The Case For Life Outside Of Your Comfort Zone | Alyssa J Cori: The Case For Life Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

May 9, 2017

The Case For Life Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Last week I mentioned that I had been thinking about comfort zones and how I am about to leave mine in a big way - graduating college. Today we're going to discuss why your comfort zone is compelling, what happens when we leave the zone, why (despite that) we need to leave it, and, most importantly, how to do it. Note: if you want a pretty cool desktop background to remind you to leave your comfort zone, designed by yours truly, take a look at this post.
Check it out now or pin it to save for later! Life inside your comfort zone is alright, but literally nothing interesting ever happens there. Time to figure out how to push yourself out

Why do we like comfort zones so dang much?

Since the beginning of time humans have been working to improve our situation and seeking out comfort. From discovering fire (hello, cooked food and warmth!), to designing plumbing, to creating superstores with products for every possible physiological need, we have been on a constant quest of comfort and ease. Over the centuries that has extended from the mere basics of survival to pleasure activities and making mundane acts far more convenient (do you ever find yourself thinking about how much of a pain it must have been before laundry me?...I mean, look at that poor girl!...anyway). 
Something that has been consistent, however, is the desire to be in comfortable relationships, occupations, and living a life of ease and little conflict. We seek out situations where we feel safe and know that we can meet expectations. We refrain from speaking up in class because it is more comfortable to sit and listen. We don't try to run an organized race because we prefer to be on our own and not push ourselves when we may not perform as we wish to. We don't tell our friend that we have romantic feelings for them because it is less scary to keep that to ourselves and continue on with the status quo of our relationship. 

Takeaway: we like our comfort zone because we abhor the negative potentials of the unknown 

What happens when we leave the zone?

We know that we can get through life well enough without exiting our precious comfort zone. No doubt, we've seen other people in our lives do it. But what about those people who bravely (or brashly, depending on where you are in your comfort zone mindset and journey hahaha) step outside and do something without knowing what the result will be, and not really liking some of the potentials?

Well, for our friend who doesn't speak up in class, but one day decides to give it a try, they could end up saying the right answer or feeling humiliated when they get it wrong. And how about our pal who has interest in running a race, but is afraid of how they will perform? On race day they may end up exceeding their own expectations or they may embarrassingly be in the bottom times. Oh, and what of our love-struck friend who decides enough is enough and finally reveals their feelings to the object of their affection? We may find ourselves celebrating the reciprocation or need to run to the grocery store for some pints of Ben and Jerry's.    

*Can we please take a moment real quick to appreciate the throwback to Aquamarine? I loved that movie in middle school (ok, and I may have watched it once or twice in high school too)*

With all of these scary outcomes it is no wonder that we want to desperately stay where we are comfortable. When we do leave we experience anxiousness, uncertainty, and thoughts that we may be worse off than when we started. 

Takeaway: when we leave our comfort zone, our brains freak out 

Why do we need to get the heck out anyway?

Alright, now we know that as humans we've always been in pursuit of comfort and that staying in our comfort zones makes everything feel much easier. So why leave? I have an inkling that what I am about to share with you is something you've heard before, or you've at least seen a quote or two on Pinterest about it: great things never came from comfort zones.

Can you call to mind any time when you felt incredibly accomplished and there wasn't some discomfort leading up to it?

When you won that competition, did you enter it completely at ease and unworried? Nope, didn't think so.

And how about when you asked that person out and they said yes and you were on top of the world? Yeah, I'm guessing your palms were sweating and you were just about ready to sink into the ground before hearing their answer.

And maybe it worked out better than you imagined, or maybe it didn't. But doubtless you learned something from the experience, developed more, and are now even better equipped to move forward. If you don't take chances or put yourself in situations where you are challenged you can never hope to progress.

As you can see via this scientific graphic I have created for you, stars are not born in your comfort zone. Instead, you must venture out of the circle to go to the challenging, magical growth area. This is where the grand failures and successes happen. This is where the excitement is. This is where you find out that you are a lot tougher than you thought and that you want more out of life than you had even know was possible.

Takeaway: growth will NEVER happen in our comfort zones

How do I get to the challenging, magical growth area? Please take me there.

Are you thoroughly convinced now that your comfort zone is no place to live (I bet it was the graphic, right?)? Once you realize this, your next thought will most likely be something along the lines of "No more comfort zone for me! I'm going to get out there! I'm going to the magic area...once I figure out how." There is no one way to make it out of your comfort zone, and it certainly won't happen overnight or for every facet of your life. Yet, there are some ways that you can begin your journey out of your comfort zone and pursue opportunities that will challenge you.

  • Say yes to things that you want to say no to. Ok, this is the type of advice that requires a lot of discretion and should not be taken 100% literally. Don't say yes to dangerous situations or bad people. Don't say yes to pressure or expectations that don't align with your values. DO say yes to trying a new food and participating in a new activity. DO say yes to taking on a challenge that scares you or a class that is outside of your area of expertise.
  • Focus on one area at a time. It's nerve wrecking to get out there, never mind trying to push yourself 24/7. Instead of looking at every part of your life and thinking that you need to be trying something different, pick a few key areas. If you have become complacent and content in your friendships, suggest going to a new activity or bringing up topics of conversation that require vulnerability. If you want to push yourself more in your career, commit to seeking out a project that challenges you at least once a month. As you become more bold in a certain respect, you will be able to translate that to other elements of your life. 
  • Realize that it will be uncomfortable, and you will face setbacks, but that it is essential for your development. Leaving your comfort zone will be uncomfortable. You may be embarrassed, thrown off, and want to run away again. However, if you keep the perspective that hurdles are inevitable, you'll be prepared and ready to give it another try. 
Takeaway: it's going to be hard, but it's worth it

What is required is a shift of mindset. To go from fear to acceptance of the work that is required for the magical things to happen. The vulnerability and difficulties and effort are all worth it no matter the end result because you will have grown and learned about yourself in the process. You will also be even more ready to tackle the next challenge once you have taken the first step.

How do you feel about comfort zones? Are you stuck in yours? How do you move boldly forward in the face of fear?


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