Leaving the “Comfort” Zone

Posted on Sunday, November 3, 2013 by Tammy in Work | Leave a comment (50)

fun photoOn my last day as a full-time public educator, I stood with my arms wrapped around a colleague, felt the burning just before tears, and wondered if I were making a huge mistake.

CJ was bringing the last of my boxes to the car. Days of packing and finalizing paired with my already compromised physical state had worn me down.

It was not the exit I’d planned with CJ and I running off into the sunset with fireworks shooting off the tops of our heads and streamers flowing from our backsides. 

I felt empty and a bit dead inside.

Hyperbole?  Perhaps.  Poignant memories make better stories.

Building Capacity 

I was hugging “Marco.”  He and I had been working together for the past two years, I as a literacy coach and he as a second grade teacher.  My role in the school was to improve literacy instruction by working alongside teachers as a coach.

Marco was my prize pupil.  Eager and green, he soaked up anything I said and applied it in his classroom.  In addition, he was a self-starter and brought new ideas to the table.  We were a professional match made in heaven.

Many afternoons, I would look up to find him standing in my office doorway with questions about one teaching approach or another.  His students were the beneficiaries of an explosion of ideas paired with motivation.  They were learning and loved coming to school.

Several other teachers and staff in the building were moving and shaking.  What on earth, pray tell, could be the problem?

Relationship on Hold

Sometimes it takes a big event for the thickest of us to make a move.  Call me fearful, stubborn, driven, or whatever.  I had spent the first ten years of my teaching career proving myself.

As long as I looked good when I stepped into the school building or meeting, I was ok.  Together.   Sure my pants fit a bit snugly and eventually I needed a larger size.  Ok, my husband and I were barely affectionate despite a great love.  The world needs good teachers, great teachers, and I was going to be the best there ever was. 

Not Thriving

The importance of a more proficient model is invaluable in learning.  I watch you, emulate your actions, and I move closer to proficient.  So why was it not clicking that CJ had done it and, by golly, so could I?  Beliefs place a great stranglehold upon you when left unchecked.  And my beliefs were not rational, perhaps even delusional.

Some of the irrational beliefs I held were:

  • I won’t have an identity.
  • I will be letting others down who have supported me.
  • We will not be able to pay the bills.

There are more from where those came, but given that the theme of this blog is Fun I will spare you the downward spiral. 

More than Surviving

Even after seven years of running my own tutoring business, I realize that many of the rational beliefs I held in teaching still ring true today.

  • One size does not fit all.
  • Tweak what isn’t working.
  • Not everyone will agree with you.

I see my life as a grand experiment.  Where will I be in five years?  I don’t know. While I can bet it will have something to do with my strengths and interests, I cannot say exactly what that might look like.

My eyes are wide open. 


And you, Jolly one?  What limiting beliefs, if any, have you?

50 comments about "Leaving the “Comfort” Zone"

  1. Life really is one giant experiment and I think that’s what makes it so amazing. We’re all works-in-progress that will never be finished. That scares the crap out of some people, which is understandable, but you have to accept it and kick some serious butt. Life’s interesting. :)
    Vincent recently posted..eBook Release, My Overseas Adventure, and 30 Stories and Facts You Don’t Know About MeMy Profile

    • Vincent!! I know we were never in the same time zone, but I’m sure you’re way ahead of me now! Life is so very interesting, and we have to keep it that way. What else is there really?

      So good to hear you made it safely to the Philippines. We look forward to hearing about your new experiment!

  2. I think all of our lives are a grand experiment, Tammy.

    I find it VERY exciting not to have a 5-year-plan. Maybe I’ll still be here in 5 years. But I could just as easily be in Europe, New Zeeland, Australia, or even Japan.

    There’s something fun and exciting about not knowing what lies around the corner. (And none of us actually do know, even if we are “settled in.”)
    Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca recently posted..Pictures from my Commute (and a Bean)My Profile

    • Bethany!! What a great point. Settling in is not really settling in at all is it? It’s a false sense of security. Much better to embrace the not knowing as I can see you clearly have by the list of fine places on your Just Might End Up in ______ List. What fun!

