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Growing up on a small farm in rural Australia meant the entertainment options were largely outdoors. For several years we couldn’t afford to fix our television (which only had three channels anyway), so it was very much a create-your-own-fun childhood.
As I approached my tenth birthday I pleaded with my dad for a pony. Years of drought meant that money was tight but dad sold a few pigs to scramble together enough money to get his rather strong-headed daughter off his back purchasing a 22-year-old horse that was about to go to the knackery. When my ‘gift horse’ arrived on the day of my 10thbirthday, I recall looking up him, 14 hands high, and feeling rather intimidated by his size.
How was I ever going to get all the way up there and learn to ride such a big horse?
But I was determined to figure it out, and so every morning before riding my bike to our one-room school house (the only kid in my grade!), I’d head out to the back paddock and saddle him up.
In the beginning, I was terrified. Yet over time, I became more confident and eventually became proficient enough to be the local barrel-racing queen.
Learning to ride my first horse, and then later my second (which we won in a raffle!), taught me a valuable life lesson.
Growth and comfort can’t ride the same horse.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Ginny Rometty, CEO of IBM, while reflecting on her own career: “ Growth and comfort do not coexist. ”
Whether you’re growing a business, taking on a new role, learning a new skill, making a change or taking a chance in any area of your life, embracing what is uncomfortable is a prerequisite for learning what you need to learn so you can grow into who you’re capable of becoming.
Deciding to leave the safety of my parent’s small farm at eighteen to move to a large and foreign city for college, the first in my family to do so, was definitely a choice of growth over comfort. As was the decision to spend a year backpacking around the world on my own after graduating. So was having a fourth child and starting a business six months after his birth.
We’re all familiar with the maxim: Fortune favors the bold. Yet boldness doesn’t guarantee success and not every brave step outside one’s comfort zone is going to land beautifully.
There will always be risk.
However, what we often discount or ignore is the risk of not taking a risk. Playing it safe can exact a far steeper and hidden tax on our future than we like to acknowledge.
What we yearn for most will always lay the other side what frightens us most. It requires embracing vulnerability, leaning into our fear and then mustering up our courage to risk rejection, making a mistake, looking foolish or falling short. Again and again and again.
Of course, this runs absolutely opposite to our psychological wiring which is programmed to shore up our safety, security and social approval, not to risk it. We may live modern urban lives, but we still inhabit brains that were wired in our cave-dwelling days when failure to be hyper-alert to the risks lurking around every corner meant risking an early departure from earthly shores.
It’s why, in today’s culture of fear, where we are bombarded 24/7 with reasons to feel afraid and build walls to keep threats at bay, we must be extra discerning between the fears that are serving us from those that aren’t. Yes, we may be programmed to for vigilance, but we must be equally vigilant not to steer away from the very risks that could help us to learn, to grow, to build more authentic connections and expand future possibilities – for ourselves and others.
Sure, sticking with the familiarity of the status quo provides a short-term sense of security, but when we only do what is comfortable our muscles for life gradually wither. Indeed, comfort doesn’t stay comfortable forever. When people continually choose the easy option over the brave one, they inadvertently deprive themselves of opportunities to learn skills, hone strengths, build resilience and unlock the potential that lays dormant within.
We each have two lives. The one we are living and the unlived life we have the potential to live. What lays between the two is no more than the cumulative effect of the choices we make each day, many which may seem relatively insignificant on their own, about whether to choose growth or comfort.
Caste your mind quickly back over your life until now and you’ll see that all the times you grew most were the times you felt the least comfortable. Whether by choice or not. Likewise, the person you become ten years from now, and the life you create, will be directly proportional to the courage of the decisions you make between now and then.
Creating a life rich in meaning, connection and contribution will require embracing discomfort, in small things and large, again and again and again.
Nelson Mandela once said, “There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
It is never too late to become the person you most aspire to become. So take a deep breath—inhale faith, exhale fear—and connect with whatever vision tugs most on your heart, however large the chasm between where you are now and where you want to be.
Then take that first step… growth over comfort.
Tomorrow, take another.
Whether you reach the goal or not will ultimately matter far less than the person you become by daring to pursue it.
July 6, 2019 at 04:59AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs