This week I ran across a quote from Stella Orange that stopped me in my tracks:
I fully appreciated just how much of my happiness in life has come from those moments when I made a decision without knowing where the path would lead. Those times where I took a step without knowing where or how I might go next have led to amazing experiences. In each case it was just Betsy and me charting our lives without knowing what would come next.
We’ve stepped outside our comfort zone on a regular basis, never knowing for sure how it would work out. Because of that our comfort zone is pretty large – gigantic, actually. And when you’re comfort zone is big, there is a lot of room for living.
Trusting Ourselves to See It Through
As I recovered from the surprise from this quote I sat down and took a look back over our own lives together. At each stage in our relationship we have continued to take big steps towards what we wanted, without knowing what would lay on the other side. In spite of this, we have:
- Saved our marriage, the component of my life I cherish more than any other, by choosing to put our relationship first even when it was at the lowest point. We quit our jobs, moved cross-country to a better environment for us, and created a more suitable lifestyle in just two months…without knowing if we’d make it. We bet on ourselves…and we won.
- Followed our dreams by leaving our careers, selling everything, and taking off to see the world together, after witnessing how short life could be, even when the tanking economy and conservative friends urged us to stay put and play it safe.
- Started a new business in an emerging industry to fund our lifestyle and chose to continue living abroad, a decision that brings us immense joy each and every day
Our lives today can be traced back to the small and large decisions we took and the hope that things would work out. With each we took steps that may have seemed daring or crazy, but to us felt necessary. We wanted to stay married but had to change our lives, surroundings, and priorities to make it happen. We realized that life was too short and that we could no longer put off what we most wanted so we took the steps we had to do. And we needed to find a new way to make money to keep living the life that we love instead of returning to the safety of careers in the US.
In each case why we wanted to go after a big change was clear, but it was that we took action without knowing if it would work that made it all possible.
It is in the unknown space that dreams have been followed and our lives continue to unfold in ways we never could have expected.
But we did not start with big leaps.
Living Life as a Series of Experiments
These risks, both small and large, have been a constant part of our partnership. We push ourselves to try new things and move beyond what is comfortable. We’ve even started talking about how our life is actually a series of experiments. By viewing each new experience as an experiment we’ve reshaped how we view risk. It is not about taking a single big risk, but instead it’s been about trying something new and seeing what happens and getting comfortable in the space outside our comfort zone.
From standing on stage to present our book in Spanish to dyeing our hair blonde, we’ve experimented with ideas that popped into our heads and spurred action.
- We gave up television to save money for our trip and it turned out to allow us to connect more.
- We removed the distraction of mobile phones and discovered we are each more present in all our conversations and daily life.
- We gave up our car for 4 months to see how it would change our lives and found we walked more and got into better physical shape.
Some of these experiences become part of our lives – living without mobile phones and television. Others simply did not fit – as the world will agree we are not cut out to be blondes. But the key is that we love trying new things and seeing what fits.
We love these experiments as ways to see what we enjoy or to see if it will improve our relationship, health, or happiness. We try things because we’re curious people who want to learn something new (Betsy’s flamenco lessons, my language exchanges). We try new things because it has become a part of how we push ourselves into new areas we’d never considered before. But mostly, we try new things because over the last 12 years together we’ve found that we thrive on new experiences. We are enriched when we discover an unknown passion or an idea that turns into a new business opportunity.
Even today we still never know how trying something will turn out. As Betsy embarks on this new women’s romance series, we do not know if it will be a success. We’ve discovered, through all these experiments, that the journey itself is part of the joy. Trying something together and supporting each other is what we love about our lives. In a year we may discover that The Late Bloomer Series is a runaway sensation or it could be a failure. We have no idea, but that is not stopping us from diving in with both feet and racing forward.
Racing Forward and Enjoying the Ride
As I reread this quote today I realize that this is how we’ve shaped our lives – by racing forward in life without knowing where we will end up. But that we embrace the journey to get there just as much as the destination and that makes all the experiences – both good and bad – something that we enjoy. Whether these are small new trials or big shifts in our lifestyle, we are ready to embrace them with enthusiasm for the path.
Today our comfort zone is far bigger than it was a few years ago. We’ve bumped it out with each new experiment we try, finding new areas of growth and comfort along the way. One of the benefits of constantly pushing at the edges is that slowly, over time, we look back and realize just how far each of those small new experiences have transformed us from the people were were.
Taking risks does not require big leaps, it just requires a small step outside of where you feel comfortable. As we wrote about previously, even minor changes can lead to some big discoveries and open up big new directions for your life. (Plus, you can see proof of our experiment trying out life as blondes).
But be warned, trying new things can be addictive. Before you know it those little steps could lead to you to following your biggest dreams.