Does Your Comfort Zone Comfort You or Confront You?

About this Insight
This Thinking Coach Insight is for those who don’t dismiss things that are outside their comfort zone and for those who wish to develop stamina and belief in themselves to be able to break through what holds them back
This article is longer than usual, so in a sense it challenges the comfort zone that wants knowledge to be neatly packaged and bottom lined. It is filled with sound advice that may help you to take charge of your life in a real way.
I have narrowed it to the minimum possible length, while trying to include critical and vital information that will open up this subject to the bigger picture.
It is deep and penetrating and perhaps confronting.
It is written because we are in trying times and that require people to make changes in order to achieve their professional and personal aspirations, and if I can help a bit from my life experience of dealing with many people over many years of training and going through difficult life struggles in myself, then why not?
Although there are many insights throughout this writing please remember that it is for each person to confront their comfort zones should they want to do so.
It is their choice and no one else should force them to do so!
This Thinking Coach Insight is being sent sooner than usual, as it directly relates to the previous Thinking Coach Insight #52 on Fresh Start, which was sent 2 weeks ago.
In case you missed it you can ask me to send it to you or look for it on my website www.thethinkingcoach.com
What are comfort zones?
OK, so we all seek to be comfortable; it’s normal, especially in the stressful life that we live. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Comfort is necessary to have peace of mind.
However, this article addresses the comfort zones that control us and prevent us from growth and development, while asking the question whether or not these comfort zones support your goals and aspirations.
We will look at 3 different types of comfort zones; physical, mental and emotional.
The physical comfort zone is the easiest and most obvious to spot and deal with.
The other two, the mental and the emotional comfort zones are more subtle and not so obvious at first.
They tend to “happens upon us” as part of our self protection, in trying to avoid pain and hurt that we have experienced in our past. We very rarely decide what defines their parameters, it is decided for us!
This article is meant to make you aware o f the fact that comfort zones have consequences and some of these consequences can impede your personal development.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you know what your comfort zones are?
Have you declared them to yourself?
Did you consciously agree to have them?
Do your comfort zones free you up or limit you?
What price are you willing to pay to be mentally and emotionally comfortable?
Do you realize that by avoiding new challenges you create a zone of comfort, which eventually closes up and controls you?
Do you realize that you can become fixed and limited by the parameters of your comfort zone?
Often times we tend to blame things outside of ourselves for preventing us from being at our best, when in actuality it is our comfort zones that hinder us. These questions will help you examine what actually stands in your way.
We seek for comfort and often find it in doing the same things over and over again, in a routine which guarantees that we don’t fail. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn’t control you.
Where a comfort zone controls us is when we unconsciously shrink the big picture to be able to control circumstances and keep them at a level that we think we can handle. In other words we minimize the truth to fit us rather then expanding our mind to fit the truth.
The big picture is unknown; our small picture is known and manageable- humans tend to fear the unknown and therefore often avoid it.
Our next area of development is in what we don’t know, not in what we already know
The big picture only ever gets revealed through challenging our tolerances. For example, for a quiet a person that tends to accept what other people say without question, breaking through the comfort zone would be to ask questions. That would reveal a bigger picture to them of what they are able to do.
Very often comfort zones come with an expensive, hidden price tag, a price of staying stuck and losing hope.
The quality of decision making is also affected by comfort zones. People tend to make decisions that are comfortable to their current present mindset but are counterproductive in the long term. In other words comfort in the short term may well be stress in the long term.
Here are some useful points to keep in mind:
A small picture view tends to look at any thing that threatens or challenges its comfort as something negative!
Your fresh-start zone is located outside of your comfort zone
The comfort zones that control will determine your ability to have a fresh start.
Let it be clear: Your ability to give yourself a fresh start in anything depends on the following:
Your willingness to struggle to not have rigid views.
Your willingness to be open to new ideas
Your willingness to accept and not dismiss other views that do not agree with your own.
