Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone in Life and Design

life is amplified at the end of your comfort zone

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Lately, this quote has been the theme to my life. In both personal and professional ways, stepping outside of my comfort zone has drastically changed my outlook on life as well as the impact I’m able to make with my business. And I’m confident it can for you, too. Here are my stories:

On a stage in front of more than 300 women…

Is not where I’d ever thought I’d be if you asked me even a few months ago. Let’s rewind: a few weeks ago, I was flying out on a Sunday to attend a business mastermind retreat with my mentor, Christine Kane. Just two days before I was scheduled to leave, I was contacted to see if I’d be interested in introducing Christine for the opening segment of the retreat, all about packages. The “rules”: use 5-6 minutes, speak from your heart, and introduce Christine.

I didn’t hesitate. I said yes. I was incredibly honored to be asked.

With very little time to process, I went about my day, prepared to leave, and flew out on Sunday. On Monday morning, I took the stage with a few bullet-pointed notecards. But it only took a few seconds to realize I wasn’t going to lay an eye on them. I let go. I saw the women in that audience, knew my story of overcoming obstacles and building packages for Harris Studios could help them, and I told my story.

Could I tell you what I said on that stage today? Hardly. But it resonated. Because I stepped outside of my comfort zone, embraced my originality, and owned my voice.

‘Captaining’ a guide boat in the Adirondacks

Realizing the power of breaking down that barrier lit a fire inside of me, one that extended beyond my business and into my personal life. While many step outside of their comfort zone to find excitement, there’s also sanctity in stepping outside to find solitude. For me, that happened in one of my favorite places in this world: Brantingham Lake in the Adirondacks. And it happened in the form of a vintage Adirondack guide boat.

I was browsing Facebook one day when I saw the boat for sale. I took a chance and made an offer. It was a big decision. But it was easy. Within days, I was rowing a historic guide boat — my boat. I’m rowing backwards in my wicker seat, knowing I can stop and float at anytime while I write, paint, or read. I slow down. And in that way — alone in the middle of a lake, not on stage in front of 300 people — I find and own my voice.

How your work can be inspired by stepping outside your comfort zone

The true beauty in stepping outside of your comfort zone is this: when you let go of doubts, ignore judgments, and open your mind, you become your most authentic self.

Doing this for your business means connecting on a deeper level with the audience you’re most qualified to serve: those who share your beliefs, feel resolve in your message, and can benefit from what you have to offer.

Ordinary doesn’t sell anymore. Safe isn’t compelling. It’s only by putting yourself and your business out there in a genuine way, whether it’s through speaking in front of an audience, sharing your vulnerabilities on Instagram, or trying something new with your services, that you can realize your full potential.

Your work will be better for it. You’ll connect with the audience you’re seeking in a more authentic way. And, best of all, you’ll discover opportunities you didn’t previously think were in the realm of possibility.

And when this extends into your personal life? This means deeper relationships; more self-confidence, and a happier life.

Light your own fire

Let go of pretenses. Ignore self-doubt. Step outside of what would normally be expected of you (expectations set by both others and yourself). Then, and only then, can you realize the potential of who you are and what you have to offer.

It took stepping outside my comfort zone to prove to myself that I have a voice. A powerful voice. I can heal. I can help. I can share. And through that, I can become a stronger business woman. I can become a stronger mentor. I can become a stronger friend.

Try something new. Explore uniqueness. Use your voice to express who you are and where you’re going.

I have one edit to this popular quote: Life is amplified at the end of your comfort zone. I had — and have — a wonderful life within my comfort zone. But it’s only when I step outside that I see the potential for what it can be; what I can do. It’s amplified all that I have, and all that I hope to be.

What’s one thing you can do today to step outside your comfort zone? How will that impact your brand, and your voice?

The Healing Power of Art

Art heals

You know those days when you have a headache that just won’t seem to go away?

Or how about the days when you’re distracted and feeling completely incapable of getting through your (never-ending) to do list?

Or, perhaps the worst: the days when you’re simply not yourself… and you don’t quite know why — or what to do about it.

I’ve had all of the above. In fact, everyone I’ve known has had those days when they would love to crawl into bed and start over again tomorrow.

