Stay in your comfort zone

You’re perfectly fine where you are.

Ilsmarie Presilia
The Post-Grad Survival Guide

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Photographed and uploaded to VSCO by yours truly

It seems like I got your attention, good.
I’m pretty sure you’ve seen them, articles claiming to have scientific proof supporting the idea of getting out of our “comfort zones”. Or those “motivational quotes” and diagrams describing “where the magic happens”.

The ‘advice’ of getting out of our comfort zones never really sat well with me. Throughout my life, I’ve heard different versions of it, but recently I have heard it again on two different occasions from two different people.
The first one was where a colleague told me that I’m just like his father, we’re people that don’t get out of our zones of comfort, therefore I’ll end up just like his dad — nowhere in life. This was after I told him and the company that I was employed at that I could not get my laptop fixed in the two day limit they gave me because of financial reasons (not that it matters, but at that job, I was being paid €120 a month — much less than my monthly commute of €450+ and €500+ reparation costs).

And the other instance was at this other company where I had difficulty concentrating in a working space where male interns ages 18 and up were constantly screaming, running around, hitting and farting each other, throwing shit around, playing games and vandalising company property. I was told that I am too sensitive and pretty much a liability because being a hard worker that took breaks (to meditate) meant that I was “scared of them”. I had to get out of my comfort zone and act normal because “boys will be boys” and “they won’t bite”.

My point is, it has become something people say just to feel better about themselves and to feel like they too are part of the latest fad even if it makes them seem stupid. See, these people felt entitled to make assumptions and afterwards hide behind imbecilic statements, that they didn’t realise makes their reputation dwindle.

In my previous article, it has already been established that we are obsessed with success and productivity. That’s a fact. I mentioned that we’re obsessed with many things, and the more things we have, the better.

This time I wanted to take a deeper look at success — it’s something we relentlessly pursue since it goes hand in hand with having things. Or at least that’s the main idea of success anyway — we are focussed on the outcome, which in this case means being rich, famous and influential.

‘If you want to be successful, you have to get out of your comfort zone’

It has become a trend to study the lives of ‘successful’ people and imitate their habits. The perfect time to implement them into our lives is almost always the beginning of the next year. Every single New Year, our rituals couldn’t be more predictable. We say things like “New Year, New Me” and we have these resolutions thinking that this will finally be our year. If we do these things, we will for sure achieve success.

• Wake up early, preferably before 05:00 (you’ll gain a head start while the rest of the world is still sleeping)
• Make bed (because doing this makes you successful)
• Do the Wim Hoff breathing exercise
• Take a really cold shower
• Drink a glass of cold water (no coffee or tea until after 09:00)
• Do some oil pulling (for one hour)
• Exercise and meditate (each for at least one hour)
• Jump on a rebounder
• Read (also one hour)
• Say affirmations
• Journal
• Set priorities
• Get out of your comfort zone by using your non-dominant hand
• Wear the same clothes every day (so you avoid decision fatigue)
• Do a couple more things before 08:00

It almost feels like we’re ticking off quiz questions in one of those teenage magazines. “I have this trait, I have that habit, that means that I am out of my comfort zone, so there’s no question that I have potential to be successful just like [INSERT FAVOURITE MILLIONAIRE NAME HERE]. We don’t want to admit that we are that superficial, but it’s true.

I mean I understand where most people are coming from, a 09:00 to 17:00 or 08:00 to 18:00 job is becoming undesired and antiquated. And in a world where everyone is an entrepreneur and terms like ‘serial entrepreneur’,‘code-preneur’ and ‘momtrepreneur’ exist, you somehow get the urge to give it a shot too. And it’s fine as long as it’s really what you feel like you need to be doing and you don’t chase it at the expense of your own sanity.

Since we struggle with instant gratification, we want results as quickly as possible. The more habits we implement in our lives at once, the higher the success-rate…right? Being out of our comfort zones, facing needless stress, exhausting ourselves excessively, makes us grow hair on our chests. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is according to society, the epitome of ‘building good character’. And people of ‘strong’, good character are the only winners. A winner of what, a race or competition that doesn’t exist?
This thought is part of the exact same culture that I was talking about in my last article. It almost feels like you’re committing the greatest sin of all if you’re different and not pursuing this notion. Why is comfort so frowned upon? Does it really make us ‘weak’? Anyway, I’m not here to discuss Darwinism. To me, someone of good character isn’t someone that’s recognised as ‘strong’. To me, it’s those that are regarded as ‘weak’ yet remain reserved, grateful, gentle, honest, benevolent, sophisticated and perceptive while dealing with the contrary on a daily basis.

It’s not the habits that make you successful

While I do agree that some habits on the list are great, it’s weird for me to trust and follow any morning routine that claims to be ‘life-changing’ but doesn’t prioritise tea or breakfast. You might’ve noticed by the way, that it’s almost impossible to wake up at 05:00 and get all of those things done before 08:00. This lifestyle is centred on multitasking; you know, “read” while you exercise while swishing oil in your mouth at the same time on an empty stomach. In short; chaotic and unmindful.