      Have a great one!

  3. Yay, Tammy! “I see my life as a grand experiment. Where will I be in five years? I don’t know.” What you DO know, however, is that your courage in letting go of control and shedding false notions of “self” will (and already have) enriched you in countless ways. Life becomes an exciting prospect when we approach it with wonder and openness. This needing to know where it’s all going business is so tiresome, and ultimately pointless. Enjoy the ride!
    Martha Brettschneider recently posted..How to Listen When Your Land is Crying — A Ghost StoryMy Profile

    • Martha!! Wonder and openness sure beats tiresome and pointless. Your comment has has given me the zing that not even my first cup could. Thank you!

      Is life sometimes scary and does it sometime throw us some curve balls? Sure does! But let’s all aim for all the smiles and fun we can muster up no matter the circumstance.

      Zoom, Martha! The ride is definitely worth it!

  4. Ahhh, ye olde Comfort Zone. How easy it is to remain in this place, even when we are not happy there. I know as I stayed there far too long! The possibilities out there are endless and full of adventure – and scary like hell sometimes! And I almost let them keep passing me by…

    So often I’ve made a small move towards a new adventure, only to stop just before starting. What up wit dat? Chicken Shit, dat’s what!

    Circumstances have now forced my hand (OK, I may have had a part in that one) so now I’ve no real reason not to go out there and try something new. I’m excited, scared and feel alive for the first time in a looooong time.

    Ain’t life grand? Have a Fabulous Out-of-Comfort-Zone day!
    Dale recently posted..It’s Soup Time!My Profile

    • Dale!! Yes, so happy to see you take credit for that change. Circumstances do happen, but we can choose to stay, leave, tweak, or whatever we fancy. Sometimes we have valid reasons for not starting, but if it keeps creeping back in – that longing for change, I think we owe it to ourselves to give it a go and see what happens.

      Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and excitement. Who knows where it will take you!? I have a feeling it may be somewhere delicious!

      And, oh yes I do agree, life is grand!

  5. Beautifully written from the get-go, Tammy! “Felt the burning just before tears.” Love, love, LOVE it!

    I am such a frantic planner and maker-of-lists, but it’s usually for the short-term. I don’t know what the next five years holds for me either, but like you, I have a vague sense of it and that’s okay with me!
    Joy @ Joyfully Green recently posted..The Extraordinary “Good Manners” of the Northeastern SeasonsMy Profile

    • Joy!! Happy Monday to you!

      I like the idea of short-term lists. While I have had almost a full year of no major lists, I do have little notebooks in my purse to keep ideas, plans. One of my favorite things to do is go through it and tear out the papers. It makes my life less stressful to live the dreams and plans instead of making them. Of course, the plumber does sometimes need to be called. ;)

      Vague senses are good, Joy. I think that means you have priorities but are not tied to the definites. Perhaps I’m way off base here!

      Have a wingdingdilly day!

  6. I love this so much Tammy, thank you. I am currently sitting, supposedly working on my resume. You can tell how well that is working. I’m meanwhile pondering the value of a “plan” — 5 year or otherwise. As such, they have none in my life. Yes, I have goals and aspirations, lists of values that I hld true and look for, but I have no idea where I might be in 5 years. I have no thing/things that I am working towards. That is more than ok because I would have never put myself in the happy place I am 5 years ago. “With eyes wide open.” Thank you. With eyes wide open I looked and am looking for the next journey, continuing to shush those pesty “should” voices which list the road blocks instead of mapping all the beautiful paths that might lead to fulfilling and unexpected places. Thank you for being a proficient model, reminding me that it is ok to keep searching and moving into unplanned directions.
    Jo recently posted..Surviving Divorce to ThriveMy Profile

    • Jo!! Hello! Yes, those pesky should voices are quite a bother, aren’t they? I have more than my fair share of them. I think we all do, and your plan to shush them is one we should all employ.

