Our comfort zone is where we feel safe. Like our home town where everything is familiar. The circle of friends we've had since school. That holiday destination we keep returning to.
Sounds nice and cosy?
Unfortunately, it can also be boring. A place where nothing surprising or exciting can easily happen.
It can even be dangerous. Dangerous?
Yes. Because living in the comfort zone means we don't grow. We don't develop all the tools and life skills we need to cope with the unexpected. So comfortable can become stressful. Disabling even. Dull too.
Because real magic happens outside the comfort zone.
A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.
Do I need permission?
What's holding you back from stepping out of your comfort zone? What stops you doing something out of character? Look at the things you say to yourself and you'll uncover your self-limiting beliefs.
How often have you heard yourself, or others, saying:
- I'm not free to....
- I want to but...
- People would think....
- I'm just not like that...
- I shouldn't ...
- We don't do things like that round here...
- I don't deserve it.....
- I don't have the right...
These are common reasons. Or are they excuses? Because we often see barriers where none actually exist. We tell ourselves we're not 'allowed' to do things. We 'daren't' disregard that rule, skip that meeting, wear something ridiculous or say how we really feel. But when we start to hear ourselves saying these things, making these excuses, it's a warning that the time has come to experiment in spite of them and get outside ourselves.
If the experiment doesn't make us feel more alive, more stimulated, no harm will have been done and we can move on, at least in the knowledge that we tried. After all, if we keep doing what we've always done we'll keep getting what we've always got. But if we want to get something different, we really have to do something different.
Give yourself permission
It's so easy to stay settled in our comfort zone waiting for 'someone' to come along and tell us it's OK to leave. Only we can give ourselves that permission. We can quieten that voice in our heads that says "you're not allowed to do that' and shout back: "Actually I am!"
To test this out think of all the things you weren't allowed to do as a child.
- Play with your food.
- Talk to strangers.
- Play with matches.
- Jump on the bed.
- Write in books.
- Read after lights out.
- Write on the walls.
- Wear odd socks.
- Call a teacher by their first name.
- Eat ice cream for breakfast.
- Pat a stranger's dog.
- Ride on your friend's handlebars.
- Travel alone.
Now resolve to do one each day for a few days. Over that time feel yourself becoming stronger, more fearless and less anxious. Feel yourself shaking off those childhood 'rules' and becoming a mature adult who is able to choose what they do, not simply do as they 'should'.
We can all grow our own comfort zones by gently but regularly pushing at the boundaries.
Bear in mind, though, that the boundaries of your comfort zone may be different for different areas of your life. Take travel adventures, your work life or your general lifestyle. Perhaps you're an adventurous adrenaline junkie and bungee jumping is second nature to you, but you've held the same job for years and are dreading giving a speech at your sister's wedding. Most of us are more daring in some areas than others. The secret is to spot which area is underdeveloped and take action to grow it.
Remember, positive change doesn't have to be dramatic.
To grow and to get more from life, you don't have to leap out of aeroplanes or trek across jungles. You simply have to take small steps in a slightly different direction. To disrupt yourself. Get off the sofa. Turn left instead of right. Venture into new territory. Explore somewhere new. Or hang out with new people.
Test your own limits by taking a small excursion outside your comfort zone every day and you will be astonished how much is out there. You may never look back.