Pushing the Boundaries of Comfort

Our Honda Element came with removable seats, a flat, plastic floor perfect for cleaning with a hose, and expectations. The marketing campaign presented a very specific lifestyle. The Element was shown in beautiful locales—a beach with surfboards spilling out of the back, a mountain base camp surrounded by trees, its attractive occupants staring at the stars through the moonroof.

Though not an enthusiastic backcountry explorer myself, it had a certain aspirational appeal (I consider myself more of an indoorsman.) Once we acquired our Element, wilderness adventures felt like a requirement of ownership.

So, my young son and I set out for a lake and campground to test the waters. It was a low-key undertaking. We had fun exploring for a few hours, then reconfigured the seats for car camping and a late night of reading and joking around. I wrote a post about it entitled, In and Out of Our Element.

The experience did not turn us into camping enthusiasts. We did take the Element on numerous trips and up a few mountains, but there was always a room waiting for us.

But I was grateful for the experience, and fascinated that we did it at all. Before we had that car, I really hadn’t given camping much of a thought. Just that tiny mind shift—When you own an Element, this is the sort of thing you do—made it reasonable and doable.

We see this with families all the time. When you grow up in a house of teachers, musicians, doctors, athletes, or jugglers, each of these things seem much more natural than if you didn’t. It’s easy to imagine, even if you decide it’s not right for you.

What’s out of one person’s comfort zone is the most common thing in the world for someone else. I’ve had friends take improv classes, which for me, is very difficult to imagine. For some, taking the class served that exact purpose; they wanted something that would make them uncomfortable and push them into new ways of thinking and interacting. For others, though, the class was just an extension of the performer and adventurer they are.

When we’re surrounded by supportive people who take chances, we’re much more likely to push our own boundaries of comfort.  It helps to know that they’ll celebrate your experiments, regardless of the outcome.

Uncommon was proof of this. Time after time, people stepped out of their comfort zone. We told personal stories with honesty and vulnerability. We poured nights and weekends to bring the community to life. People walked into gatherings where they didn't know a soul and talked on the phone with strangers for an hour for that we called Table for Six.

What’s funny is most of that wasn't in my comfort zone either! Within a supportive community, it felt comfortable, even expected. I trusted that people would tolerate the unfinished, and find joy in the odd or unexpected.

That's why communities are so magical—they help us imagine new possibilities and storylines.