Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
~Neale Donald Walsch
I’ve been scared and I’ve liked not hanging on to stuff where I know that I’m in my comfort zone.
When you go out of your comfort zone and it works, there’s nothing more satisfying.
For the most part, humans are creatures of habit – we generally stick to what we are comfortable with. We make a circle of friends, get a job, and engage in a fairly established set of activities. This may be due to a variety of factors, including economic stability and convenience, but it may also be related to a desire to stay in our comfort zones.
There are some who thrive on trying new things, but even they know what they like and will retreat to trusted friends and familiar places when they need comfort.
There are dedicated homebodies and there are those who can talk to anyone and love new experiences. How long can you stay out of your comfort zone? How far out of your comfort zone can you go before the feeling becomes unbearable? It can be fun to try to answer those questions through real life experiences. Think of them as experiments and of yourself as the subject.
Pick something that you’re not comfortable with. When you engage in that activity, observe your reaction closely. Are you breathing fast? Is your heart racing? What are the least pleasant sensations you experience? What makes them unpleasant? For me, striking up a conversation with a stranger can be very uncomfortable (see People). I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. It has taken me a long time to be able to break out of my introvert shell and chat with people I don’t know. I still get that sense of discomfort when I’m networking or mingling (two words that used to strike fear in my heart), but I’m much better at them now and have gotten to the point where I actually enjoy them.
If we can learn to mentally re-label discomfort as excitement or exhilaration, we can open up whole new worlds of activities and ideas that make life more interesting and fulfilling. Ultimately, our discomfort will decrease as we spend more time out of our comfort zones.
Pushing our comfort envelope doesn’t have to involve physical danger or uncomfortable interactions with people. It might involve new responsibilities in our jobs or even learning something new.
Another interesting experiment might involve reading – with an open mind – a book or a website that describes a point of view that you vehemently disagree with. Are you able to do it without your preconceived notions jumping in and acting like they own the place?
An open mind is a condition beyond most people’s comfort zones. Not many people can truly say that they have completely open minds. Each of us forms opinions from the time we are little children. Many of these opinions change or evolve as we gain life experience and knowledge. But we have to remember that we won’t ever be finished gaining life experience and knowledge, and none of us should consider our opinions to be final. How boring would that be?!
Getting out of our intellectual comfort zones can be more uncomfortable than many other excursions away from comfort. We have to lay our opinions and values to one side and experience ideas without any filters. After we do, who knows, we may have new opinions and values. Many of us hang on to our opinions and values because they provide stability and… um… comfort. It can be scary to reassess them, but honesty is often scary (See Honesty).
Don’t get me wrong, I like comfort – I’m in my comfort zone more than I am out of it. But comfort used as a security blanket can detract from our potential for interesting and exciting lives.
Ultimately, we should learn to be comfortable with discomfort.