      CJ has a saying, something like, You either want to or you don’t. He is far better than I at embracing that, but I think that as long as we don’t hole ourselves up in a fear cave, we’re going to find a way to make those things that we want happen. I am convinced that it’s the only direction in which we should head – forward, on a continuous journey toward ________ (fill in the blank with the Values and Dreams of your choice!).

      Best of luck in your resume and all of the rest of the fun stuff of life! Great to have your thoughts.

  7. Congratulations! It takes real courage to take that leap.
    Thinking about choices as possibilities that can be changed if they don’t work out is such a hopeful perspective. I hope all your dreams come true.
    Meri recently posted..Easy as PieMy Profile

    • Meri!! I like the way you put it Choices as possibilities that can be changed if they don’t work out. It seems less dramatic that way. We can simply say, Oops! and then adjust and move forward.

      Hope you’re enjoying a fine evening!

  8. It took me ages to leave my job and I let it consume me for a while. I lived for work and everything else got brushed aside. Heck I didn’t even enjoy the job! Now I have hope for the next 5 years in that I will carve out a successful freelance career for myself and be able to support my family the best way I can whilst being ‘me’. Most of all, I’m enjoying seeing what the future brings!
    Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt recently posted..Monday Funday: My Top 10 Period DramasMy Profile

    • Hayley!! It seems as if we were two peas in a pod – all work and no play. Eeks! I’m so glad we moved past that

      I can tell from all your plans and exciting goings-on that you are indeed enjoying what the future brings. What better thing for your family than to have you be you! That is the very best gift of all.

      Many hopes for an enchanting evening!

  9. Although it’s not the most elegant of sentences, I’ve always described life as ‘a long ass experiment where we struggle to find happiness alongside 7 billion others whilst trying not to get ourselves killed in the process’.

    Basically.. arghhhhh. So it’s ok to feel afraid from time to time. Life is chaotic so we like our little comfort zones and we cling to them like a baby with candy if something attempts to nudge us outside. But hey-ho, it’s normal and nothing to feel bad about.

    Always a good read, Tammy!
    jamie flexman recently posted..The Most Important Question You Will Ever Ask YourselfMy Profile

    • Jamie-o!! I do think yours is an elegant sentence. That really is what we’re trying to do, is it not? Your description really puts things into perspective.

      It is also very humbling to realize that there are 7 billion of us.

      Thank you for sharing your brain with us today. Let us sally forth to jump on our own versions of happy!

  10. Life as a grand experiment. I like that attitude as that’s how I see things too. It’s funny actually that you’ve been in the tutoring business for seven years. I just got into it, but I can already imagine myself doing it for a long period of time. I always equate teaching with comfort zones. Kids throw so much at you that stretches you and you have to improvise a lot that you basically have to throw your comfort zone away sometimes. There is a lot of stretching yourself when you teach.

    As far as a limiting belief I have. I don’t know if I have one. The trouble I’ve noticed with limiting beliefs is that they sometimes hide themselves. You don’t necessarily know they are there. Part of the process of growing as a person is to recognize them. That’s the first step to eliminating them entirely.
    Steve recently posted..That Time I Lived in a Haunted House – My True Life Ghost StoryMy Profile

    • Steve!! At first, I read your comment incorrectly, and I’m glad I did what I tell my students to do – reread! I tell them it’s the simplest and best reading strategy I know to fix things up quickly. I thought you said you couldn’t imagine tutoring for a long time which I could relate to. In the first few years, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing for me. Now I am enjoying it more than ever. I finally get to help students and parents in a way I never could when I was teaching. We had to skirt around the issues. Now I can be supportive and not have to worry about the school district getting sued. In so many ways, I am in a more comfortable place now.

      Isn’t that the truth about limiting beliefs?! I will find myself thinking about something in a certain way and think, Well, surely this is faulty thinking. Hmph, I never noticed that before! Like you said, once you know you can eliminate them.

