And why you should 'get out' of it?
“Get out of your comfort zone!” It makes a great meme, but what does that actually mean?
There’s another popular saying / meme that sits alongside this, which goes something like; ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.’
What they’re both pointing to is the reality that if you were already doing all the things that you needed to do in order to achieve your Ideal Life, your Goals or Aspirations then you’d have likely already achieved them, or at least be well on the way to doing so.
So, in order to turn that aspiration into an achievement you’re either going to have to do some different things, or do some things differently – and those are likely to feel Uncomfortable to do.
Why? Firstly, because they’re unfamiliar. Our subconscious / unconscious mind seeks safety in the familiar, and so it’ll resist change as it might see it as a threat.
It recognizes that all those habits and behaviors you’re already doing won’t kill you, because you’re doing them and you’re still alive – they may be unhealthy, unfulfilling, unproductive, but your brain’s main priority is survival, it’s not concerned with happiness or fulfillment, so as you’ve already survived those things it knows they’re ‘safe’ to do.
It’s uncertain about anything new – and uncertainty produces anxiety and worry. Which is why trying something for the first time can often bring on a spike of anxious feelings, even when your rational / logical mind ‘knows’ it’s for your own good.
Change can also lead to feelings of physical discomfort, for example; if your goal is to lose weight, you’re going to experience the sensations of hunger, or if your goal is to tone up at the gym, then be prepared for muscle aches and pains.
Your Comfort Zone consists of all the behaviors, skills, attitudes, habits and beliefs which you have established to get you to where you are in life now, but in order to make progress towards your Ideal Life some of those things are going to have to change.
And when they change, you’re going to meet resistance in the form of discomfort, which will make you want to go back to doing things the way you’ve always done them. Back to the safety of your comfort zone (Self Sabotage!). But, as we know, then you’ll only ever get the result you’ve always got.
There’s another saying which resonates along with this; “Good is the enemy of the Great!” We all have the opportunity and ability to grow and achieve amazing lives, yet we find safety, comfort, familiarity – the Good – and settle there instead of pushing on and striving to find the Great.
And the real problem with living in your comfort zone is that life stagnates, it drifts, loses excitement…true fulfillment and satisfaction in life is achieved through accomplishment – the bigger the achievement the greater the sense of fulfillment – and doing that involves facing challenge and taking risks.
How you prepare for, respond to and manage those feelings of discomfort will have a huge impact on the Success of what you hope to achieve, your personal growth and your future happiness.
So how do I best prepare to get out of the Comfort Zone? Here’s three exercises you could do:
Practice your Distress tolerance skills. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Visit new places, talk to new people, try something spontaneous, step outside your ‘normal’ routines and patterns of behavior. Teach your mind to value new experiences and prove that they’re safe.
Visualize your future achievements. Spend some time imagining having achieved all those things you want. Make ‘Future You’ your new best friend, and ask them how they achieved it. What steps did they take? What challenges did they face? What advice could they give you to prepare you for the journey?
Break it down into small steps. The gap between where you are now and where you want to be may seem huge, it might appear daunting. Taking small steps is important to build momentum and to set ourselves up for success. Break that ‘big’ life goal down into smaller stages – what has to happen first / next? Think of your ultimate goal / aim as the final show of a 10 season TV program. Where do we need to get to at the end of season one? What’s important for episode one? Maybe the characters who’ll have a big impact on the ending will not even appear until season three – that doesn’t mean you can’t start setting the scene.
Go, Do. And have Fun along the way.