Challenging Your Comfort Zones

I bet you have seen a variation of this image (or copy that communicates the same idea) before:

I think we can all agree that this is mostly true. Sticking to one’s comfort zones likely means missing out on loads of awesome opportunities.

I have a bit of a problem with this though.

The universal adoption of this mantra tends to mean that everything beyond our comfort zone is magical and that we should always pursue those. You’ll see that I have used “everything” and “always” in italics because those are the parts of this with which I do not agree.

The thing about comfort zones is that it is comfortable for a good reason. In many such cases that comfort is at least partly a protection of our physical, mental or emotional space. Yes — there is a way in which we just use that comfort as a way to be passive, lazy and risk-averse, but there is also something to be said about being content and just resting in that space.

I guess my biggest problem with this mindset is related to whenever I have heard someone tell me “You’ll never know how awesome it is until you try.”.

Thank you, but I have no interest in sky diving, bungee jumping or doing many other things that I agree could be interesting, but just feels like a stretch too far for me.

I recently learnt that the hard way when I tried to compete in my first triathlon and had a panic attack a couple of minutes into the race.

Sometimes the cost or risk — whether it is rational or not — of pursuing things outside of our comfort zone is just too great. It just feels too challenging; a couple of steps too far. That ultimately makes it much tougher to try this new thing or take this opportunity, which also means it is at least more likely that you won’t enjoy it (as much).

The approach I have tried to take is to find things that are out of my comfort zone, but not that far. If I eventually want to explore something way beyond my comfort zone, it’s easier to take small steps towards it, increasing the size of my comfort zone as I go.

To that extent, not all things beyond our comfort zone are equal, and it is entirely possible to explore and experience magic without putting ourselves under immense pressure or strain (just for the sake of venturing beyond our comfort zones).

Comfort zones exist for a reason. You can use it as an excuse not to do something, or you can use it as a platform to do more things.

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