Embrace Discomfort. Your Long-Term Personal Growth Depends on it
As a long-term strategy, comfort is unsafe.
It often leads to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent.
Regardless of what you know or read, everybody wants growth — the ability to consistently improve to be better and smarter.
The comfort zone, as defined by Lifehacker, is a “behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk”
Growth requires discomfort. If you stick with what is comfortable, you’re giving up any hope of surprising yourself, of finding greatness, of having the best experiences human life has to offer.
Comfort will never give you that. To a growth-committed person, comfort is just a place to retreat to momentarily while you get ready to push again.
T. Harv Eker said “Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth thaneverything else combined. Comfort kills!”
As a habit, comfort will get you to roughly the same place you were when you decided to get comfortable, just older.
“The idea of the comfort zone goes back to a classic experiment in psychology. Back in 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance. In order to maximize performance, however, we need a state of relative anxiety — a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal.This space is called “Optimal Anxiety,” and it’s just outside our comfort zone.” says Alan Henry of Lifehacker.
Growth begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Comfort kills creativity and productivity. Your body and mind crave easy routines. We naturally gravitate towards our safe zones. But your growth depends on discomfort. It pays to explore new routines, paths, ideas, disciplines and new ways to be better at what you do.
Left unchecked, we always default toward a more comfortable path. Your comfortable zone provides a state of mental security. You can understand why it’s so hard to kick your brain out of your comfort zone.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” says Brené Brown, author of “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”.
Brené says uncertain social, political, or economic conditions can effectively make our comfort zones smaller. The more afraid we are, the smaller our comfort zone becomes and the more difficult it is to break out of it.
Most of use live with the stubborn illusion that we will always have tomorrow to do today’s work. We consistently hold on to this belief and keep procrastinating until work becomes a heavy burden.
There is nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone. You should get back to your comfort zone from time to time, both to relax and to process your experiences. The point here is to stretch your boundaries to grow and get better.
If you don’t deliberately explore new habits and ways to challenge you to grow, you end up doing whatever feels best in the moment, whether that means surfing the web when you should be working, watching TV when you should be exercising, or avoiding a difficult conversation rather than confronting the situation head-on.
We are biologically wired to stay within a certain zone of comfort and to avoid the seemingly unnecessary pain that comes from stretching beyond it.However, to continue to grow in your capacity to do great work, you need to regularly challenge that biological instinct by jumping over hurdles that force you to grow.
Knowledge is crucial. If you do not want to be left behind, you need to constantly improve your knowledge and acquire new skills. And that means reading beyond what you already know. Exercise your mind through research, reading and other cognitive activities.
It takes practice to be comfortable in discomfort
Stretching your limits won’t come easy. You will feel like given up. But it’s the only way to a smarter and better life.
Don’t settle for the information you have just because you can live with it. Be curious. If your mind wants to wander off, give it a destination to wander to.Make it a habit to try something new every now and then.
Every Friday, you could pick up a new book you normally ignore, take a different route home, go to a new restaurant, watch a movie you wouldn’t watch or listen to a podcast on an interesting subject while you are driving or commuting to work. After some time you will start doing bigger things, like picking a new class every 6 months or learning a new skill.
Real growth is about daily, measured and disciplined action. It’s about purusing new opportunites that stretch you to step beyong your immediate safe and secured zone, even when that means making a bold step into the unknown.
Think of the mind as a muscle that naturally tightens up over time unless it is consciously worked upon.
Start developeing genuine interest in people, things, places, events, and even ideas, all around you. Ask questions. Observe. Learn. Try out. Ask. Allow your mind to be a child again.
Start small. You don’t have to throw your entire routine out the window to step out of your comfort zone.
Growth outside your comfort zone can mean confidence in other areas of your life
Growth or progress in your current endeavour can give you a massive amount of confidence in almost every other area of your life. This is a good reason why you should have many areas where you stretch yourself.
“Your comfort zone keeps you in a very predictable space” says Marla Tabaka
You usually know exactly what’s going to happen in your safe zone. The fear of the unknown will keep you stuck for as long as you stay there. Everything is unknown. You never know what could disrupt your schedule tomorrow. But you know exactly what you plan on doing.
So the trick here is to let go of your expectations and accept the results of your actions. Take risks in measured amounts if you fear life outside circle of comfort.
If you are rolling out a new product, do it in small bits. Don’t go gangbustersand risk losing it all. Gamble with something you are willing to lose. These losses will teach you something, such as how to make the product better or market it differently. Look forward to the outcome, whatever it is. Celebrate small wins and move on to the next step. Keep yourself mottivated.
Too many of us are still playing it safe in our choices everyday.
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten
That’s a quote you should always think about when change and risk taking seem like a long shot to take. Nobody said it would be easy to start a new project, start and maintain a new habit or even stop that habit you have been thinking about for the past six months. But the ugly truth is that if you don’t do something sigificant about it, you not be able to change at all.
Whatever profession you find yourself, there are somethings you just can’t think about changing, but if you expect a different and even better results, it’s about time you did something different.
The results of a step outside your comfort zone could change your outlook on other challenges you may be considering or other ideas you want to tryforyour business.
“At Virgin, I use two techniques to free our team from the same old routine: breaking records and making bets. Taking chances is a great way to test myself and our group, and also to push boundaries while having fun together. One of the great benefits of taking on challenges in your working life is that you and your team learn to confront risk together..” says Richard Branson
Embrace productive discomfort
The more comfortable you are with exploring new abilities within yourself, the more aware you will become of just what you are capable of. You never know until you try.
In “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” Daniel H. Pink says what we are ideally looking for is a place of productive discomfort.
He writes, “If you’re too comfortable, you’re not productive. And if you’re too uncomfortable, you’re not productive. Like Goldilocks, we can’t be too hot or too cold.”
Get out of your comfort zone, your success or breakthrough probably depends on it. If you do better outside your safe zone, you will most likely start thinking about how you can do it more often.
Remember, getting used to life outside your comfort zone takes time, effort, strategy, and determination. But with a solid plan in place and the courage to take it forward, your results can be extraordinary.
If it turns out bad, you would have learnt one more way that doesn’t work. Either way, it’s never a bad idea to do something that scares you a little bit; it’s taking that chance and seeing the outcome that may surprise you.
Don’t shrink from discomfort. Instead, let it guide you toward accomplishment.
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