Additionally, we don’t want these habits for their true purpose. We want them because we’re convinced that they’re prerequisites for success, which in turn makes us happy. The issue is that all of this is conditional — like a function with loops and statements.

Code can be found here, please let me know how it can be improved :)
// THIS IS THE OUTPUT[0/100]
I’ll be happy only when I have money and am successful.
[20/100]
I’ll be successful only when I’ve incorporated habits of leaders into my life.
[40/100]
I cannot form habits without getting out of my comfort zone and if I cannot get out of my comfort zone I’m weak.
[60/100]
If I’m weak, I’ll get nowhere in life.
[80/100]
If I’ll get nowhere, why is life even worth living?!
[100/100]
Congrats! You’ve reached society’s illusion of “happiness”.

No wonder we end up giving up on our resolutions faster than they came, most of the time before we even reach February. Why? Because habit-forming needs to be tied to the desire to augment your life. Having habits just for the sake of achieving success doesn’t carry out the necessary actions to do so.
We are moreover so “busy” as well, that multitasking is already a crucial part of our lives. And multitasking on itself doesn’t really work either. Sooner or later, we see that we’ve bitten off more than we can chew and we spend the rest of the year bitter, envying the 8% that actually manages to get shit done. We get butt-hurt because reality has hit us; we said things and didn’t follow through (or worse, we did the complete opposite).

We are experts when it comes to shifting our attention really quickly between different tasks and prioritising the current one. This is where we confuse our abilities, as switching between tasks doesn’t mean multitasking. In fact, we are terrible at multitasking — there’s a reason why we can’t do much while driving — something always ends up taking more attention than the other things we’re also preoccupied with. But fear not, self-driving cars will solve this problem once and for all!

Success is like that toy every kid wants

Depending on which members of society you talk to, you get a different definition of success every time. What most of us don’t know, is that it’s something you get to define as an individual and even we ourselves, change our minds quite often. We’re obsessed with the idea of being a fit and confident millionaire surrounded by good-looking people on a yacht, with a couple of mansions, a bunch of cars, clothes, and other shit we don’t realise will not improve our lives.
Every single year we’re swarmed by things to do to change and improve our lives as if we’re living terribly. We keep falling in the trap of comparison and assumption, thinking that our problems are worse than everyone else’s.

Instead of embracing our problems and being happy that for some miraculous reason they are never too much for us to deal with, we become fixated on the results of other people. This causes us to chase false and unattainable realities of success, which — yup, you guessed it — comes at a price we’re not even aware that we’re paying. It’s us ditching ourselves and wishing to be someone else.

Most people don’t see the reason to broadcast their struggles as much as their victories. And here we are comparing our lives with what ‘seems’ great; the reality we’ve created with a small piece of information others wanted us to perceive as such.
Once we fall for this trap, we’ll always find someone that ‘seems’ more stylish, talented, richer, happier than we are.
What sometimes ‘seems’ like a great time is most of the time not really the case. Being a millionaire might solve some of our mundane problems, but that doesn’t mean millionaires don’t have any problems. With every new privilege, a new set of predicaments show up as well.

When everyone is successful is anyone successful?

A leader’s habits work? Congrats to him or her.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will work for you. There are different people in the world and just like education, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Furthermore, they have had many opportunities to try, fail, improve and succeed — it didn’t happen overnight.
Another thing everyone seems to be forgetting is what I consider the most important factor, which is Fate. These people are living their definition of success because Fate has permitted it. They had an immense love, enthusiasm and purpose, to achieve what they Desired — they didn’t take shortcuts or force it.

As individuals, we can stop copying blindly, and taking shortcuts in life as if we’re owed. We need to respect the process, resistance and pain others had to endure to get to where they are. Most of the time it’s not that these people went looking for “magic” out of their comfort zones, they were feeling quite uncomfortable inside of their comfort zones already. It could’ve been adversity that came their way in the form of their biggest fears, rejection, betrayal, bankruptcy, illness, you name it. Dealing with their problems, they made a bunch of mistakes and gained wisdom from it all.
On the way, all of them learned that success isn’t even an extrinsic battle, it’s an intrinsic one. One where they had to convince themselves to keep on believing and putting in the work which required large amounts of energy and dedication (this is our so-called endless battle with resistance).
No, there’s nothing wrong with mimicking someone — we can learn from their mistakes, which saves us some time. But the wisdom that they have gained along the way, is not something that can be copied.

Realising this, we can comprehend that success lies where we create our own path, where we are confident in our choices. We understand that it’s not gained by envying or following other people’s lives and ideas. We grasp that success means saying “no” when we know that everyone else is saying “yes”. It’s where we say “no” to popular beliefs, and “no” to our need for approval from others.

Wisdom almost always accompanies success. Both come from following our own journeys where all of us come up with the best methods for dealing with our own lives. Someone could be way out of their comfort zone, but if he/she doesn’t have the enthusiasm, the chances are very high that the outcome is not enough fuel to keep them going, despite how much willpower they think they have.

