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Trading your comfort zone for your sweet spot

Feb. 9, 2016 | by Gerry Lewis

I have heard it and said it. Likely you have too: “We need to get out of our comfort zone.” To echo leadership guru Michael Hyatt: “Nothing good happens in the comfort zone.”

But where, exactly, are we supposed to go when we leave our comfort zone? Is it simply a case of doing something different?  Doing the same things, only differently? Or, should we seek “discomfort?”

Golfers and tennis players know about the “sweet spot.” Namely, that place on the club or racket that produces optimum results no matter the idiosyncrasies of the individual’s stroke. A picture perfect stance, fancy footwork, or a great swing will not yield results as powerful as hitting one’s sweet spot.  

Pastor, I suggest that you find your sweet spot before you leap out of your comfort zone.

Contrasting the two

1. In your comfort zone, you know just about everything. In your sweet spot, you are curious to learn more.

2. In your comfort zone, you can often relax and coast on autopilot. In your sweet spot, you draw energy from stretching and reaching with intentional focus.

3. In your comfort zone, you can be safe in your current reality. In your sweet spot, you can risk a new vision.

4. In your comfort zone, you can develop efficient habits around your natural abilities. In your sweet spot, you can craft effective strategies out of developing strengths.

5. If you remain in the inertia of your comfort zone, you can easily stagnate and watch your comfort zone shrink. However, if you move into your sweet spot, you can be consistently refreshed and watch your sweet spot expand.

The importance of the sweet spot

I once told a member of a pastor search team that his team needed to discover what aspects of pastoral ministry energized a particular candidate. That would help the team better determine if this candidate was a good match for their church.  

Why was this important? Because there are things that every pastor must do that are simply necessary to “pay the rent.” Yet some of those things can be emotionally and spiritually draining for a pastor who is not operating in his or her “sweet spot.”

There are also aspects of ministry that tap into a pastor’s passion and produce energy, even if they require hard work. At the end of the day, the pastor is tired, but it is a “good tired.” If a pastor is able to spend the majority of his or her time operating in the sweet spot, the resultant energy will empower them to do things that are necessary, but draining.  

However, the dangerous opposite is true: if pastors spend the majority of their time doing the things that drain them of energy, the time will come when they have no energy—even for their passions.   

Balancing act

Pastors must learn to effectively negotiate the delicate balance between doing what they love and doing what they must.  My observations, as well as my own experience, lead me to conclude that missing the sweet spot may be one of the greatest contributors to ministry burnout.

There have been two times in 32 years of ministry that I have been so close to burnout that I may have actually smelled like smoke. Both times, I was performing routine and necessary ministry tasks with efficiency, most people were pleased with my performance, and no one could identify anything I needed to be doing differently.  

Yet on both occasions, those closest to me knew that something was wrong with ME. Something had to change.

In my next post, I’ll tell you how I found my sweet spot, how you can find yours, and the supportive partners you need to help you get there.


Gerry Lewis

Dr. Gerry Lewis serves as Executive Director of the Harvest Baptist Association in Decatur, Texas. He is also Founder and CEO of YLM Resources, which includes Next Step Coach-Sulting and Life Matters Publications. He is also an author of four books, including Why “Bible Study” Doesn't Work. He and his wife live in Azle, Texas and have two grown children and three (so far) grandchildren. His weekly Life Matters blog and Your Church Matters podcast can be found at drgerrylewis.com.



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