“Crossing over the boundaries we’ve been taught to live within is a tough business. But I’m getting the idea they’re not so formidable.”
— Jeb Dickerson
The line judge in a volleyball game stands at the corner, passing judgement.
Whenever a player hits the ball near the line, the judge pays close attention and makes the call – in or out. If the ball lands well inside the lines, the line judge doesn’t make a call. The same if the ball lands far outside the lines.
If someone does something that lands well within our comfort zone, we accept it without making a call. Without giving it much thought. It’s normal. Routine. Surprisingly perhaps, well outside our comfort zone is often ignored as well, such as cultural or ethnic differences.
It gets a little more interesting, though, the closer the action gets to our lines. If it’s close, regardless of whether it’s inside or out, we pay close attention. We make a call. Did that ball land in our comfort zone? Did that person do something that we would do? If the answer is yes, it’s probably something we did before, but made us uncomfortable, “Yeah, I got laid off before. But it was a learning experience.”
The most interesting case, I think, is when the ball lands just outside our comfort zone. That forces us into one of two things – either justify the action or redraw the boundaries of our comfort zone.
It’s easy to explain away the close, but out-of-bounds action with a justification. “I could do that but … I’m too busy … they’re better at it than I am … they’re a people person … they’re just wired that way … I don’t have time … I’d make a mistake … It’s not my cup of tea.”
But it’s far more telling if we are willing to redraw the lines, even if it makes us uncomfortable. “Could I …
… stand before a room and speak up about a cause that is making a difference?
… volunteer at my child’s school even if I’m a little uncomfortable?
… raise my hand and say I’ll be an officer at my church or my club instead of being just a member?
… drop that dollar in a charity box even though it’s not my habit?
… signup to be a volunteer with an organization I’m not familiar with?”
Every time we say ‘no’, our boundaries stay the same. They might even shrink as we get older and do less. After all, things not done soon become things never done.
But if we say ‘yes’, the boundaries enlarge. And the larger the boundaries of our comfort zone, the more we can do, the more people we meet, the more life we live.
The boundaries of our comfort zone are as real as any physical boundary we may encounter in our lives. But unlike immovable physical boundaries, we can redraw our own boundaries at any time. And the more often we redraw our boundaries, the easier it is to redraw them again and again. But only if we choose to do so.
Whatever lines we draw, we either judge or we redraw the lines.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Volunteered as the line judge for our daughters’ volleyball game. With every passing game, the job becomes more and more comfortable.