My family and I were recently invited to go sailing with some friends of ours. This was only the second time I’ve been on a sailboat. The first time was on a fairly good-sized catamaran, and this time we were on a much smaller, and for lack of a better term, “conventional” boat. When we left the marina, the wind was fairly calm, and largely at our back as we headed out on the river. We enjoyed a leisurely cruise, and the wind picked up speed as we headed up river. “The ride might be a little more exciting on the way back,” said Bob, our friend who owned the boat.

At some point we decided to turn the boat around and head back to the marina. The wind had gained strength, and heading into the wind provided a new experience that we hadn’t encountered on the way out. We learned lots of sailing terms that day, one of which was the word “heel.” Heel refers to how the boat leans because of the wind pushing on the sails. Bob had let me take the helm (in charge of steering the boat), and I was quite surprised to experience the leaning of the boat. Now I knew what he meant by “more exciting”.

When the boat leaned, it felt like we were starting to tip over. After talking about it with Bob, I learned that the amount of lean we were experiencing was very normal, and nowhere near dangerous. For the inexperienced sailor, it feels much more severe than it actually is. Bob recalled that when he first started sailing, he would get nervous when the boat would lean that way. Now that he’s an experienced sailor, the boat could be leaning twice as much as we experienced and he would be unshaken. I’m not sure I would have handled that well my first time out!

It was fun to experience things about sailing that I didn’t know about before. It was also interesting to experience something that felt dangerous, but actually wasn’t at all. That experience reminded me that the way we experience things isn’t always real. Sometimes we are afraid of things that are not dangerous at all, even things that are good for us. Other times we are comfortable with things that are harmful to us.

How often do we avoid trying new things, or testing the limits of our capabilities? We might experience great things on the other side of our fear if we were willing to take these risks, but many of us will never find out. If we take a shot on something big, the outcome is unknown. The comfort of mediocrity can seem better than risking failure if our efforts don’t pan out.

Our current existence is often comfortable to us, but that doesn’t mean it is what’s best. How much of our time is spent increasing our own comfort rather than doing something that leads to our growth? Often times, the choices we make about how we spend our time, how we eat, and what we put in our mind, are based on things that we enjoy. It’s ok to indulge in your own comfort or entertainment, but these things rarely lead to growth.

The way we experience things isn’t always real. Fear can prevent us from experiencing the things we really want, and our desire for comfort can keep us in a state that doesn’t benefit us. To overcome this mindset, we could become intentional about disrupting these tendencies. When was the last time you took a cool shower instead of a warm one? Do your food choices reflect what you like to eat, or what your body should have for fuel? When you feel some exhaustion, is the answer really to “veg out”, or is our body in need of physical fitness so we can have more energy?

Think about the comforts and fears in your world. Are they real? Are your comforts leading you to the life you want? Are your fears actually harming you, or are they preventing you from pursuing something great? How could you disrupt your world to practice experiencing things outside your comfort zone?

To your well-being,

Brian