pretended to have wings when playing make-believe, and when I saw a picture of someone hang gliding for the first time -- I thought, "That is the most wonderful thing I have ever seen!" But in reality -- I am someone who has always gotten a little queasy about heights, and I really don't like airplanes. A few years ago, the idea of going hang gliding came to mind -- and automatically my thought was, "Oh, I'm not the kind of person who does things like that." And to my great surprise, at the ripe old age of 43, I found my next thought was "Why not?" And so, I found myself researching hang gliding facilities and scheduling myself for a day of lessons (which mostly involved running along the ground with a glider on your back) along with a tandem ride (which involved being harnessed in to a glider with an instructor and being towed into the sky by an aero light plane to approximately 2500 feet.) After the lessons concluded -- the group of twelve or so students walked over to the runway and one-by-one I watched my classmates take off, each time saying, "No, I'm okay, you can go next." Until at last, I was the only one left.
When the instructor signaled over to me that my turn had come, I stepped over and was harnessed in to the glider -- but it was not until he said, "Okay, ready?" That, I committed to doing it. "Yes!" And off we went down the runway becoming airborne almost instantly, my heart was in my throat! Thankfully, he reminded me to breathe as we began our ascent and as we rose higher and higher, first by tow and then by riding a thermal, I was astounded. I was flying!!! And it was incredible. And in that moment -- I realized -- that I had to change how I saw myself -- because I had become one of those kinds of people who goes hang gliding. (And I did -- several more times over the course of the next few years, in fact.)
Afterwards, people I shared this story with thought that I was "brave." And I thought, "Me? No, I just always wanted to fly." But the fact is I am brave. And though it is not every day that we do something like going hang gliding for the first time, each of us have to challenge our assumptions of what we are capable of and what we can do and are willing to do in order to truly live our lives. Yesterday's step outside the comfort zone involved sending an email and asking for what I wanted. But it took a lot of courage to do it -- and today I "am flying." Who knows what risks will present themselves today? Maybe as simple as trying a new food, or networking with a new group of people, maybe it's telling someone you love them -- the possibilities are plentiful -- and there are no guarantees that you will get the results you are hoping for -- but, wouldn't you take just a little pride in the knowledge that you tried? Fly....