by: Anne Bolender
It’s one thing to say “Life Begins Outside Your Comfort Zone” or “Magic Happens Outside of Your Comfort Zone” but seriously, what does that mean? Why do I want to live outside of my comfort zone? Isn’t that uncomfortable?
I’ve read countless articles that offer sage advice on how to step outside of my comfort zone – I’ve even written one or two myself. Mostly the advice being offered is all about taking small steps, turtle steps, baby steps to expand our comfort zones…….like shopping in local stores you haven’t shopped in before; or trying new foods you’ve never eaten before; or taking a new route to work or school; or wandering around a new neighbourhood – easy, peasy!!
Problem is…taking small steps to expand your comfort zone does not work! Not really!
A few months ago I was on the verge of a major panic attack when I realized the extent to which my comfort zone had become my invisible prison. I do not have panic attacks. Never have. Never want to.
As far as I was aware, I was already pretty good at stepping outside of my comfort zone!! I have travelled extensively, including a rather eventful solo trip to Santa Fe! My husband and I moved lock, stock, and two kids from Toronto Canada to Wellington New Zealand – and back. I shop in different stores all the time. And I have several different routes that I take to work. So what gives?
I slowly, finally, began to realize that our ‘comfort zone’ has nothing to do with the day-to-day behaviours we participate in, or with the routines that we develop. Not really!
Changing our routines does shake things up a wee bit, for a short period of time, but eventually the new routines become, well, routine!! And we are right back into our comfort zone. A slightly different comfort zone than the one we were previously in, but a comfort zone none-the-less
We are comfortable because we feel safe and secure. Our comfort zone encompasses our routines, which are usually safe and secure to us. And, for many people, feeling safe and secure within their comfort zone is perfectly fine. For them, there is no reason to change, they are living all of the life and magic they want.
But for others even huge comfort zones can feel discomforting, frustrating, restrictive, claustrophobic!
For these individuals, to really step outside of our comfort zone we need to release the feelings of safety and security, and allow ourselves to feel exposed, vulnerable, uncertain, and challenged. And those feelings can come from a whole lot of different sources, like, singing or dancing in public for the first time; opening the first public exhibit of your paintings, sculptures, photographs or other works of art; public speaking; the first conversation you have in a language you are just learning; living on your own for the first time; traveling anywhere on your own for the first time; quitting your job to start your own business; knowing you are afraid of something and doing it anyway – these are stepping outside of your comfort zone.
The more we begin to feel safe in our vulnerability and uncertainty; the more grounded we are in our ability to cope on our own with situations we have never experienced before; the more our comfort zone expands until it no longer feels like a prison. Instead our comfort zone begins to feel like freedom and adventure and security and comfort all at the same time.
When our comfort zone begins to feel like freedom and adventure and security and comfort all at the same time (no matter how “big” our comfort zone is) that is when magic really begins to happen!
Because that is when we can turn our dreams into reality and live life on our terms.