My Reluctance to Grow: Why Pushing Outside of My Comfort Zone is Essential

Cycling Competition

Three years ago my husband and I started riding a tandem bike together. It has been a great hobby we can enjoy together.  This last year, when my husband upgraded his single road bike, and I inherited his old one.  My role has changed from a backseat passenger to being the one in charge. 

It is almost like I’ve learned to ride a bike all over again. I have taken for granted the skills of steering, shifting, and balance. My shoulders ache and my fingers go numb from the death grip I have on the brake hoods. Should I dare move my fingers from the brakes I might loose my balance as I maneuver the turns of the trail.

My husband has been great riding alongside giving pointers and keeping me company as I acclimate to my new bike. On a recent ride, I felt exhausted we neared the end.  My husband was encouraging me to keep my pedals in continual motion which means I needed to shift often as the trail goes up and down.

Shifting Gears

As we rounded a corner he said: “You need to shift up.”

I don’t know if it was the exhaustion taking over or the frustration from aching shoulders, but I quickly snapped back “I will shift when I want to!!”

He was kind and gracious and confirmed my ability to choose when to shift.  I immediately felt a pang of regret and apologized blaming my attitude on my physical condition.

No sooner had we walked into the house when my sister called.  She wanted to share a talk she had just listened to by Diane Thueson Reich entitled On Change and Becoming: Thoughts from a Reluctant Grower. As soon as she mentioned the title I felt a nagging reminder of my reaction on our bike ride.

Thoughts About Being Reluctant

My husband is a very experienced biker. His encouragement and suggestions were to help me progress and become a better rider.  Yet I trusted in my own understanding, my own level of confidence, my own reluctance. I began to question: How often do I do this every day?

I may not be biking on a trail, but I’m riding through life gaining speed and confidence in my own abilities. When it comes to things that are not my idea it is easy for me to respond with reluctance. I’m really good and digging in my heels and pushing back when it comes to change.  It’s a natural response because it’s more comfortable to avoid change. Not many of us seek opportunities to be uncomfortable.  But maybe we should.

The Growth Equation

I’ve always thought of stress as an inhibitor to my growth, but recent research by Brad Stulberg suggests seeking for things out of our comfort zone are an important key to growth.

“Studies show both the body and the brain respond to stress by becoming stronger.” – Brad Stulberg

This type of stress is not pushing so hard that we end up in the hospital because we are either emotionally or physically injured.  Stulberg is talking about pushing to just the edge of what is comfortable.  I think of it like stretching.  With each stretch, you go just a little farther to push your muscles.

Stress is only the first part of the equation.  After pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone we should follow up with rest.

“Pushing too hard too often — stress without rest — doesn’t lead to growth. It leads to fatigue and burnout.” – Brad Stulberg

I feel like the last thing I can do when I’m stressed is to stop and take time out to recover.  But the balance between stress and rest is essential to the final outcome of growth.

Stress + Rest = Growth

Overcoming My Reluctant Side

I consider myself a hard worker.  I can be the most determined and purposeful person when I set my mind to something; yet, I have this other side – my reluctant alter ego. It is slow to adapt to change, and challenges opportunities to grow because they seem uncomfortable.

It is not easy to overcome my reluctant side.  My hard heart and proud attitude feed my resistant will. But time has taught me a few things.  When I trust in my own knowledge and understanding my growth usually becomes stagnant, but when I work to keep an open mind and soft heart my perspective changes just a little bit. I’ve come to realize that I can do almost anything, but I cannot be anything without working to grow.

The Difference Between Doing and Being

I can be a task master when it comes to lists and checking off things to do, but I think I’ve got the order of things a little mixed up. We become what we set our hearts upon, and if our desire is to do something without stopping to think about what we are becoming we might be surprised at what we end up being.

“Heavenly Father does not just want me to do something; He wants me to become something. When I am striving to become, my heart will turn toward the things that I must do.”  Diane Thueson Reich

I’ve always had a sort of fascination with the use of the word heart. People can be described as hard-hearted, having a brave heart, or being pure in heart.  Our heart is the keeper of our deepest dreams and desires.  The condition of our heart is a reflection of our soul.

“Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them, without resistance or resentment. We cease doing things our way and learn to do them God’s way instead. In such a condition of submissiveness, the Atonement can take effect and true repentance can occur.” Bruce D. Porter

When it comes to being and becoming it all is dependent on my heart.

What Reluctance has Taught Me

Maybe some of this has resonated with you, maybe it hasn’t.  For me, it has been a sort of wake up call. My reluctance to learn and grow doesn’t move me in the direction I want to go.  I get so caught up in doing things my way, and what I want to become is not aligning with who I am.

So today I’m not going to try to be an expert road bike rider, but maybe I’ll accept being just a little better than I was yesterday because I tried to become better today.

When have you felt reluctant to change?


Resources

  1. Thueson, Diane. Retrieved 2017. BYU Speeches. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/diane-thueson-reich_i-am-a-reluctant-grower/
  2. Stulberg, Brad. Retrieved 2017. Thrive Global. https://journal.thriveglobal.com/the-growth-equation-stress-rest-growth-de95a5cdcd1d
  3. Porter, Bruce D. Retrieved 2017. Lds.org https://www.lds.org/liahona/2007/11/a-broken-heart-and-a-contrite-spirit?lang=eng
Lori Jackson

Lori Jackson

Hi I'm Lori, wife, mother, grandmother, story teller, blogger and friend. Lover of learning, watching my grandson giggle, tandem biking and encouraging people. I can also be found blogging at ChoosingWisdom.org.
Lori Jackson

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8 thoughts on “My Reluctance to Grow: Why Pushing Outside of My Comfort Zone is Essential

  1. What great thoughts! I really resonated with “I’ll shift when I want to.” Maybe not the best part of this post to resonate with. 😉 I love the statement that the body and the brain become stronger after being exposed to stress (as long as rest follows). This past week we were on vacation and did a lot of hiking. I haven’t done any hiking for several years because I had surgery on each foot and it has taken a while to get my strength back. The hikes were stress, moving beyond my comfort zone, but afterwards I felt so good and so accomplished. But resting was imperative. I can see how the stress+rest relates to growth in many areas of life. Thanks for sharing.

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one resistant to growth sometimes Jennifer! I feel like a two-year-old sometimes with my little tantrums of doing it myself – but we all have to grow at our own pace. Thanks for the comment!

  2. The part about stress making us stronger reminded me of Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk “Spiritual Whirlwinds.” He said, “In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return.” When I’m that sapling caught in strong winds, I can really resist the need to grow faster and spread farther. But looking back at the times when the winds have blown and I have allowed myself to grow and become, I can honestly say it’s been a better experience than when I’ve been reluctant or resistant to change.

    • We just went to girls camp for testimony meeting last week. They had the theme of trees for that day’s devotional. The trees reach for the light, growing above the others. They grow in groves to lean on and gain support from each other, and they use what the trees before them left behind to become stronger (the old decayed trees enrich the soil). I loved how we can learn from the trees. Thank you for the connection!

  3. Oh my goodness! I love all these thoughts–especially how we don’t generally seek out situations that make us uncomfortable but maybe we should. I completely agree. My motto for myself the last few years was “I can do hard things” because I found myself shying away from anything that scared me. I realized I was never going to grow that way.

    Thanks for the great read!

    • That’s awesome Brittany! Face fear head on! I am always telling my kids they can do hard things but I don’t know how often I tell myself that. Thank you for the comment!