Your willingness to not identify with what you think you know
Your willingness to reexamine your decisions by constantly updating
Your willingness to tolerate unknown and uncomfortable circumstances without complaining
To do that you need to LOVE your future possibility, at least as much as you love your current circumstance.
So you need to first be aware of your many comfort zones and to see to what degree they limit you. Your willingness to examine that is important in your quest for real freedom.
Here are some phrases that characterize comfort zones. These will help you become more aware of their existence:
I don’t like it
It is too much for me to handle
I can’t deal with that
No one understands me
It’s not fair
Don’t tell me that
And more…much more
If you hear yourself saying these sentences you are likely held back by your comfort zones.
Physical Comfort Zone
The physical comfort zone is the easiest to detect. It is defined by our LIKES and DISLIKES.
Usually it can be seen when we have an intention to do something, which is outside of our physical comfort zone, such as running for 30 minutes. We go running and after 15 minutes decide that it’s too much. What made that decision?
Here are some further examples for physical comfort zone:
1. The food we eat, when we eat, how we eat etc (ex: It’s time for lunch, because we always eat lunch at 12- hungry or not- have you seen people sometimes when they are deprived of their lunch at the usual hour?)
2. The clothes we wear (I can’t be seen like that!)
3. The cars we drive (this car is me…)
4. The brand of tooth paste we use (Oh, I hate this other one)
5. The exact cup of coffee we have (Now… that is pure religion…)
6. The amount of sleep we think we need (Even more religious than coffee)
7. The television show we watch at any cost
And…you can continue this list on and on and on.
Upon examination, you’ll find that mostly we have pre-decided and pre-judged what belongs inside our physical comfort zone and what doesn’t. Over time, through unchallenged repetition, these become habits, which control us.
Keep in mind the following statement:
What we allow in and not question, after a while, starts to control us.
Mental/Emotional Comfort Zones
The “meat of the matter” in this comfort zone business, is to be aware of the effect that mental and emotional comfort zones have on our future possibilities.
These are subtle, not so obvious, as our physical comfort zone, but they are there, unchallenged, quietly controlling our lives.
Mental comfort zone can be defined by what and how a person thinks about life matters.
Emotional comfort zone could be thought of as the range and level of emotions humans have or allow themselves to have about life issues.
The reason why these comfort zones are more dangerous is because they affect us unconsciously.
When you don’t know what controls you, it controls you more!
That is why it is so important to bring things out from their hiding, especially if you are a person that truly seeks to be free.
How do comfort zones form up?
We have all experienced various pains and disillusions throughout our life, with our families, in school, in love relationships or any other experiences that we may not even remember, (unconscious), and we never want to feel these pains again. Thus we create comfort zone which we think protects us- but does it?
These areas are mostly dealt with by avoidance, as a way of escape (flight), or conflicts break out (fight) or an inability to react, communicate or feel (freeze).
Many conflicts happen when people tread upon each other’s comfort zone!
When was the last time you heard someone say “thank you for challenging my comfort zone”- they will mostly fight you tooth and nail and claim you are robbing their freedom, avoid you entirely, or simply freeze up and you won’t know where you are.
Comfort zones determine our threshold of tolerance in different life dynamics!
Here are some life examples that may illustrate the point:
Consider the story of the billionaire who had 7 billion dollar fortune (that is… seven thousand million dollars!) and lost 2 billion at the recent economic debacle of 2008 and then committed suicide because he couldn’t bear the shame.
Five thousand million was not enough to free him up from his mental/emotional constraint- that’s how powerful comfort zone can be!
You might ask what does that have to do with comfort? Well his comfort zone could not stretch to losing money or to be thought of as stupid.
Another example; A person that tends to hide and is seldom willing to speak in public, is then “exposed” by someone who appreciates their hidden talents and their incredible brilliance- you would think that it will give that person confidence but the opposite often happens- the person feels threatened by the compliment and… by the one who gave it to them, because it may mean that they can’t hide any more and is terrified of being put on the spot and be asked for things they don’t think they can’t give.
