“In any given moment we have two options: To step forward into growth or step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow
I will never forget the journey my now eighteen year old daughter Niala took me through while first learning how to swim. Initially it was fun. There was the “daddy and me” class, wading in the water and of course learning to hold your breath while under water for approximately fifteen seconds. All of these activities were very fun, innocent and seemingly without any effort from my then seven or eight year old, but everything begin to change once the idea that she had to attempt all these activities and more without daddy or the ledge of the pool to protect her. Yes, she was going into the deep water. The three-to-four feet deep water that is, but it might as well have been fifty feet deep because the reality of her fear and trepidation was fully pronounced, and the amount of water in the pool had little to do with it.
So there we were (her mom and I) at weekly swimming lessons where all the little kids were jumping into the pool for their teenage swim instructors, and then there was Niala, negotiating with her instructor that she was too far away and questioning if she was going to catch her if and when she decided to jump in. Mind you, the lessons were only thirty minutes long, and they were not private, but my kid would take easily half the time explaining why she did not want to jump into the pool. It became quite embarrassing and frustrating to say the least.
Then it happened, approximately a month or so later, we were all invited to my cousin’s house for a barbecue/swim party. Everyone was excited, including Niala. Into the pool we went the moment we arrived. Since she was not an avid swimmer at that time, she had to wear a life jacket while in the water. She was cool playing on the edge (even with a life jacket) and holding my hand. Then I had a great idea. “Let’s go to the middle of the pool”, I said. She calmly agreed and then I left her there so she had to either swim back to me or stand up and walk. She whined, complained and even begin to cry, but I would not come to her rescue. I wanted to her to overcome this fear of the water and this was her moment.
Within minutes, which actually seemed like an hour, she swam to me. After a few more try’s, Niala was literally jumping off the diving board with her other cousins. It was really cool to see and experience her master her fear of the water, but I know if I did not force her to confront her fear head on, she would have been negotiating with her instructor the next week.
So many times I believe we find ourselves in similar situations I n our lives. We substitute our figurative swimming pool ledges with safe friends and safe surroundings. Not the kind of “safe” that is designed to protect us from harmful people or bad situations, but the type that fosters timidity, perpetuates fear and allows unfounded excuses to become the norm for how we live our daily lives.
Unfortunately, those that find themselves here typically live very predictable lives governed by factors that keep them in confines of their comfort zones. For some I suppose this can be okay, and I am not here to judge anyone for how they choose to live their lives, but if you find yourself living the better part of it within your comfort zone, due to fear and not wanting to ruffle feathers I suspect you also may be also living with a lot of undisclosed disappointment.
Do you find yourself pondering about places you wanted to travel to, careers you never pursued, conversations you never had and relationships that you always wondered what could have been if only you had stepped off that ledge? Many of us have surrounded ourselves with the people and things that help us feel comfortable. In itself this can be a very innocent and necessary disposition to have, but sometimes it can equally become a major hinderance to one’s growth, opportunities and overall satisfaction with life.
I believe God has given every human a purpose to live and it is quite obvious that many people miss that very purpose for whatever reason, however as long as we are still breathing it is possible that we could recapture that purpose or begin to pursue some of those dreams we once allowed to only run through our hearts and minds.
Just the sheer act of me starting a blog was an act of defiance to my old safe self. You see, I was private to a fault with secrets that were slowly eating me alive. It was not that I desired to simply share my business with the world, but one day I began to understand the way I think was not common. When I connected that with my love for writing along with the experiences I have had, I knew it was time to step out of my safe place. I was not seeking sympathy, fame or notoriety, but I simply have a desire to help others who have walked in my shoes, or can identify with my story at some level. I realize many will not and I have also learned some will even ridicule me and make negative comments, but others do not define me nor control what I do.
This is one of my passions and what it actually looks like for me to not live in my comfort zone. I have many more areas to address and will continue to press towards them, one day at a time. How about you?
Do you recognize that you were created for greatness? For something more? Deep down you know that you are, we all know. What has gotten in your way? What people have successfully talked you out of who and what you are? What circumstances have reshaped your once prolific ideas you had about your life? What self-perpetuating thing/thought do you allow to hinder the best parts of you to blossom or take root?
Life is indeed short, however when we choose to live our lives entrapped by the fears of being safe, the walls seem to close in and time seems to move very slow, almost like a punishment. But the pain and emptiness is present to help you come to terms. Come to terms with the fact that you are more, and still have much more to give, gain and become. You just need to make the decision to get off the ledge and walk away from that safe place we call our comfort zone and begin to live the life God intended for you to. Take this as your push as I had to push Niala.