      Happy Tuesday!

  11. Ah, Tammy, my favorite line was “Beliefs place a great stranglehold upon you when left unchecked.”
    I believe you uncovered the core of most of our problems. They come in the form of:

    - I’m not talented, smart or creative enough
    - I’ll always be poor
    - My parents died young and so will I
    - I’m afraid of _____

    …on and on the list goes…

    Learning to challenge those beliefs and bravely step into new possibilities is what breaths life into an otherwise “planned” existence. Whether a person thinks they have a 5-yr plan or not, they do have one if they carry any of these ill-placed beliefs. Just say’n.

    I’m not speaking of you, of course, just people in general. Thanks for the great read, as always!

    Ree Klein recently posted..Survey Sunday: How Many Paychecks Away Are You From Living On The Streets?My Profile

    • Ree!! What an interesting point you make – that if we carry ill-placed beliefs, we actually have a plan. So, if I am interpreting this correctly, are you suggesting that the plans that are in place may not be serving us well? If, for example, I think “I’ll always be poor,” I might actually follow that up with actions based on, “…so why don’t I just _____ (buy that flatscreen TV on credit, etc.)?”

      What a thoughtful comment that has my mind zipping around and about itself.

      Thank you for extending and elaborating, Ree!

      • Hi Tammy, that is exactly what I meant. Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying something to the effect of “if you aim at nothing you will surely hit it.” While he was referring to setting goals, or not, it also applies to how we think…

        Meaning, if we never challenge our beliefs, our lives will follow in the direction of those beliefs. The minute we begin to change our thinking, so changes our direction.

        You and CJ are shining examples of how well that works!
        Ree Klein recently posted..Survey Sunday: How Many Paychecks Away Are You From Living On The Streets?My Profile

        • Hello Ree!! Thank you for coming back over and clarifying. I think challenging our beliefs keeps us young – moving and shaking rather than rigid and settled.

          Of course that doesn’t mean going a million miles a minute and not stopping to smell the roses, but I know you know what I mean! ;)

          I hope you’re enjoying your morning!

  12. It is hard to take that first step! Especially when it is outside the “norm”. My husband did it when he quit his music teaching job to start his own teaching business. It is also very scary to leave a steady income. I do not know why people seem to look down on others/have a negative attitude when someone decides to leave their “9-5″. Jealousy, perhaps? I am glad your tutoring business is doing well and you guys are thriving.
    Just out of curiosity, are you a reading specialist? I realize I knew you were a teacher but I didn’t know what you teach!
    Katie recently posted..Photo Friday #6 Home Tour 1My Profile

    • Katie!! I am so glad your husband was able to start his own teaching business. I remember you mentioning the parallels in our lives one other time. It is very scary to leave a steady income, benefits, colleagues. We certainly weren’t dining out at Ruth’s Chris during that time. Come to think of it, we never have nor will we ever dine at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. ;)

      Yes, I am a reading specialist. I went back for my M.Ed. in Reading and Language Arts Curriculum and Instruction and have a reading specialist certification. I do also tutor math a bit, but it’s not my forte. Usually parents feel comfortable and want to stay with one tutor, so I just give them my disclaimer that I’m not a math specialist! It’s funny that I’ve really grown to love math too over the past several years.

      I see baby is still staying put for now. Hope you’re comfy and all is well!

  13. Wonderful post Tammy and thank you so much for letting it all hang out…metaphorically that is :)

    “I will be letting others down who have supported me.” – This one is HUGE!! I’m sure the guilt of being one’s self keeps many a good person down. As you know, I’ve been there on more than one occasion and it is soooo difficult to set out on one’s own path for whatever the reasons. The important thing is that you did it, and I presume you haven’t looked back?

    Who knows where any of us will be in five years let alone five days…but as long as you follow your path, it really doesn’t matter…you’ll be where you need and want to be.

