“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So if you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, know that the change taking place in your life is a beginning, not an ending.” —Neale Donald Walsch
A few years back, I made the decision to make some significant changes in my career path. I could feel the dissipating mojo as far as my graphic design career was concerned and it was becoming more and more obvious that I’d reached the expiry date of that particular journey – a clear indicator that the time was right for change.
It was time to do something fun again – much like design was for most of the 22 years in that vocation.
I threw myself into the studies of health and wellness as well as life and fitness coaching. I mean, I really threw myself in! I’m the type of person who, once a defining decision is made, there’s absolutely no turning back. I credit the many years as a competitive athlete for ingraining that forward-thinking mindset into my DNA.
So I became certified in the following: personal training, functional training specialist (I love how these certifications programs turn us into “specialists”), periodization planning specialist (don’t ask…it’s complex and was a lot of work), triathlon coach, and indoor cycling instructor.
That was on the physical side.
And then I took it deeper because…well, that’s just who I am. I studied the mind through life coaching, deep diving into my own personal healing journey, and I also became certified as a Master NLP Practitioner. You can bet that all of this took me way out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it scared the crap out of me because it meant facing my own shadows head on. But more often, it reminded me that I was really living. Living because I was learning, growing and revealing a better version of who I already was. And, quite frankly, until I take my last breath, there will always be room for growth and improvement.
I love what I do. I love the deep connections that I develop with the people I coach. I love the communities that have been created through the fitness classes I teach. I love the feeling that comes from being a part of people’s health – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I give everything and everyone my all. I can’t stop the flow of love – nor do I ever care to. I love what I do and I willingly share that love with everyone and anyone who cares enough about themselves to show up in my presence. I owe that to them, I owe that to myself and I owe that to the Universe.
I have a part-time teaching gig at a local University which I’ve been doing for a number of years. I’m not talking about classroom teaching, I’m actually talking about so much more. You see I teach an indoor cycling class which is part kick-ass workout, part meditative spiritual journey, part critical thinking skills and part deep community connection. Most of the people who sign up for my classes begin as strangers and leave as friends – with one another as well as with me. I feel deeply honored to be a part of this beautiful process. In such a disconnected world, connection is critical to me and I love helping people reconnect to their own inner world as well as to one another every chance I get – and through every channel available. We sweat, we laugh, we chat (through breathless panting) and sometimes, we even cry. Yes, it has been known to happen – and its such a beautiful thing when it does.
Ah but I digress.
A few weeks ago I taught my last indoor cycling class for the spring semester. Many fitness classes break over the summer months as students and faculty disappear for much needed extended breaks. And as much as I love teaching these classes, I too was eager for a break in order to recharge for the fall term.
As I said a goodbye to the last student with a sweaty, slimy hug and wished him a happy summer – happy to begin mine in earnest as well, I was approached by one of the University fitness coordinators with a question – “Deb, would you be willing to teach an aquafit class tomorrow morning?”
I looked at her with trepidation and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the word “YES” flew out of my mouth.
What? Did I really say that???
I confess that I knew that there was an extremely (notice the emphasis on that word) slim possibility that I might be asked to help out as the regular instructor had recently experienced a sudden personal tragedy and the coordinators were scrambling for subs but quite honestly, I really believed that it would never come to fruition (and, to be brutally honest, I had my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t).
Now this may not sound like much to you, but to me, it was alot. Why? Because I know nothing about teaching aquafit classes. I’ve never participated in one, I have no training, and I really haven’t got a clue where to even begin. I’ve actually never even done an aerobic-type fitness class on land let alone in water. I’m a linear motion kind of gal. I swim. I bike. I row. I hike. All linear. What the heck do I know about aquafit?
Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Do one thing everyday that scares you” and, most of the time I take this quote to heart. It actually seems to be somewhat encoded in my genes – so much so that I can’t always predict what will come out of my mouth before it actually happens. I’m known for saying yes to things that really make me stretch long before fear has a chance to overtake. The beauty of this mindset is that I rarely get stuck in the rut of a comfort zone for long. The downfall is that I often leave myself scrambling to make things happen quickly.
And so there I was. Standing alone in the spin room, still sweating, at 1:30pm with a 9:30am aquafit class to teach the next morning. Was I scared – hell ya. But then I started to play a historic movie reel in my head where I’ve done things that were waaaaay more terrifying than this and you know, they’ve always worked out. With that, I soon realized that everything would be ok.
