Beyond your comfort zone

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

When Andre Gide said, "One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time", he was encouraging us to leave the apparent security of 'present comfort' and turn our life into an adventure. A 'comfort zone' is generally defined as a self-limiting zone of behaviour or a context outside of which you believe you feel uncomfortable. Everyone has a comfort zone. In fact, most people have any number of zones, each dedicated to distinct segments of their lives. Each zone, no matter if it concerns the amount of money made or the level of 'mess' allowed in the family room, has both a high and low parameter. The trick here is not to eliminate the zone, but to constantly raise the levels of those parameters, realising that the distance between the high and low levels of the comfort zone will likely remain constant.

Comfort zones are not only self created but they keep us stuck in a 'space' that is smaller than our potential. Anxiety is of course the most frequent emotion when we near the edge of a zone or when someone challenges us to step beyond. And yet life itself could be seen as a continuous process of
risk taking as we are challenged to reach beyond what was previously comfortable. When we don't take risks we suppress our potential, deny our joy and sabotage our capacity to 'do life' well. In the famous survey where older people were asked what they regretted most as the looked back on their
life, few said they wished they had spent more time at the office! The most common replies were, "I wish I had learned more and taken more risks". As Helen Keller reminds us, "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing".

We create comfort zones at many levels in many areas of our life. Here are a few which are both common and worth consciously stepping out of.

The Zone of Arrangement

This is a definite favourite. Whether it's your desk or your garage, how you arrange the 'stuff' in your life is a reflection of what you are comfortable with. And yet, if it is a mess someone might also say you are just lazy. The difference between lazy and being stuck in a comfort zone is in your reactions. If someone tidies your room for you and it bothers you then you know 'messiness' is your comfort zone. But if you are easy with their attempt to 'sort' your mess it just means you simply don't tend to
give high priority to tidiness. Not forgetting however that just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder so too might be a little messiness!

The Zone of Creativity

If someone invites you to step up to the canvas and paint a painting could you do it? Would you do it? Or would you say something like, "Sorry I can't paint, I am not creative", while perhaps scoffing at the very thought of trying. Somewhere in the past you learned to believe that you are not creative, probably at school when someone laughed over your shoulder at your first painting. But everyone can paint. The quality may vary but the truth is everyone can paint something. Everyone is creative because we are all creators. Picassos philosophy was simple, "I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it."

The Zone of Participation

When you are invited to be part of a team do you embrace the opportunity or shrink away at the thought of having to work closely with 'other people'? When you have to set about a task that means much solitary time do you dread it and try to wriggle out of it? Some of us are very comfortable as a team player while others prefer to work on their own? Either way we are being challenged, and to meet the challenges of life is to use whatever comes to us to grow and strengthen our self.

The Zone of Goal Setting

Do you have clear goals in your life (as opposed to desires). Many of us are comfortable not having goals and as soon as it's suggested that it's a good idea we become uneasy. This is often because we were taught that failure is more likely than success in life. The idea of goals just invokes
memories of failure. Creating some short term, easy goals is the way to break out of the zone and allow your self to succeed at the game of achievement. It also helps to separate personal happiness from the achievement of the goal. Not so easy in a world that tends to teach us that happiness is a reward and not our natural state. So don't make your happiness dependent upon reaching the goal and then the energy that you need to get you there will be freer and clearer. And someone must have said, "We cannot succeed without failing"!

The Zone of Self-talk

What do you say to yourself about yourself and your abilities? Self-talk can either be supportive or destructive. The voices in your head have come from this big people when you were a little person. Most negative and critical thinking is simple the echo of mum or dad! But even though they are not pleasant voices we become comfortable with them and do nothing to change them. They are strangely reassuring and unsettling at the same time. And when someone suggests something positive about how we are or what we have done we allow those voices to sabotage our genuine acceptance of the positive feedback. And so we are comfortable being perpetually uncomfortable! Such is the paradox of a 'discomfort zone'! Crazy until you become self-aware and consciously choose to cancel and replace.

The Zone of Focus

Always seeing the problems in life is a comfort zone of 'perception'. Then the emotional and mental action of complaining becomes a comfortable mindset. As soon as we complain about anything it means we are focusing on seeing the negative outside, and then recreating it within our
consciousness. The complainer can't see that they are creating their own pain, and eventually they will suffer from a sever case of 'victimitis'. Yet the reality is that if you complain it means you must have a picture in your mind of something better than what is, but you are not willing to risk
creating. If you cannot imagine anything better, then you will not complain. The real issue is you'd rather complain than risk doing what's necessary to produce the 'something better'. The only solution is to stop complaining and start taking the actions that will produce what you want.

It was Winston Churchill who reminded us, "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty". It's a clear choice that lies in wait at every turn on life's highway.

An even more profound solution is the realisation that there are no problems.ever.

Question: What is one major issue that you are facing in your life today?

Reflections: Within that issue what do you find yourself complaining about the most, either mentally or verbally? What is it you would rather have?

Actions: What can you/will you do about it?

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Methods there are many, principles but few, methods often change, principles never do