Are Your Comfort Zones Holding You Back?
I’m heading to Florida tomorrow for a few days of sunshine. Friends who have a home in Key Largo have invited us down and we figured it would be a fun place to spend Halloween! The last time I was in the Florida Keys was nearly twenty years ago. I was backpacking around the US and hired a rental car with a friend in Miami. We drove down to Key West and then slept in the car overnight to avoid paying for accommodations. We showered in the public showers. We ate cheap food and saved our money for the bar. It wasn’t comfortable but it was a hell of a lot of fun. Looking back over the ensuing twenty years I’m hit with the amount of change I’ve experienced since then. If you’d told me back in 1990 that 19 years later I’d be living in Virginia with four kids I don’t know if I’d have believed you. Ahhh, what an adventure life has been. Which is why today’s post is going to be a reflection on change.
Change is a constant in our lives and yet so often we resist it. As human beings we are wired to avoid change because any type of change, even change for the better, involves a level of discomfort in some shape or form. The whole concept of comfort zones evolved to explain the hedonistic psychological drive in all of us to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Comfort zones — characterized by the familiar, the known, the predictable — are where we risk little except, of course, our spirit’s deepest fulfillment. Change, by its very nature, requires us to step beyond our comfort zone and let go of something we’ve become familiar with — whether it be a the structure of our company, a relationship, a routine, a neighborhood or a physical environment in which we’ve lived or worked — and adapt to something new, something unfamiliar.
As someone who has moved around a lot over the last decade and had four children along the way, I know all too well that change can not only be uncomfortable but it can be inconvenient and, at times, quite overwhelming (as every new mother will tell you). However I also know that unless you are willing to embrace change in your life, you will miss the opportunities your ever-changing environment presents and will be unable to create for yourself a life you really enjoy living.
Perhaps you are someone who feels very averse to change. A creature of habit you call yourself. That is all fine and good. But if your aversion to change has left you unwilling to address the areas of your life you don’t feel good about and fulfill your own unique potential then it is coming at a cost to you. In my experience when people choose to avoid change, even positive change, it is because they doubt their ability to take on the challenges that change will bring. Fear keeps them stuck and resigned to the status quo.
Is there something you do feel not completely great about in any of these aspects of your life?
- Your relationships
- Your home and work environment
- Your career (or lack thereof)
- Your health and general sense of well being
- Your finances
- Your sense of community
- Your recreation/leisure time
- Your life in general!
What would need to change to bring into your life more of what you wanted and less of what you didn’t in whichever areas you feel dissatisfied with? People who achieve true success in their professional and personal lives are those who view change not as something that is bad and to be avoided but as something that is necessary if they are to move toward the goals that inspire them. They don’t resist. They embrace. Likewise the only way you can ever have the life you’d really love to live is by proactively going out and making whatever changes need to be made. But what’s that you say? You feel scared, daunted even? Well of course you do, you’re human! No one is born immune to fear and self-doubt. We all experience it. Likewise, no one is born with an absence of courage. Courage lies within each of us and is not an absence of fear but action in spite of it. So whatever changes you’ve been putting off, know you are capable of taking on much more than you have been giving yourself credit for. Stop underestimating yourself! Sure your life right now might be relatively easy and comfortable but that doesn’t mean it is truly rich in the stuff that makes it truly rewarding and meaningful.
Upgrading your experience of being alive in the world requires willingness to pursue continual personal growth. Growth does not occur in comfort zones. In fact the only way you can grow into your full potential is by stretching yourself a little now and then, and as you do, leaving behind the old in order to experience the new. When you approach change with the right attitude you will become much more confident in your ability to handle life’s challenges and to take on bigger, more exciting challenges that really inspire you.
Today I encourage you to take one small action toward addressing something you feel dissatisfied with. It may require a change to your daily routine, who you hang out with, your commitments, your eating habits, your spending habits or to your willingness to have conversation that you’ve long been putting off. . . whatever! The most important thing is to step into action and as you do remember that you really are much much more capable and courageous than you think you are!