But a bad day doesn’t have to be a forgotten day. How do you turn it around? I’m here to share with you my solution; my saving grace: art.

Art heals

“At the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source. When you are an artist, you are a healer; a wordless trust of the same mystery is the foundation of your work and its integrity.”Rachel Naomi Remen, MD

My life is centered around art. I’m a graphic designer, a painter, and a conscious observer. I’m drawn to art as an expressive tool. Fortunately for me, art is largely based on creativity, and there’s sincere power in creativity.

Engaging in creative activities relieves stress. It increases your productivity. And it’s simply been proven to help you achieve more success in many facets of life.

For me, art is my job. But it’s also my go-to for the bad, sad, and tough days that get the best of us. And it can be your go-to, as well.

I have a feeling that I know what you might be thinking: you’re not creative. You’re not an artist. Take that thought and squash it right now. The beauty of turning to art as an outlet for healing is that there is no one way to do it “right.” And because of that, no one is an expert. It’s about progress over perfection, and discovery over domination. It’s about finding the outlet that improves your mood, your outlook, and ultimately, your situation.

What that might look like for you:

1 – Painting: a blank canvas, an easel, and a set of fresh paints.

2 – Writing: a notebook, a pen, and a head full of stories.

3 – Photography: a camera, a subject, and a source of light.

4 – Sewing: a needle, thread, and a choice of fabrics.

See where I’m going? Using art to heal looks different for everyone. Art is color. Art is words. Art is texture. Art is seeing the world through your own lens, and translating it in only the way you can. And through this, there is learning; there is expression; there is healing.

All you need to get started is an open mind, and the desire to turn your bad day around.

Use art as your outlet

Artist Susan Griffin said this:

“I think artists can go to a level of vision that can often save us from a situation which seems to have no solution whatsoever.”

You don’t have to be a full-time creative to be able to find that level of vision. You, my friend, are an artist. So remember, the next time that headache sets in, or the to do list seems insurmountable, or the day just seems lost: it happens. And when it does, I urge you to do this one thing: turn to art.

Create when things are good, create when things are sad, create when things are uncertain. Open yourself to the healing power of art and welcome the change in your days.

Everyone Is An Artist

everyone is an artist

At the start of May, Ontario County welcomed the Midwest Travel Writers Association as the group embarked on its annual conference.

For nearly a week, the writers were wined and dined throughout the Finger Lakes, and invited to experience the best that our area has to offer. So naturally, I was honored that not only was I a panelist for a discussion on “branding you,” but I was also asked to host a plein air painting class for the writers on a beautiful Saturday morning.

For those of you unfamiliar with plein air painting, “en plein air” is a French phrase for painting “in open air” — or, quite simply, painting outdoors. With beautiful weather and paints in hand, we took to the iconic Canandaigua boathouses that stretch along the pier: a perfect backdrop of vibrant colored houses and bright blue water.

As suspected, there is some hesitation when you gather people who excel in other areas and hand them a paintbrush and a blank canvas. But for all of you who are compelled to say “But I’m not an artist!”, “I don’t know how to paint”, or “I can’t even draw a straight line!” I have only this truth to say: everyone is an artist.

What it really means to be an artist

Bear with me now. You may not have ever painted a brushstroke in your life (though I highly doubt you made it through kindergarten without doing just that!), but it’s never too late to put your inner artist to work. After just a few hours with these writers at the boathouses, here’s what they learned about what you need to bring to the table:

1. An open mind. Open your mind to the possibilities: the potential in a single brush stroke, the energy of a palette of bright, summer colors, and the possibility of creating something that is uniquely you. Inspiration is everywhere, and with an open mind, you can access that inspiration and just create.

2. Self-confidence. You don’t need to be the best. You don’t need to have years and years of experience. You just need to know that you can. Let go of those negative thoughts that have kept you from trying and know that you are enough.

3. Presence. With your mind open and the self-confidence you need to get started, that last crucial element you need to be able to call yourself an artist is the ability to be present. Shut down distractions, clear your head, and just be. It’s in this particularly open state that you’ll have the power to truly focus.