    Take care and my best to all.

    lyle @ The Joy of Simple recently posted..The Love You Get Is Equal To The Love You Give!!My Profile

    • Lyle!! I knew that, if you had the time to read this, you would definitely know exactly what I was talking about. While the adjustment at the beginning was a bit challenging, there has not been one moment since when I ever wished I was back teaching in the public schools. While I was there, I worked my behind off and met some of the finest people I know, but I do not ever wish to go back. Many of my best friends are teachers who tirelessly give up entire days and weekends to make sure their students are learning.

      I could never find the balance. Now I enjoy the best part – teaching – without all the other “stuff.” I love the time I now have. I never, ever forget what it was like, and I appreciate every moment.

      I’m so glad you were able to return to your love of the guitar and make it work for you as well. I wish that type of love for everyone in whatever they choose!

      Happy evening!

  14. I think we all have limiting beliefs! The challenge is recognizing them and actually accepting that they are limiting you, and then making a change. It’s not easy.
    Daisy @ Add Vodka recently posted..Kids, Timing, and MoneyMy Profile

    • Daisy!! Yes, I think we all do too. If someone thinks they don’t, I’d like to meet and interview them. Surely I will be rich after that! ;)

  15. I have always admired your honesty Tammy! I too am an educator and have had similar struggles. Sadly I have always struggled with the lack of support from my student’s Parents and our local community. It seems most are too “busy” with other priorities which I find to be nothing more than a convenient excuse! Case in point is the failure, again, of a bond election to replace computers and technology that are slowly dying at our school. We have some of the lowest property taxes in the nation and are ranked last in per pupil funding for education and the lack of resources and support make my difficult job that much more difficult.
    Paul @ The Frugal Toad recently posted..Finding New Ways to Sell Your Product OnlineMy Profile

    • Paul!! It is so good to hear your feedback. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I don’t believe I knew that you worked in education. Ranked last in per pupil funding?! I am sorry to hear that. We hear all the time about wanting our youth to come out of school ready to compete, and yet our actions do not indicate that education is a priority. It is highly frustrating and teachers often end up doing several jobs (social worker, psychologist, parent) when they should be able to focus on pedagogy!

      I will step slowly down lest I get going on my soapbox. No one needs to hear that! ;)

      I hope you’re weekend was a fun one!

  16. Oh Tammy, you always provide wonderful lessons and insights on life. The last two paragraphs connected with me deeply.

    A thought: Everyone’s life is a grand experiment, but the difference is that some people are their own experimenters and some people let others experiment on them.
    Mark Adam Douglass (Minimalist Couple) recently posted..Exceeding CapacityMy Profile

    • Mark!! Wow, what a thought that is. I’ll take the former group! For a long time, I was in the latter group. It was only when I began to question my beliefs and actions that I realized it though.

      I love hearing your contributions! Many thanks and wishes for a fine day for you and Jess.

  17. Ah Tammy! It’s important to remember the “comfort zone” is a cage, gilded though it may be. If you don’t have pressure, stress and a little bit of pain, you’re playing things too carefully and not living life to its full potential. That leads to a little thing we call “regret.” Good for you for stepping out of the safety net!
    Pretired Nick recently posted..Why have the Japanese stopped having sex?My Profile

    • Pretired Nick!! Well, you just made everyone feel a whole lot more wild and risk-takey. I’m reading Walden right now, so I was quick to think that he seemed to be living his life to its full potential without a heck of a lot of pressure or stress. The reality of his situation (and please anyone who’s read it, chime in and correct me!) is not all free of stress and that living the way he did was quite out of the norm. I”m sure his mom and dad wanted him to get a real job, and that is pressure no matter how many times you wander the woods. ;)

      Yes, life is all about living and minimizing the potential for looking back and saying, I wish I had… – regrets, as you say. Let us not have too many of those. That’s why I had to get up off the couch and start “real” life. The “comfort” zone was slowing crushing me.

      Happy today and tomorrow and all the other days!

