Working out of my comfort zone
I am writing from Paris, where I've been stationed for two weeks: eating cheese, meeting new family, drinking espresso and trying out life as a coach abroad. This is my first time making real the dream of working from any place in the world, and while many parts have been exhilarating, others have brought me definitively out of my comfort zone.
My mantra going into this trip was "everything good exists on the other side of my comfort zone" - and the good things have been plentiful.
I watch two businessmen order matching slices of pear tart, taking their time savoring an ordinary lunch, salad followed by cheese and finished with espresso and dessert. The French way of life necessitates enjoying every meal, every conversation: Long, leisurely experiences where connection and the people around the table matter more than what's on the table (though what's on the table tends to be perfection).
I am going on six days of speaking primarily French, which puts me already well outside my comfort zone. The last time I spoke with any regularity was fourteen years ago, when my perfectionism made speaking a foreign language a painful experience. This time around, however, I find myself fairly fearless in the face of my own imperfect speech: Making mistakes with joy, speaking and sharing without hesitation, enjoying listening with my whole heart when I can no longer follow the words.
Lessons for Living at the Edge of Your Comfort Zone
When you are playing at the edge of your comfort zone, self-compassion, allowing yourself to fully experience your feelings and letting your body lead can be invaluable tools. Whenever I hit a self-imposed limit - too much french, too many new people, too much putting myself out there - I hang in with deep breathing, and gentle curious expansion - dropping the limiting belief and instead feeling the full expanse of my experience.
I am working on basking in the good feelings and even extending them, moving past the upper limit of what I believe I can do.
Another thing I have learned: At the edges of your comfort zone, normal coping mechanisms and defenses dissolve. Suddenly, without a strong grasp of language, I am painfully aware of how much I normally insist upon being perceived as helpful, smart or grateful. In the homes of strangers, I realize that I am desperately focused on repaying their kindness and communicating my gratitude - instead of being with my inherent worthiness to receive, and doing others the great kindness of taking it in guilt-free.
Travel exposes the programming that runs silently in our systems all the time, providing invaluable opportunities for new awareness and growth outside our comfort zones.
As we become more adept at staying with ourselves in challenging moments, we can learn not just to cope through moments of transition, but to thrive. To hit the ground running. To welcome the challenging moments for the gift that they are. To open ourselves to the riches that are available outside our comfort zone.
And to trust the world around us - foreign as it might be - knowing that inside us we always have everything we need to recover to ourselves and transform our experiences into the world we want to create.