Growth at the Fringes

I was recently with my friend’s 7-year old daughter and was telling her, “Next time, I’ll take you and your brothers out!”

“Actually,” she goes. “Maybe next time my mommy can come and she and the boys can go to Gymboree [a kids’ play area] or something, and we two can just you know, walk around and shop!”

At that moment it hit me so strongly that this girl was no longer the little 4-year old I met years ago. She was one of the “big girls” now. So I smiled and told her that yes, we could do that.

Somehow, we have less of these kinds of moments when we get older, moments when we decide we’re not so interested in Gymboree anymore and would rather go shopping. Somehow, we simply get more and more set in our ways and habits. Somehow, we don’t know as intuitively when it’s time to move on – and rarely do we take the time to assess ourselves now and then. Kids are often told not to grow up too fast, but we adults sometimes forget to keep growing.

So think about it: Are the things you’re doing now still making you happy, or are you doing them just because you’ve been doing them for years? Are you actually still interested in this and that, or not so much anymore? Is that still your favorite cuisine, music, or fashion style, or have your tastes changed? Have you been trying anything new?

Is the way you do your mitzvot still meaningful and exciting to you – or are you just doing them the same way you’ve been doing them since you were five?

You don’t have to quit your day job and/or go do something extreme like climb Mt. Everest (unless that really is one of your life goals). All you need to do is always improve a little bit on what you already do. Learn another bracha (blessing), or say the ones you already do with more kavanah (intent). Learn from another set of commentaries when learning the parshiyot, start beating your work deadlines, wake up a little earlier, exercise an extra ten minutes, or add another two minutes to your daily hisbodedut / prayer time. Growing isn’t always throwing yourself way, way, way out of your comfort zone; sometimes it’s a series of baby steps just outside your comfort zone that add up. It’s an incredible practice to regularly do things that make you just that little bit uncomfortable, and to always change the way you do things, especially things in your routine. Because that’s where growth happens: at the fringes of your comfort zone.

What little change will you make in your life today?

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