  18. Looks like it was one of the best decisions you made Tammy. Life is unpredictable and sometimes a bit scary but if you settle you won’t live it to the fullest. Doesn’t matter where you’ll be in five years as long as it is on your own path.
    Pauline @RFIndependence recently posted..A job may cost you more than you thinkMy Profile

    • Pauline!! What can I say to that except, Yes, what Pauline said!!! Settling is so very unsettling, I think!

      Thank you so much for sharing!

  19. Great post.

    Funny thing about the comfort zone is that sometimes IT leaves US… Life being unpredictable as it is wont to be!

    My most limiting belief probably has something to do with that- having some notion that I’m actually in control of what happens – when every bit of good sense tells me this whole thing is a wild adventure.
    Winifred Reilly recently posted..10 Surefire Ways To Turn A Small Fight Into A Big OneMy Profile

    • Winifred!! I love that, Life being unpredictable as it is wont to be!

      While I can’t pretend to know how it all works, I do think we humans like to have some sense of control. What gets tricky is if we let ourselves get caught up in controlling it all. It’s exhausting not to mention impossible. But I know you know that as I’m sure you’re helping couples through that all the time.

      When CJ does something funny or completely the opposite of what I would want or expect, I just have to think that he is doing it with good intentions. If I try to “man”handle him in any way, he just gets worse. He’s a little devil that way, and it’s really helped me to lighten up!

      I love hearing your thoughts and hope you’re zooming into the weekend on a fun jet!

  20. I have a really time leaving my comfort zone but it pays off when you do it, clearly – you are a great example of that!
    Stu @ Poor Student recently posted..How to Decorate a Dorm on a BudgetMy Profile

    • Stu!! I am certainly not at expert but appreciate your compliment. I’m just a 42 year old girl with lots of years of practice behind me. I hope there will be many years in front of both of us to practice!

  21. Someone said something on a call the other day that I found incredibly useful. She said she notices that when people start a phrase with “I could never…” it’s often an expression of a thing they would actually want to do, except that a limiting belief is getting in their way. I plan to use that to poke around at my own limiting beliefs :)
    Erin recently posted..Ooh! Ask Me!: “How do I consistently sound like me?”My Profile

    • Oh Erin!! I love that. I am going to keep my ears listening for that one! I think awareness is key. I often catch myself caught in some old warn out belief that doesn’t really work for my life anymore. It’s fun to notice and change!

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      • I love that too, Erin! I have found myself saying those exact words… and then having them thrown in my face. I was pissed to have the mirror put in front of my face like that but then I
        Dale recently posted..‘Twas a Pumpkin of an EveningMy Profile

        • Jeez… pressed enter by accident!
          I was saying I was pissed to have the mirror put in front of my face like that but then I realised that it was MY fault, MY words that caused said mirror to appear
          Must remember not to do that anymore!
          Dale recently posted..D’Oh! Epic Fail!My Profile

  22. Really enjoyed reading this. I’m making a bit of a leap myself at the moment. It’s so crazy how unexpected some of the changes we make can be. And how much we change ourselves. That’s the thing I find most surprising, and fun. I guess life is an adventure as they say. It’s great to read about people who ‘ve successfully taken the risks involved and come out the other side better for having done so. Thanks for sharing this. it’s encouraging for me, as well as a good read.
    Micah recently posted..The Power of Diversity: 3 Ways it Makes You BetterMy Profile

    • Micah!! Jolly welcome – so good to have you here. When I hear the phrase bit of a leap, I am quite sure you’re downplaying a rather substantial leap. It has taken us a long time to realize that the path that was seemingly laid out before us is not set in stone, and waking up in the morning is now a great deal more fun.

      I hope to hear how this change, this bit of a leap, turns out for you. Our stories so often overlap and, in listening to others, we find ourselves more willing to take those risks that once seemed unattainable.

      I hope you blast off into the weekend with the energy of the squirrel I just saw taunting a cat on our morning walk!

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