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I don’t know where I stumbled across this phrase first, but it’s one that spoke to me the other day: “I had to make you uncomfortable, otherwise you never would have moved.”

Anyone who’s worked with livestock can understand the sentiment. The proper application of pressure and release is key to training a horse. Moving cattle isn’t all war whoops and spurs, but more pressure and release in the right pathway. 

The same is true for people. 

We get stuck in a comfort zone. Be it at home with our family, or at work with our employees, we have a routine. Crops get in the ground, cattle go to market, and the café always serves our meatloaf with mashed potatoes on Wednesdays. 

Oh sure, we change things up now and then. We might have the fried chicken instead of the meatloaf if they’re out in the kitchen. But when faced with a choice between venturing forth with “the new” or clinging to “the old,” a lot of us would rather stay put.

If it was good enough for Grandpa, it’s good enough for me.

I get it. I do. I’m a sucker for tradition and history and heritage. But no one ever achieved greatness sitting in the comfort zone. Now is a time for farmers and ranchers and rural people of all kinds to take a hard look at their comfort zones. Are they holding you back from change and forward movement? If so, why are you sitting there?

Consider the organizations to which you devote time and energy outside of your farm, like your church, your farmer advocacy group, or the local service organization. They all have their comfort zones, don’t they? 

Sure, you stay in that comfy spot and there’s no fuss at the board meetings. But is real progress being made? Are you recruiting younger members to join, or are you scaring them off because you don’t like the changes they bring up? Are you rubberstamping policy that was handed to you by a staff member, or are you bringing fresh ideas to the table?

Change of the routine is not meant to be comfortable. Growing pains are painful for a reason. There will be setbacks and stumbles. That’s life. It’s how you respond to those challenges that will determine if you will ultimately succeed. 

I don’t care if it’s a new hymn in church, a new barber downtown, or your kid’s “weirdo friend with the purple hair”—maybe that’s the universe’s signal for you to step out of your comfort zone. You might find yourself humming that new hymn Monday morning at chore time. You may discover that new barber has better jokes. You might even find that weirdo kid with the purple hair can show you how to better use the apps on your phone to streamline your farm and is a whiz at mechanical work.

The universe applies the pressure to herd us toward a better outcome than what we’ve already got in our comfort zone. You can fight it, or you can flow with it like a group of cows seeing an open gate in the sorting pen.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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