Going out on a limb, taking the plunge, walking a tightrope… just some of the language we use about taking a chance. A risk.
And yet, how much there is to be gained by
extending out into the void, and out of our comfort zone.
A story to illustrate: While I can’t hold a candle to Lance,
one of my proudest personal accomplishments is participating in the
Twin Cities – Chicago AIDS ride. 500 miles in July through the
Wisconsin countryside – anyone who thinks the Midwest is flat needs to
plan a trip to Wisconsin soon!
Training for and completing nearly 500 miles on my bike in a week
was the furthest I’d ever pushed myself physically in my life. While I
loved biking, I’d never ridden longer than 30 miles in a day before
starting training, and never for more than 2 days in a row. One of my
New Year’s Resolutions that year was to take on a big physical
challenge; so when a co-worker decided to put together a team to do
the Midwest AIDS ride, I knew it was the right thing at the right time.
The physical and mental endurance and stamina that this event
required took me way out of my comfort zone – literally! Beyond saddle
sores and sore knees, taking on this physical challenge taught me a
great deal about who I was as a person, what I was capable of, and
where my edges were.
And, it wasn’t a perfect experience.
Even after extensive training in preparation, including long training
rides every weekend, early morning Spinning classes during the week,
and lots of weight training, I exhausted myself after the second 100
Sobbing the next morning (a good sign that I was overextended
physically and mentally), I wound up storing my bike for the day, and
riding the sag bus to our next campsite. At the time, I was bitterly
disappointed by my perception that stopping meant I wouldn’t have
"really" done the whole ride.
In hind sight, not riding that day meant that I was actually able to
ride the next day, rested and refreshed, and ultimately cross the
finish line with my team in Chicago. Not riding that day also allowed
me to enjoy a beautiful Wisconsin summer day, see the amazing
behind-the-scenes work done by the crew that supported all the riders,
and be at the day’s finish line to cheer on my team.
Since then, I’ve often recalled the lessons of this experience –
learning to accept things as they were, trusting my body, and knowing
my limits – to remind myself of my strength, capacity, and humility.
Taking on a big challenge, stepping out of my comfort zone, ultimately
helps me to take on greater challenges, and keeps me moving towards my
goals to make a difference.
What’s possible when you step out of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear your stories!