As humans, we’re blessed with innate gifts of flexibility and resilience. Yet, the survival skills we acquire by leveraging these gifts, can end up being roadblocks to growth. Once we learn what is needed for survival in an environment, we tend to create a safety zone from which to operate. Our body and behavior adjust to support keeping us in the safety zone as we move through life.
I once heard the story of a woman who was born while her family was in hiding from the Nazis. During her birth, her mother was unable to make a sound and as she was born, she was muffled, as well as any time she would have naturally cried out for what she needed. It was clearly a matter of survival. If her cries were heard, the family might have been discovered, which would have threatened the lives of everyone involved. Thankfully she survived. But many years later, she couldn’t understand why she never seemed to find her own voice and express herself the way that she truly desired. While obvious to you and me, this connection escaped her until years later. In working through it, she eventually realized that being very quiet and not using her voice to get her needs met, were not innate traits of who she was, but simply survival skills. Continuing to use the skill of being quiet was no longer an option, it was a survival skill no longer required. What she wanted was to stretch her vocal chords, make more sound and speak up using her voice to express herself fully.
It’s incredible to realize how malleable we are, capable of adapting to even the most horrific situations to survive. But as a friend of mine, Lilian Bern, has said, the skills that you use to survive are rarely those needed to thrive, and can even hold you back from doing so.
It is not the act of survival that opposes thriving, it’s the tendency we have as humans to want to cling to what we know to be safe and to rely on familiar skills, patterns and habits. When we stay within our safety zone, it helps us operate efficiently and focus on something besides the basics. However, there are times when we are called to something greater, that’s just outside the realm of what we have known in the past. If we answer that call, we must move through the turbulence of discomfort, and often fear, as we exit our safety zone. The result is arrival in a new and expanded environment and perspective, one in which we can leverage our survival skills again, adapting, understanding what is required to sustain this new level of life and eventually establishing this wider zone as our new safety zone.
Thriving is the process of continual expansion and stabilization. It’s much more than not letting your safety zone hold you back, it’s having your greatness call you forward and you answering that call in the face of discomfort and fear.
We Must Initiate the Change
Fortunately, most of our early circumstances were not as dire as the woman in this story, yet we all learned certain patterns of behavior to survive inside whatever environment and community we were born. I’m truly grateful that there are many areas of the world where we can live and not be faced with life and death challenges each day. While being a blessing, it can also keep us stuck in our safety zones, with our innate gifts of flexibility and resilience withering from lack of use. Without external forces to push us to move beyond them and into expansion, it’s often up to us to initiate the change.
Like a hermit crab, ready for a new shell, is it time for you to stretch? Are you ready for a change?
I’d love to hear from you on this topic. Let me know your answers to the questions below:
- What greatness is calling you forward?
- What fear or discomfort will you move through on your way there?
- What one tiny step will you take today that’s on the outer edge of your safety zone?
Let’s chat over on the Facebook Page.
P.S. And if you’re feeling like there’s a huge wave of change building for you, one that would benefit from diving into your inner wisdom, reconnecting with your inner resources, and doing it with support, check out the next Self-Full Living™ group program.