The other day I was overhearing a conversation about comfort foods, and it led me on a wild goose chase in my mind about how we are always looking for ways of creating more comfort in our lives. It makes sense. One definition of comfort is: a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. Who would not want that??
Comfort means familiarity. You know what to expect. You create and perpetuate it, mostly unconsciously. The well worn slippers or sweater, the food, the people you spend time with regularly, the physical activities, the TV shows, the books, the places you choose for your walks, the holiday locations. You feel some relaxation and a sense of stability and control in your busy and demanding life.
The challenge is that sometimes you can get stuck in the comfort zone. You may plan to do something new and different…and then get pulled back by your thoughts: “Ah, not today, I feel too tired or busy. I’ll do it another day”. You want to feel good and are looking for ways to make that happen.
The interesting thing is, spending a lot of time in your comfort zone will not necessarily make you feel better. Over time, you may notice that you are not accomplishing what you may have dreamed of for your life, you do not have new stories to share and there is a feeling of repetition and boredom, of lack of success. Your feeling of self-worth takes a dive, you pull back even more and slowly slide into a downward pulling spiral – not fun!
As human beings, we were designed to shift and change and stretch ourselves. Observing children’s development from birth to walking, it is a miracle to see what is possible with experimenting, practice and persistence. It is a natural force.
As children, we are fearless in our exploration, however as time progresses, it seems that the mind plays an ever greater role in our decision making process. Instinctively, we want to avoid making mistakes, looking stupid, or have any kind of negative attention drawn to us.
When you decide to step out of your comfort zone, no matter if it is a new art project, exercise program, changes in food choices, meeting new people or applying for a new job, fear and anxiety arise, which in turn gets your mind chatter going with all the reasons why this is not a good idea or won’t work.
This anxiety is an indicator that you are on your edge. For some, this is an invitation to go for it, for others a signal to pull back. You may be ok with that anxiety in some aspects of your life, i.e. physical challenges like jumping off a cliff or going snorkeling, but when you need to speak in front of people it seems impossible to manage, and you avoid going there.
When you regularly push on those emotional boundaries and step into a new activity despite the mind’s warnings, you will notice that you will actually feel a sense of accomplishment. It may not be perfect, there may be room for improvement, however, you took the step, however small it may have been. You opened a door and now see yourself in a new light and end up feeling better about yourself. And up you move on a spiral of success and self-worth.
So, check in with yourself ,and see where in life you tend to stay in your safe zone and where you are pushing your boundaries. For most people, it works well to have a mixture: feeling a sense of stability and safety in some areas of life and using that as a foundation to move forward and explore new possibilities in other areas. This will keep you engaged in life and feeling good about yourself.