Goals and Stepping out of your Comfort Zone

I had some interesting feedback on my post yesterday, from friends and family that have seen me as a goal setter and a goal getter. Inspiring even in my ability to do so. It is true, I can talk a good talk. And I have had a vision. I have always had a fairly good sense of the direction that I should be going. And I have an idea of what I need to do to get there…


You will note that I put “should” in italics. Why? Because should is not really a real goal. It is fulfilling someone else’s expectation. As a young person, I went to University because it was what I should be doing. I studied anthropology because I’d heard “do you what you love and you will find success.”

Growing up my family was comfortable. We had a nice home in the mountains outside of Boulder, my father had built much of it with his own hands. My mother had a secure life and work at the University. My grandparents were never far (Boulder and Steamboat). I had a small extended family, an older brother than always came bearing gifts (watermelons, ice cream, and truck stop oddities) and I never wanted for anything. I never knew hunger or poverty, except in tales. I saw divorce, but I never witnessed it personally. I saw death, but with older family (grand and great-grandparents) it was a natural progression for loved ones who had lived good lives and been loved.

And so, I have moved my life in a direction, a safe direction. And I have met with relative success, in the relative security of a life lived on the hard work of my ancestors and my fellow Americans. I have been lucky and blessed.

It takes more than intentions to breakout…

As I wrote about in my piece on Turning Points a few weeks ago, after a time, I found myself content, but secure. I started to be more intentional with my life. And, I suppose this in a sense has been an introduction to the satisfaction of goal setting and finding both happiness and success. However, I have to confess that despite setting intentions, my actions have still often been more “go with the flow” than visualizing and following the actual steps to achieve a certain goal. I have followed more of a “what if” and a “what the hell” method than a first I need to do A, then B, then C to achieve X.

I realize a lot of what I am talking about here may just sound like a bunch of semantics and plays on words, but words and semantics are important. There is a difference between making a decision and making a choice. A decision is final. A choice can be changed. If I decide that I like strawberry ice cream, I will always order strawberry ice cream. If I make a choice to order strawberry ice cream today, maybe tomorrow I will order chocolate.

Goals vs Intentions

To me, a goal is something that I want to achieve, whereas an intention aligns with my values. When I divorced in 2011, I decided that I valued my happiness and that I need to break out of my comfort zone and start to stepping into things that caused me fear and uncertainty. This has indeed brought me great happiness. It has also opened up the possibility for me to experience great and abundant gratitude. I think that those who have watched me and who have been inspired by my actions have watched me step into my fears and out of my comfort zone.

However, you have not yet seen me set specific goals. This is truly a new ground for me. Let me tell you a story that shows the distinction between living in comfort and stepping out of your comfort zone. A distinction that I have learned with the help of my husband.

The tale of two children: one Malagasy and one American

I’ll continue with my story that I started above. I grew up in a comfortable family. Living in Colorado we were outdoorsy and naturally a bit athletic. I adored going to watch the games of my older cousin who was a local basketball champion and I’d grown up shooting baskets on my patio. When I was 12 I decided to join the basketball team and my junior high school. At first, I was pretty good because I was naturally tall and I was an accurate shot, but as the years passed (only three to be precise), the other girls started by passing me in skill and I spent more time on the bench. I was frustrated that I was not very good at dribbling. How did I address this challenge? I didn’t decide to practice more at home or ask for coaching with my dribbling. Nope, I just gave up. I quit.

Just around the time that I quit, a few oceans and time zones away there was a boy. By the time he had reached his teenage years, he had experienced several nationwide famines, times in which the only things his family had to eat were rice or vegetables his mother had grown in their garden. He shared his table with not only his brothers and sisters (there were six of them in total), but also cousins, and other extended family. His parents were fortunate to have good work, so he generally had food and shoes, but many people he knew did not. His mother always set an extra seat at the dinner table, even when guests were not expected that she called “a seat for Jesus,” because you never knew when someone might come by and certainly they would need to eat.

This boy was the youngest of his brothers and sisters. He was also the smallest and he had learned to fight for what he wanted. He saw things, he set goals and he achieved. He also loved basketball. By the time he was 16 he was the youngest on the regional team that made it to the champions. And then during their big game, he got clobbered by a guy who could slam dunk. He could have quit. He could have said, I am too skinny, too short, there is no way I will ever be able to slam dunk… But no, he decided that he would beat this guy. He would not only be able to slam dunk, he would be able to jump so high his head could hit the basket.

And so, he took to training: he did squats, he ran, he lifted weights and he practiced jumping. Two years later at the next match up, not only could he slam-dunk he could out play the big dude. And, if I started to list off the challenges he has faced and overcome through serious goal setting, from the time he was born to the time he arrived in France in 2000 with less than 200 French francs in his pocket, you would be seriously impressed. This young man, is now my husband. His inspiration and success have shown me what you can do if you set a goal, visualize it, figure out your plan of action, and set-it in motion.

So look out world, because now we are a team.

Achieving goals and setting goals is not easy. First you need to be honest with your current situation. Next you need to know what you want to achieve and you need to be able to visualize how you are going to get where you want to be. It takes more than simple intention to achieve big. It takes goal setting, strategy, follow through, and intention. Achieving goals requires one to step out of your comfort zone and risk failure, but also risk success. Real success and satisfaction come from hard earned goals. Or as they say, nothing worth having is easy to get.