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Great Things Rarely Come From Comfort Zones

Hey there Gold Star Revolution Squad! Welcome to Tune Up Tuesday!

Great things rarely come from comfort zones, right? But trying something new can be scary! It's difficult to leave your comfort zone, put yourself out there, and open yourself up to criticism, failure, poor performance, etc.

But if you can get past your feelings of fear, there is often a great reward on the other side – a feeling of accomplishment, renewed confidence in yourself, and maybe even the creation of a momentum for change that you can carry into other areas of your life. In other words, stepping out of your comfort zone might just earn you some gold stars!

I firmly believe in the importance of a good life stretch. It’s hard to grow in any area of your life if you’re not willing to take some risks. You can always start out with some smaller stretches to show yourself that the process isn’t as scary as you thought it would be, and then move on to bigger ones. Only you will know what is a “small” or “big” stretch for you.

Several years ago, I took a very big stretch in my life. Something that might seem small to others, but it was huge for me. Growing up, I was always the “book smart” kid – a straight A student who studied all the time and didn’t do much else. I never considered myself to be an “artistic” person. I wasn’t any good at drawing or painting or any other creative thing that required the use of my hands.

As I got older, I eventually came to realize how these types of thoughts had been severely limiting me. In reality, I had never really tried very hard to do anything that was artistic or creative.

I had reached a fundamental conclusion about myself based on very little evidence. I created a “non-artistic” label for myself in my childhood which in turn became a big part of my identity as an adult.

Once this realization dawned on me, I decided that it was time for a stretch. So I started to look for an art class that I could take. I am fascinated by glass and plastic jewelry, so I was hoping to find something I could take in that area.

A very cool thing about personal stretches is that once you make a firm decision to step outside of your comfort zone, the universe will often assist you in creating the circumstances that you need to make the stretch happen. “Coincidences” will begin to pop up mysteriously.

My main “coincidence” is that once I had made up my mind to step outside of my comfort zone, one of my friends approached me with her desire to take a creative class. In fact, we had both independently come up with the same place that we wanted to take the class: the John C. Campbell Folk Art School in Brasstown, North Carolina, which offers week-long intensive classes in various areas.

I had hesitated to sign up for a class there in the past because the school is a 6.5 hour drive from where I live. And anyone who knows me knows that I am not keen on driving long distances. But my friend was willing to drive, so off we went for a 7-day adventure!

I signed up for a glass bead making class for beginners. I admit that I was nervous about how I would do in the class. It involved the use of an open flame, an idea that I was not particularly comfortable with. I also feared that I would be overwhelmed in a week-long class and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up.

The week started off badly. We arrived the night before the class started. Our lodging at the school was in a 6-person “dorm style” room. I had my reservations about this sleeping arrangement from the day that I signed up for the class.

My fears were well-founded, because we had a woman in our room who snored so loudly that I could barely believe one person could make so much noise. After listening to several hours of non-stop jet-engine-decibel-level snoring, I eventually left the room in the middle of the night and tried to sleep in the downstairs community room on some short couches.

I did not get a minute of sleep the entire night. I felt completely trapped, 6.5 hours from home, with nowhere to go. I couldn’t imagine an entire week of trying to sleep in that room.

When morning finally came, I was not particularly eager to set out for my first class. I was tired and miserable. And within just a few hours of starting the class, my worst fear came to pass. The person next to me was working with a piece of glass that shattered in her flame, and a big chunk of molten hot glass landed right on my neck.

Yes, I had sustained a second-degree burn within just a few short hours!

By the afternoon, I was completely exhausted and a bit freaked out from having been burned. The class was moving at a fast pace and I was struggling hard to keep up. It turned out that many of the other students already had experience with making glass beads, so they weren't really "beginners" like I was.

After the introduction of yet another complicated technique, I had all that I could take. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I found myself unable to stay. I knew that I had to get out of there before I completely lost it. I ended up leaving well before the afternoon session was over, and I did not return for the evening session.

What a horrible start to the stretch that I had so been looking forward to! After the first day, I absolutely wanted to quit and go home. I was well on the way to convincing myself that the artistic path was not for me at all, and I was also beginning to beat myself up for signing up for the class. How could I have been so stupid as to try to change who I was after so many non-creative years?

Luckily for me, someone in my friend’s class had heard that there had been some cancellations for the week and that my friend and I might be able to switch rooms. We went to the school director and begged for a new room, and luckily there was one available. We ended up having this new room all to ourselves, which I think was the turning point for me.

My friend convinced me to go back to class the next day to give it another try. “Just see if you can have a better day than today,” she said. I didn’t think it could get much worse, so I decided to roll with the idea that my experience was likely to improve.

I never did quite get over the exhaustion of that sleepless first night, but my experience really did get better over the course of the week. I got some sleep, I didn’t get burned again, and I actually started to make some beads!

The class went more and more smoothly as the days passed, and by the end of the week, I had about 50 beads to bring home with me. Many were lopsided and misshapen, but a lot of them are quite pretty. I wore various bead combinations on a chain for quite awhile after I returned home. Here is some photographic evidence of my accomplishments (bead photos courtesy of my extremely talented photographer husband!):

But what I really came away with at the end of the week was a sense of pride and accomplishment. I was so proud of myself for going back to class after that first day. Even though I got burned, I didn’t let my fear hold me back from what I wanted to do. I learned a new skill; I expressed myself and my creativity; I met some great people; and I really did stretch. By the end of that week, I had definitely earned a gold star!

All in all, it was a fantastic journey, and I think that my troubles at the beginning of the week made me all the more appreciative of what I had achieved by the end of the week. I am so happy that I took the class, and it inspired me to step out of my comfort zone more often.

Most importantly, taking that class started to change my belief about being a “non-artistic” person. It took awhile for me to fully embrace my creativity, but now I would absolutely say that I am a creative person. In fact, a little over 2 years ago, I went so far as to start a side business as a graphic designer on Zazzle, a print-on-demand website.

The business hasn’t made me rich, but it’s going pretty well for someone who considered herself to be non-artistic for most of her life! I even designed all of the products** for the Gold Star Revolution myself, an accomplishment that I am pretty proud of!

My hope is that this story will inspire you to step outside of your comfort zone more often! Have you stepped outside of your comfort zone recently? Or can you think of a life stretch that you would like to take? Tell us what you think in the comments!

**If you click through any of the links on this page and make a purchase from Zazzle, I will receive two separate commissions: one for being the designer of the product and another for referring the sale to Zazzle.

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