Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Last weekend I had the opportunity to witness something wonderful.  Have you ever been asked to do something, but you’ve doubted yourself, so you passed down an opportunity?  I think we all have at one time or another.  I know I have.  Have you ever decided to set a goal that may seem unobtainable, so you quit? Again, I know I have. However, on the flip side, have you ever reached that goal or agreed to do something that you dreaded and feared, and in the end, you did it? Fortunately and recently, I have.  Sometimes that process isn’t easy, but the reward at the end is such a great feeling.

There are several sayings and quotes about personal growth and the struggle to get there.  Bryant McGill’s quote is a prime example, “Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth.”

As a kid, I was never a fast runner. In fact, more times than not, I was one of the last three girls to finish any race or run. I was always one of the last kids to get picked for a team. My first gym teacher would tease and mock me when I attempted to run or do something athletic.  His voice would eventually become my internal voice.  Then one day, not too long ago, I decided I was going to run a 10-mile race.  I had been watching a neighbor practice for the same race the year before.  Although I knew she was a stronger and faster runner than me, something inside me changed as I stood in my living room watching her achieve this impressive goal.  Crazy and doubtful, I signed up for that race to run the next spring. I began to train. In May of 2015, I ran 10 miles in that race with 40,000 other runners. Not one of them looked at me funny, teased me, or doubted me. In fact, I distinctly remember during the painful ninth mile an elite runner, with his medal, look at me and yell out, “You can do it!”  Wow! Someone that good, believing in a “back of the packer.”  Me, a lifetime, card carrying member of the back of the pack!  Diana, my neighbor, even decided to run again as my partner. She knew I could do it too. That race was emotional for many reasons, but for me, I was doing something I never thought I could do. Diana and I crossed that finish line holding hands. The experience was one I will never forget.  (I ran the race again in May 2016.)

However, this blog isn’t about me. This post is about setting a goal that takes you out of your comfort zone. It’s about inspiring you to reconsider your self-doubt. It’s a post about never telling yourself you can’t because you are too old or too whatever to do anything.  Let me share with you another story. A story about an 83-year old that conquered a fear. That 83-year old happens to be my mom.  (Sorry, Mom, for sharing your age.)

You see, my mother has sung in our church choir for approximately 25 years. She has a beautiful voice. The choir is full of strong singers, one after another. At times the choir can be nearly 100 voices strong. The music they produce is powerful. Several weeks ago my mother was asked to sing a part in song with two other women for the 125-year anniversary celebration our church.  The house would be full.  Each woman would sing a section in the song representing a particular point in a life span; someone just starting out, someone in their mid-life, and someone in their golden years.  My mother accepted the invitation but was very doubtful.  She knows she can sing, but has never thought of herself as a soloist. She practiced on her own, listened to a cd, sang her part over and over again. She still doubted her ability to sing in front of a large crowd. She even got a cold and had to reschedule practice with the director. (I think we can agree that the cold may have been stress induced.) During one of the rehearsal practices with the choir, she forgot her words.  Words she knew and had rehearsed. The concert was Sunday. She didn’t sleep much the night before. My dad and other choir members knew she was extremely nervous.  The director and pianist knew she doubted herself too. The song, “Fill the World with Love” was the last performance on the concert.  She would have to sit through all the other performances before she would be up.  When the song began, the two woman sang their parts, then my mother.  I think those of us who knew the nervousness she was experiencing held our breaths for her. A little shaky at first, she settled in and did beautifully.  She got all the words and hit the high notes. I was an emotional wreck watching and listening to her sing. I was also so proud of her. Her cheering section, coincidentally seated right behind me, stood at the end.  One rowdy girlfriend of hers even yelled through the sanctuary, “You go girl!” upon her last note which prompted a standing ovation.  At that point, I think the whole crowd knew what she did was a moment of personal achievement.

Now I want you to see the lyrics of the song she sang:

Leslie Bricusse
In the morning of my life, I shall look to the sunrise
At the moment of my life when the world is new
And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me:
To be brave and strong and true
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.
Refrain 1:
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to full the world with love
My whole life through.
In the noontime of my life, I shall look to the sunshine
At a moment of my life when the sky is blue
And the blessing I shall ask will remain unchanging:
To be brave and strong and true
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.
(Repeat Refrain 1)
In the evening of my life, I shall look to the sunset
At the moment of my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only God can answer:
Was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?
Refrain 2:
Did I fill the world with love?
Did I fill the world with love?
Did I fill the world with love?
My whole life through.

