Cowering in Our Comfort Zone

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

– John Augustus Shedd, from here

Most of us build our lives around what is safe and comfortable. A daily routine. A familiar route to work. We wake up at the same time, eat the same thing for breakfast, get our coffee from the same place. Our coworkers know when we’ll get to the office, where we’ll have lunch, and when we’ll leave. Our families know exactly what we’ll say about pretty much anything without going to the trouble of asking us–but we share our opinions anyway, whether they ask or not.

We develop patterns, because patterns are safe. Knowing exactly what the day will hold before we get out of bed is a comfortable feeling. We’re human, after all, and it’s in our nature to seek safety and comfort. To build a comfort zone where we live safe and secure and, well, comfortable.

True enough. But it’s also in our nature to seek victory, to venture onto the ocean just because it’s there and look across the water to the next island and think, I wonder if I could get there?

So we find pictures on the Internet, pictures of calm seas and rough seas and the lands beyond, and stories of what it was like to sail, and we enjoy the feeling of victory without having to endure the terrors of getting there. The shadow of the feeling, anyway, the echo. Because we can do that from within our comfort zone.

What we can’t do from within our comfort zone is actually have the victory. We can’t get there because achieving victory means we have to push through hardship–and hardship, by definition, is outside the comfort zone.

That’s the problem that drives us to counseling and causes mid-life crises. Because we want the victory! We want to sail beyond the harbor and find something nobody has ever seen before. We want to stand at the top of the mountain and look across the valley.

But when others depend on us, it’s hard to seek victory. What if I try and fail, we ask. What if I leave it all on the field, put in the time I could be spending with my family, invest my savings, give everything I have–and I don’t win? We want the victory–it’s the hardship of getting there we want to avoid.

Our comfort zone is the harbor. It’s nice and safe. But we can’t find victory there. That’s why ships have sails.

What fills your sails? What makes you feel alive, like you can go anywhere, do anything, even though it scares you a little bit?

That’s what will get you to victory. Let it push you out of the harbor. Because the only way out of your comfort zone–is through the thing you fear.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.