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'Comfort' zones are no comfort

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- We recently celebrated a historic event that occurred 50 years ago with the launch of Explorer 1, carrying America's first satellite. Given that the Soviets had beaten America into space with the launch of two Sputnik satellites in 1957, many people felt America was losing the space race. The pioneers who made the Explorer 1 mission possible weren't comfortable sitting back watching the Soviets gain the edge in space.

The terrorist attack on our country on Sept. 11 was another wakeup call. As a nation, it brought us out of our "comfort zone." We are now fully engaged in a global war on terrorism.

We're at a critical juncture for the Air Force--a transition period that will shape the nation's security for a generation or more. Tomorrow's Air Force must be, and will be, more agile, more compact and more lethal than ever, ensuring global air, space and cyberspace dominance for the United States as we enter the 21st Century. This cannot be accomplished without making some changes.

Most of us don't necessarily like change. Whether we realize it or not, we put a lot of work into ensuring certain things in our lives remain constant. Over time, we gather a set of constricting habits around us, habits that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. This personal "comfort zone" is the invisible, but very real, area that defines the boundaries of what we know and understand. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness; however, they still determine what we think we can and cannot do, and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try.

As long as we are safely held within the walls of what we know, we feel secure and confident. As we move closer to the edges of the wall, we begin to feel a bit shaky and unsure of ourselves, but those edges are where we grow. By stretching those boundaries, we increase our ability to reach our full potential.

Don't be afraid to leave your "comfort zone." Our nation's continued success depends on innovative people who are willing to push themselves to limits of their abilities. Step out and make a difference!