At 83 she accepted an invitation to do something that would take her out of her comfort zone. The answer to the lyrics above is YES!  Will you be able to say the same at 83?

I will challenge all of you to step out of your comfort zone or set a goal that makes you stretch a little over the next few months.  Summer is a great time for a college student to try something new and change up the routine.  Without classes, you can focus on something entirely different. I would love to hear what you’ve doubted doing before.

Digital Dependency

It’s been a while since I have written an article for my blog.  I’ve been telling myself to write something since March! Talk about procrastination!  Here it is May, and I am finally getting my act together.  Typically, I like to have something inspirational to get me going on a topic.  Every time I think I have an idea, I talk myself out of it. Instead, I keep coming back to the concept of digital dependency. I believe the universe presents us with opportunities or speaks to us in various ways. Often we chose to ignore our inner voice. I have decided perhaps to get over this little writing block; I need to address the topic I keep stifling, digital dependency.

A few weeks ago our counseling center co-sponsored an event on campus called, Digital Detox Day. It was an opportunity for students to recognize the signs of a digital addiction and take some time to detox.  I did not participate in the event or even stop by, but the program advertisement made me think about my relationship to the digital world.

For several years, I have owned a smartphone and an iPad simultaneously.  I still seemed to read at a regular rate of multiple books a year.  In the last two years, it has been hard for me to even get through three books in a year. “All the Light We Cannot See” has been sitting in my office to read during lunch for the entire academic year.  I am still only partially through it.  Previously, I would have a book by my bed at night, and I would read a little before falling asleep. Sometimes I would get so involved, read more than I should, and pay for it the next day.  I haven’t been doing that either.   So what changed in the last two or three years? Digital dependency is the answer. For me, this ranges from checking social media with my readily available iPad or iPhone, aimlessly surfing the web or YouTube, to binge watching shows with my husband in the evening.  Before I used to be able to discuss books and offer suggestions for a good summer read, now I can only offer Premium Channel, Netflix, and Amazon suggestions. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but I miss my books.

Digital dependency, is it a thing? About five years ago, a visibly fidgety student was in my office. When I asked him if everything was okay, he responded that he had cut himself off from his cell phone for a while, and was only on day two. He told me that although his phone was in a drawer in his room, he had the sensation of his cell phone vibrating in his pocket.  He was experiencing a “phantom limb” phenomenon similar to amputation patients. I will admit, at the time, I thought he was overly dramatic.  I couldn’t imagine how someone could become so connected to an inanimate object that they would feel that type of sensation, anxiety, or loss. Today, I would not be so quick to judge.  I have learned and have seen firsthand, that digital dependency is alive and well.

Even this week I read an interesting article regarding digital addiction in younger kids, “Its ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies.” So, with all these things going through my mind, I created an unscientific list of warning signs for digital dependency:Digital Dependency

  1. Feeling or fear of missing out. Are you restless if you leave your phone at home or the battery has run out?
  2. Concealing your cell phone usage. Do you sneak off to get a look at what’s happening on social media?
  3. Eye, neck, and shoulder pain from straining to look at a screen while always looking down.
  4. Do you have trouble completing tasks at home or work due to more time spent on your phone?
  5. Isolation and loneliness. Do you spend less time with family and friends or find yourself distracted in conversations because you are checking your phone at the same time.

As I look at my list, I do recognize a few warning signs for myself.  Occasionally, I do feel stiffness or tired after prolonged periods of looking at my phone. Obviously, number four hits home as I have missed out on something I enjoy – reading. And, I have to admit shamefully, that I am guilty of number five too.  It reminds me of a night when I took my daughter to a Taylor Swift concert.  I hadn’t been to a concert in ages, and this was her first.  Consumed with the idea of posting it all on social media and taking pictures, I justified these actions by telling myself I was “preserving the memory.”  In the end, the photos and videos were crap. I deleted most of them. Instead, I should have just “been in the moment.”

Enough is enough.  Who wants to experience a “phantom limb” sensation over a silly phone?  Life is right in front of us. I have two wonderful summer vacations planned. I want to preserve these trips in photos and at the same time, remember the moments.  During our trips, I don’t want to be caught up in what I could be missing at home nor do I need to post everything we are doing.  It can wait. If I must post our vacations, which I will want to do too, I can set real-time posting limitations and commit to post-vacation postings.  Additionally, I am challenging myself to finish that book in my office along with one possible two others before summer is over. I am going to put down the phone, stop the binge watching long enough to enjoy a past-time I used to love.  What can you do to detox digitally? I would love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and challenges. Oh, and I could use some summer reading suggestions.