Posted in boundaries, comfortzone, counseling, motherhood, parenting

Pushing Your Comfort Zone

There are officially 51 days until Christmas.

Our family is 100% team Buddy the Elf. We’re that family that had our Christmas tree up a week before Halloween and left our blinds open for everyone to see. Sorry we’re not sorry.

Whether you like to slow down and savor each holiday, if you’ve been singing carols since Christmas in July, or if you’re somewhere in between, the holiday season tends to look different than the rest of the year for everyone. There are more programs and parties at school, the workplace, church, etc. There are decisions to make about traditions to create, continue, or change. There are decisions to be made about budgets and who you are buying presents for and what to buy for each person. There are family members to see, not see, remember, and wonder about during a season in which it seems like everyone is spending time with their families. Some of these decisions are easy, some change each year, and some are always agonizing to make. That’s why we are going to take these next two months to write on the topic of boundaries.

Boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits that a person sets that determines reasonable ways for people to behave around us. We all tend to have our own internal gauge for boundaries; even if you cannot state what they are, chances are you know when they’ve been crossed. There are lots of different kinds of boundaries: time boundaries, emotional boundaries, physical boundaries, etc. The holiday season often brings us many opportunities to examine and adjust our boundaries, and hopefully we are able to help you with some of yours this season!

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the weather. More specifically, I look forward to evenings that are finally cool enough to enjoy a fire outside. So as soon as a weekend of cool evenings came around in October, we went camping as a family for the first time. My husband and I both used to live and work at a Christian outdoor adventure camp (think: rock climbing, rappelling, zip lines, and backpacking), so our love of the outdoors has always been something that we have wanted to bring into our family life. In fact, we bought our first family tent whenever our first child was just a few months old. Turns out, we were a little too ambitious. It took us three years to actually pitch that tent outside for the first time. And over those three years, almost every time I would think about camping with our kids for the first time, I would almost visibly cringe.

Why did it take us so long?

Do I love the outdoors? Absolutely. Do I enjoy camping? Sure! Do I want to clean up a blow-out in an area without running water? …have two kids in diapers in a tent? …bring baby food on a camping trip? …and do all of that while sweating in the Louisiana heat the entire time?…nah, that really doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time. So it took having one kid potty trained, cool weather, and having two clean(ish) eaters before I was finally ready to have our first camping adventure.

If at this point you think I’m some wild outdoorswoman that lives and breathes for sleeping on the ground, then I have some news for you. I haven’t always love the outdoors. In fact, the first time I went tent camping was the summer after my freshman year of college. While I have developed enough comfort with the outdoors to get excited about planning a backpacking trip, my preferred state of existence (even now) involves me sitting inside on a cozy couch or armchair, curled up in a blanket, and engaging in some kind of quiet activity (which happens to be exactly what I am doing as I write this). But something about camping changes me. It took me some time to figure out why I love camping, but it has a lot to do with Senninger’s Learning Zone Model. This model suggests that all of our experiences occur in one of three different zones: the comfort zone, the learning zone, and the panic zone. Growth happens in the learning zone.

I also really like how this chart places growth on one axis and unfamiliarity on another:

My comfort zone is very clearly inside in a cozy place doing cozy things and taking daily showers. And I learned in the three years that it took us to actually go camping that taking a baby on a camping trip was very solidly in my panic zone. But something that I’ve learned about myself is that camping always brings me to my learning zone. Camping always pushes me towards some kind of growth. Camping requires me to sacrifice comfort in favor of other good things that I want to introduce into my life, like increasing my tolerance for the unknown, becoming more adaptable, and putting the needs of the group above my own individual needs. Camping in new places and in new ways requires me to learn and use new skills. Camping with my family meant releasing control of many of the routines, conveniences, and comforts that I really value as a part of my daily life, but I also slowed down and enjoyed my family in ways that our busy life at home doesn’t always allow.

During this holiday season I want to challenge you to be okay with pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone and to step into the learning zone. Look for a boundary that makes you comfortable and ask yourself if it’s time to step into the learning zone so that you can let more of something good into your life. Take small steps, especially if you haven’t stepped out of that comfort zone in a long time. Your learning zone might be very small if you’ve been comfortable for a long time, and growth doesn’t happen when you feel scared or panicked. But take that step. Come and meet me in the learning zone. Let’s keep pushing ourselves towards growth.

In the joy and in the chaos,


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