It’s good to be sick sometimes. It doesn’t happen very often for me, thankfully, but sometimes a week-long head cold gives you a lot of time to read. I’ll always take that.
One of my reads last week was actually a re-read: Roz Savage’s memoir Rowing the Atlantic. And she did–actually row, as in row a rowboat with two paddles, 3,000 miles across the Atlantic.
Which is why any review of that book has to start with, “WOW.”
I knew I loved the book the first time I read it, but I’d forgotten some of my favorite parts. And one of them was so great I ended up typing two pages of it and sending it to my best friend so we could discuss it at length and really savor the lesson.
I won’t copy all of it here, but I want to give you a flavor of it, just so you’ll understand why it was so exciting to read again. And I really hope you’ll treat yourself to the entire book, because you will be amazed and changed by it–and how many books do that for us?
The section I’m quoting from here occurs deep into her journey, when she’s already been at sea for over a month, and is sore and exhausted and frustrated. Equipment keeps breaking down, she’s had injuries and disasters, and right now she’s feeling fed up with the constant daily pain and exhaustion and difficulty.
But then she realizes that’s exactly why she decided to do something so extreme:
I had wanted to get out into the strange and unfamiliar territory of the unknown. That was where I was now, in the discomfort zone. This was the realm of infinite potential, where anything was possible if only I had the courage to persevere with it. If I could find the strength to stay out here in the zone of my discomfort, eventually my bubble of comfort would expand and catch up with me. Its boundary would extend to include this place which right now felt so new and scary. Given enough time and repetition, the uncomfortable would become comfortable, and I would have achieved my objective.
I read that paragraph, and the ones before and after it, several times to really let it sink in. And I invite you to do the same. Because aren’t there things in all of our lives that we avoid because they make us uncomfortable–things that if we did them, would expand our “bubble of comfort” so that eventually they feel commonplace and normal?
I think of how I used to feel about public speaking. I enjoyed drama in my younger years, but public speaking always felt different. I wasn’t playing a part, I was me. And that felt very exposed. But I made a point of putting myself in situations where I had to teach, to make presentations, and even–talk about extreme–learn to argue motions in court and try cases in front of juries. I never stopped being nervous. Never stopped getting that sick feeling in my gut. But every time I did it, what Roz Savage says is true: my “bubble of comfort” expanded outward. And now public speaking is not only easy for me, it’s actually fun. Fancy that.
I still have a pretty long list of things that I avoid because they make me feel uncomfortable. But rereading Rowing the Atlantic reminded me that’s not good enough. I don’t get to just say, “Oh, I don’t do that”–not if I actually want to make some progress in my life.
Think about some of the items on your own list. What makes you feel shy? Nervous? Afraid? I’m not suggesting we all take up paragliding just because that sounds scary–no, thank you–but there are smaller fears we nurse every day, holding them close to our hearts, soothing them with the promise, “Don’t worry, dear, I’ll never make you do that.”
Well, maybe we should. A little at a time. Just to push that bubble a few more inches outward every single day.