“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
We all have a place that we call “our own”. No, I’m not referring to our bedroom. I’m not talking about our favorite social media platform. And no, it’s not some make-believe world that fuels our fantasies. It’s actually a “space” where we feel safe and unthreatened, where we don’t have to think too much, and where we usually feel most at peace. In this place, efforts feel effortless because, well…we don’t really exert much effort, at all. Yet ironically, this “fantasy land” can also be the very thing that inhibits our ability to effect positive change—in our lives and in the world around us.
Welcome to the comfort zone—a place where we can seek shelter from attack and retreat from the perils of life. It’s a safe zone that protects us from uncertainty and helps us to avoid challenge. It provides us with a sense of security and shelters us from a world of anxiety-ridden unknowns. No doubt, it also helps us to maintain the “status quo”. However, the choice between “staying in” and “stepping out” of “the zone” can cause a seemingly endless inner conflict—one that brings out the “best friend” or “worst enemy” in us.
Question: What if we were to remain in our comfort zone…forever?
Well, let’s see: We’d rarely, if ever, experience stress. We’d never experience failure. And we’d definitely avoid change. But if we chose to say in “the zone”, would we be content knowing that some amazing opportunities could lie just beyond its threshold? Of course, some of us would be content if we just stayed put—after all, not all of us need to lead such adventurous lives. But for some of us, that lack of challenge can mean, you guessed it: a lack of progress…and maybe, just maybe, a one-way ticket into the “uncomfortable zone”.
At some point, each of us has entertained the idea of pursuing a goal. And the moment we begin to rise to the challenge, a few things happen: We realize that we need to “do something”, which can make us feel “unsure”, “unsafe”, perhaps even scared. When we feel as though we’re entering uncharted territory, our defense mechanisms begin to rear their ugly heads. And we instinctively want to retreat right back into our shell like a turtle, where life is simple and everything feels good. But ironically, “becoming uncomfortable” is one of the few things we experience in life that rarely feels good…yet, is almost always good for us.
Yes, it’s true—“staying comfortable” isn’t always in our best interest. Instead of progressing toward our goals, it can cause us to remain stagnant. Instead of seizing the moment, it can cause us to miss out on amazing opportunities to affect positive change in our lives. It can diminish our motivation to do what’s best for us…and it can even cause us to become more fearful of the things that we already fear.
When we hear the words “C’mon! You just gotta step out of your comfort zone!”, it’s easier said than done because our safe place has successfully protected us from the thing we fear most: failure. But when fear inhibits our freedom to discover the new, exciting adventures that await us, “the zone” no longer “protects” us—it becomes our prison.
Sure, choosing to “be uncomfortable” can be scary. It can have unforeseen consequences. It requires tenacity, belief, grit…and guts. But when we cast fear to the wayside and “rezone our zone”, we release ourselves from our self-made prisons and throw away the key. Over time, we gradually transform “No way, I can’t do this” into “Oh yeah…I’VE GOT THIS”. And as one success leads to another, we eventually feel inspired to stop what we’re doing and look over our shoulder—not to see how much further we need to go on the goal path, but to feel empowered by how far beyond “the zone” we’ve gone.
Our choice to “become uncomfortable” is our window to a new and exciting world of opportunity…a place where our potential for success has no boundaries. Sure, dreams might be free, but “life beyond the zone” is priceless. So, be bold. Be brave. Be fearless in your pursuit of challenge. And most importantly—be uncomfortable.
There’s a new world waiting for you.
About the Author: Joshua GARRIN is one of Your Monthly Mentors, an Award-Winning Health Psychologist, Author of “The I-Way to Well”, Personal Trainer, Health Coach, and Self-Motivationalist. He holds a Ph.D. in health psychology, an M.S. in cognitive psychology, and a B.S. in general psychology and journalism and currently resides in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Following the completion of his doctorate in 2014, Joshua was the recipient of Walden University’s Harold L. Hodgkinson Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research for his inquiry on health beliefs, outcome expectancies, and stress appraisal in college seniors. Read More about Joshua or find more of his articles here…