You see, it may have triggered a pain in that person, perhaps from school days when they were put to shame in public by an authoritative figure. Ever since then, the person spends the rest of their time designing a hermetically sealed comfort zone to never experience that pain again.
That person’s comfort zone is in hiding! (Most of us have some of that, in areas we don’t feel we can win)
That is why comfort zones tend to have heavy fortresses around them
We go to great length to protect our comfort zones to a point where we tend to associate the messenger with the message. It can be in some cases that if any one dares to step too far into our comfort zone, even if they love us, we’ll kick them out along with the love- This happens often!
Another example is the lady who under no circumstance will be seen in public without make up. Her comfort is in the way she looks with make up.
There are also many examples of national & cultural comfort zone - “Here we do things like that…” or “that’s how we do business” you hear these words in different countries and it makes you wonder to what degree people challenge their, sometimes, counter productive national and cultural etiquettes. Often they identify with these traits without questions and lose their own uniqueness in the process!
Another example: having a fixed view that the only way to excel is through competition. This may be true for some people but totally counter productive for others.
Very often a mental comfort zone can be spotted by stubbornness, rigid views and opinions that a person will not allow any one to challenge. They will not change or update their views even if everything around them suggests that they do so. This is where the Ego becomes a faithful agent of the comfort zone!
One very important aspect that comes with comfort zone is Conditions, and to understand it a bit better let’s for a moment think about one of the most loaded subjects on earth- LOVE
I am sure you heard the term Unconditional Love- it speaks of love without conditions, simply because the essence of love can’t express itself when it’s being dictated to by conditions. We all know what tends to happen after the initial period of a love affair. The previously “asleep” comfort zones start to emerge and personal conditions begin to rule the day and Love can’t continue to live. (love…live)
True love challenges comfort zones!
I wonder if you can see that! The degree that love can thrive between people depends on their willingness to truly allow their comfort zones to be challenged- not by each other necessarily, but by love itself.
Also, if you truly love what you do you’ll always welcome challenges because they will stretch your mind to the bigger picture of what you love and then you’ll truly Rise in Love (I challenge here the comfort zone of language- so not “falling in love”)
Another important point- Did you know that when we easily dismiss things it is because our comfort zone does not allow them entry? We may want them, but we don’t decide. Think about that!
What Can Be Done?
9 steps to help you take charge of your life
Welcome new knowledge that expands your horizon, such as this article – It may represent a knock on the door of your future possibilities and a gateway to healthy decisions- in other words, don’t judge and dismiss new knowledge even if it challenges your comfort zone of acceptance and rejection
Be very suspicious of your fixed ideas and opinions- examine them and their origin
Develop a special openness that sees challenges as opportunity rather then threat
Think of every day as a new beginning
Learn to welcome and ask questions that stretch your mind into areas that you have not yet thought about.
Stretch your comfort zone, which means, learn to put up with much more discomfort before you give up on anything, especially on yourself and other people – this needs more explanation
Start taking control away from your various comfort zones by simply having more than one view about what you do and why
Keep at it, a step at a time, things take time to change
Believe in your ability to succeed and stop looking for excuses
Finally, it is my personal belief and conviction that by potential, humans are much, much better than they think they are.
The truth is that, likely, all of us, in one way or another, are compromised by unfortunate events in our past which affect us negatively.
Increased awareness and acceptance of the fact that we are not perfect and will never be help us overcome many challenges.
I hoped to show in this article what it takes to have a fresh start and what stands in the way. Intentions to have a fresh start without considering the bigger picture, are short lived.
So, yes, I think that the ability to start fresh depends on your comfort zone and my suggestion would be:
Let your comfort zone confront you not comfort you!
Eli Harari
The Thinking Coach