What painting can do for you

So you know that you have what it takes, but what makes it all worthwhile? Let’s consider this: have you heard about the incredible popularity of adult coloring books? They’re taking the world by storm at the moment, and for good reason. Like many other forms of art, sinking yourself into a creative mindset allows you to:

1. Unplug. No phone. No TV. No computer. Life entirely sans screens is, for the most part, impossible, but brief periods where you can unplug are key to finding presence and opening your mind to the world in front of you. (More on that, here.)

2. De-stress. Artwork has proven to be vital for stress relief. Art therapy reduces tension in your body, clears your mind of negative thoughts, and fosters self-awareness. And when we live in a high-stress world, it’s critical that we learn to manage our own levels. (It’s why those adult coloring books are back-ordered on Amazon right now.)

3. Get back to basics. You don’t need the “latest and greatest” in order to be an artist. It can start with a pencil and a napkin, if it’s what you’ve got. A basic set of paints and a blank canvas? Even better. The beauty of creating art is that you start where you are and use what you have — no fancy tech gadgets or learning manuals required.

The writers and I would both agree on that beautiful Saturday morning: being unplugged, sans stress, and getting back to basics was the perfect way to kick off the day and weekend.

Accept your role as an artist

Tie your hair back. Let your guard down. Be present. When you get past the barriers of feeling like you’re not an artist and accept art as a necessary and welcome part of your life, you’ll be amazed at the transformations you experience.

Painting does that for me, and when you accept the inner artist in you, it can do the same for you. Whether it’s coloring books, painting, or composing a song, repeat after me: everyone is an artist.

Designing an Environment for Creativity: A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of My Studio

Home Studio Tour

“One of the greatest necessities… is to discover creative solitude.” – Carl Sandburg

When it comes to creativity, or really anything productive, environment is everything. The sounds, smells, and space you surround yourself with are incredibly important to fostering the mindset needed to accomplish.

As a business owner, I’ve also found that the environment you create is a direct reflection of your brand.

That’s why, when I moved from an external design studio to one within my own home, I took special care to make it exactly what I needed to reflect Harris Studios and to perform at my best.

Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of what that looks like:

2015_03_12 Tour 01

1. A clean, tidy desk

I work on design projects for a variety of clients, meaning I need space both mentally and physically to dream up different concepts and visions for each project. My desk serves as the place where the design happens, and keeping my desk clean save a few necessary, deliberate items – my Wacom tablet, fresh fruit, and beautiful flowers – gives me that space. If creativity thrived on clutter, life might be easier — but then, it wouldn’t be as fun, right?

2. Ambiance

2015_03_12 Tour 02

I am so incredibly fortunate to work out of my 1800’s post and beam-style home, where accents like this fireplace adorn several rooms. There’s nothing like the crackle of a wood fire during the cold winter months, or the sound of the breeze coming through the front door during the warm summer. Setting the tone in the room is so important to my mood, and being comfortable allows me to create freely. My office mascot, Banks — also my walking buddy — is a frequent visitor, and enjoys the ambiance, as well.

3. Space for what you love

2015_03_12 Tour 03

All work and no play makes for a tough day. For me, painting is my passion. It fuels my inner artist and largely influences my design work. That’s why it was absolutely imperative that I create a space for painting within my home office. For you, this space may look like a reading nook; a set of workout equipment; a ping-pong table. Making space for what you love will inspire your work in ways you can’t even imagine — I promise you that.

4. The little details

I firmly believe in making your space your own, as you can tell. This goes down even to the small details. Whether you’re in a tiny office cubicle or sprawled out on a spacious deck overlooking the ocean, it’s the little details — the photos you hang up, the quotes you write down, the special tokens that remind you of places and people you choose to display — that make the space yours. For me, I also include many fun art supplies, books, and interesting pieces I have picked up on my journey that may serve as inspiration or subject matter at some point. They remind me that an integration of creativity, focus, work and play are imperative to a successful business and balanced life.

2015_03_12 Tour 04

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Just as Virginia Woolf believed all women should have a room of one’s own to create and succeed, I truly believe that each and every entrepreneur and individual should put careful thought into designing the space they occupy to make it a place that fosters creativity, inspiration, and comfort.

Our best work comes when we’re in a space that allows for it. What does that space look like for you?