If not get out of our comfort zones, then what?

Easy, stay in your comfort zone and expand it. I’m dead serious about this. Ever heard of the Goldilocks Rule? It’s an idea of finding that combination between task and performance that is just right. Author

discusses this phenomenon in detail in his book Atomic Habits.

The thing is when people have to put in genuine thought and work into their own lives, they fall apart. Most of us need someone to copy from, to tell us where to go, what to do and at what time, because in reality, we’re terrified of facing obstacles alone and failing. More mentors, life coaches and guru’s pop up every year using new, vague jargon most of us don’t understand. Nobody with genuine intentions charges astronomical amounts of money for meaningless information to a situation they know has multiple solutions. A gesture of good advice comes from the greatness of the heart. None of us know how to live the best life, and that’s maybe because it doesn’t exist. Just like raising children doesn’t really have a manual and takes a huge amount of responsibility, your life, your choices, your endeavours are also your responsibility. Stop playing the victim, nobody’s coming. It’s about time you start parenting yourself and stop relying upon others’ methods to solve your problems.

We have enough against us in life. However, aside from life’s unavoidable obstacles that we have to endure, there shouldn’t be much struggling. So being mindless and volunteering for unnecessary struggle in uncharted territory doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me since this is what’s enforcing our dabbler mentality. There are times where things are rough and it couldn’t be truer that some of us need to work harder while others are being fed with a silver spoon. But pretending to have greater power beyond the scope of things we can control in life, is a bit illogical. Not only are you delusional, but you’re wearing yourself out as well.

No, I’m not entirely against being out of our comfort zones, as I do believe it has its advantages. Not because I don’t want to be a reckless person out of my comfort zone (anymore), means that I don’t want to take risks and grow. Neither does it mean that I’m “scared” and that I’ll “end up nowhere in life”. But as I am trying to live a calmer, more authentic life without much distraction, I use this tool mainly to premeditate the worse case scenarios of challenges I face.
“What’s the worst that could happen if I can’t solve X and if Y were to become true?”
This helps me stay humble, focus on my approach along with the peace of mind that if something were to happen, I’d deal with it the best way I can at that specific moment.

Staying in your comfort zone sometimes means allowing yourself to be yourself and listening to your inner voice. It means knowing what you and your skills are capable of under perfect or desired conditions and respecting yourself enough to be realistic and knowing your limits when those are not the case. If something is too easy, we’ll lose interest, but it pretty much works the same way around if something is too hard.

Why it works

The Goldilocks Rule works because you keep things manageable, not frustrating. The point is to find your flow and stay close to the mean of boredom and anxiety while gradually increasing the difficulty of what’s prioritised. You work with what you’ve got, so you need sufficient favourable results to keep you going, but at the same time, enough unfavourable to keep you determined.

It all revolves around consistency and repetition rather than making immediate radical changes. In other words, knowing where your strengths work best, and sticking to those in order to generate the best results (follow your intuition, these are usually what you’re reluctant to be judged on). This will unquestionably lead to you getting bored — our minds crave challenges after all. But because of the centred nature of this approach, you’ll be able to deal with it as it comes. Expanding your zone of comfort little by little, adjusting ever-so-slightly between predictability and surprise.

As you might’ve guessed, this is indeed the approach of a lot of today’s leaders. By embracing their skills and honing them to offer others what they alone could within a niche they felt comfortable, they became successful.

In the long run, I’m sure it’ll be more beneficial to show and practise resilience within your growing zone of comfort as this demonstrates Mastery in the relevant areas within your life.

Bottom line is this

You can’t be someone else’s definition of success.
Yours is already written by Fate and whether you find it suitable or not, accomplishing it is your true success. It is reached by seeing your problems for what they truly are — challenges, opportunities, stepping stones bringing you closer to the exact point you need to be at.

You might not have control over a lot of things, but one of the things you do have control over are your choices, which surprisingly, is all you need. Remember, you get to determine what you want to work on, don’t let anyone force you out of your comfort zone, doing things you know will not benefit you. And as someone that’s comfortable being outside of your comfort zone, don’t let anyone force you to do the opposite. Because if someone’s advice doesn’t work out the way you’ve expected, things will only get worse especially if you’re relying on these changes to advance your life.

Whatever approach you encounter to fit you and your lifestyle best, implement it gradually and don’t be afraid to make modifications every now and then to avoid falling into the hands of today’s all too common over exhaustion and depression epidemic. Because at the end of the day you’ll be the one having to live with your choices, not anyone else.

Set yourself apart from the multitudes by thinking differently and when you do so, embrace the fact that you don’t fit in.
Be smart, take the road less travelled and pursue living well rather than extravagantly. Most importantly, be patient and fall in love with the process — success could be the smallest sense of accomplishment; who is to say otherwise?

Thanks for reading, have a nice day! 🖖

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Ilsmarie Presilia
The Post-Grad Survival Guide

29-year-old autodidact that likes to ponder and create Worthwhile things.