I returned home that afternoon and watched a few YouTube videos for ideas but quickly got bored. I was given a cd for music but couldn’t be bothered listening to it because I had other work to do. I reminded myself that I know how to coach. I know how to get people moving. And, most importantly, I know how to connect with people and guide them to places that elicit joy. It would all be ok. Besides, whatever the music was like, I knew it would move me and I was fine to just leave it at that.
The next morning I woke up with a teeny weeny knot in my belly and that nasty, irritating nag nattering away in my head about how unprepared and irresponsible I was for not being more organized. That damned nag always makes me feel cranky so admittedly, I was less than pleasant that morning. I decided to quietly prepare to leave so the nag didn’t have a chance to channel its ridiculous voice through my mouth and say something I’d later regret to my partner.
I hopped on my bike and made my way to the University for my inaugural, under-prepared, clueless aquafit teaching experience.
Movement always clears my head and fortunately, I was able to pedal the nag away so that I arrived feeling refreshed and ready to go.
I made my way onto the pool deck, handed the mystery music cd to the lifeguard, asked where the aquafit class was normally taught and nervously waited.
And then they appeared.
They trickled in at first and showed up en masse just minutes before start time. This was really going to happen. No turning back now.
They looked like a wonderful group. Eighteen beautiful souls who cared enough about their health to show up. They were ready to move – with me as their guide. I felt honored by their trust.
ZING…connected. I instantly felt totally plugged in. There it was. The love that drives me in everything I do. Now I KNEW for sure that it would all work out. I had no clue what to do but the passion and faith that guides me appeared on cue and that was all I needed to know that it would all be great.
Eighteen strangers placing their trust in me to lead their movement and help them feel awesome. I owed them my heart.
And that’s what they got.
The music was pumping…ya, I like it! This will work.
All eyes were on me as I knelt on the bulkhead to get closer to them.
“Ok folks, I want to start off by telling you that I’ve never taught an aquafit class before and I don’t really know what I’m doing but I can tell you that I know how to get people moving and I also know that we’ll all have a great time. That I can guarantee.”, I heard myself saying. “And you don’t have to worry, I haven’t just been pulled off the street. I do know fitness so you’ll all be fine. So, let’s consider this workout a morning at the improv and have some fun!”
And did we have fun!!!!!
We danced. We laughed. We created circular whirlpools just like when we were kids. We jumped, we bounced, we did the twist, the grind and everything in between.
And did I mention that we laughed?!
The class was a pretty even split of women and men – all over the tender young age of 55. I can’t even begin to tell you how beautiful it was to witness this amazing group creating “little kid whirlpools” as they bounced around in the water. We were all transformed into children once again. It was a beautiful 60 minutes of movement and laughter. One that I will always treasure. And even after all these years, it still amazes me how when we let go and trust, magic happens. When we channel the energy of the heart into anything that we do, it’s guaranteed to succeed.
At the end of class, I was surrounded by 18 beautiful smiles with glowing rosy cheeks. We chatted about what fun we had. We chatted about personal struggles. We chatted about personal triumphs. We connected. I fell in love. That crappy old “fear nag” from earlier that morning was nothing but a distant memory. The heart had won yet again.
This was yet another lesson in the power of trust. Trust in myself, trust in the Universe and trust that everything will always be alright and that whatever happens will happen exactly the way its meant to happen.
Busting free from the confines of comfort zones is an ongoing process in life. This is what fuels passion, drives purpose and snaps us right into the present moment. It can be something completely out of the realm of your normal capabilities or it can be as simple as just stretching the limits of what you already know. And often its the simplest things that we do that offer the most meaning in both our own life as well as the lives of others. Every time we leave the comfort zone behind, we grow, evolve and become a better version of who we already are. And how can it get any better than that!
So now its your turn. The comfort zone is meant to be continually crushed in order to live your best life possible. When we share our own stories of crushing the comfort zone, we give others permission to step up and do the same.
How do you move through your comfort zones? Are you always pushing the envelope so that fear doesn’t have a chance to take over? Do you say yes to situations that make you stretch – even if fear does creep in?
Leave a comment below. Inquiring minds want to know!
Thank you, as always, for reading and sharing your genius!