How often is it that lazing on the couch, with nothing to do other than chill and catch up on the latest Netflix series, is the only thing you want to do over a weekend? How often do you dream about hanging out in the “comfort zone” of life? If you are like most humans your “comfort zone” is what you dream of; no stress, no strain, life just perfect, with you experiencing that longed-for state of “bliss” – is this not what life is supposed to be?
No, no, no – life is definitely not meant to be experienced as “bliss” and you should most certainly not be hanging out too long in that cosy “comfort zone” a.k.a lazy boy.
At this point you are reading this wide-eyed, wondering whether I have gone stark raving mad. Well no, I have not, at least not when it comes to comfort zones and the lazy boy.
THE Comfort zone – what exactly is it?
The dictionary definition is that a comfort zone refers to a situation where one feels safe or at ease. Another definition is that a comfort zone is a behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and pattern that minimises stress and risk. The operative words in the last definition being “stress and risk”. No-one says that you need never-ending, relentless unhealthy stress, however, a certain level of healthy stress can actually be a catalyst for growth and a powerful motivator to take action.
Marc Steinberg says that as humans our first experience of life is in the womb, where we are fed, the temperature is generally perfect, you are safe from the eternal environment and this feels much like a comfort zone since it is an environment with low levels of stress and risk. He states that from the minute we are born we wish to recreate this feeling of the “comfort zone”, this perceived safe and comfortable environment. We are hooked on settling in the comfort zone.
Don’t park in “comfort zone”
A comfort zone certainly has its benefits and “bliss” is a fabulous state. We were, however, not designed to park there for extended periods of time. I want you to imagine that one lonely car parked in the airport car park, wrapped in a long term cover and caked with dust. You are not even able to identify the make or model and definitely not an appealing sight. Surviving, but definitely not thriving.
If you look at life in all its forms, living and thriving is about movement, growth, change and stretching. If a species does not evolve it will become extinct. Staying too long in that comfy cosy comfort zone results in feelings of boredom, being in autopilot mode, tiredness, complacency, anxiety and sometimes even depression.
One of the consequences of having overstayed your welcome in “Hotel Comfort Zone” is recurring problems of the past that keep surfacing.
Since life needs movement and evolutionary tension to ensure we remain alive, we get to face these problems on a recurring basis. Of course, this immediately shakes us up, triggering movement and ripping us straight out of our comfort zone. The challenge is that each time the heat is turned up the intensity of the problem is “revved” up and it takes us backwards rather than forwards.
The comfort zone keeps you from growing and discovering new things, and it conditions you to settle, not entirely happy or fulfilled, and certainly not out there risking a new challenge or making new commitments. Instead of living a totally fulfilling and exhilarating life, you are safe – very, very, boringly, SAFE.
What are the benefits of leaving THE comfort zone?
Marc Steinberg states that getting out of a comfort zone allows people to feel far more in control of their futures, living into new challenges rather than dealing with old problems on a recurring basis, and feeling motivated, positive and alive.
Think about this – when last did you feel absolutely alive, inspired, ready to take life by the horns and live your greatest life?
In this moment, were you in a comfort zone, chilling on the couch or were you risking it, stretching and challenging yourself?
You either create movement and momentum by ensuring that you craft a future based on inspiring, exciting commitments and goals, stretching yourself to grow and move, or life will drag up all that baggage from the past just to get you moving, to rip you out of your comfort zone.
Either way, move you will. It is inevitable. Which direction you move in, backwards or forwards, is entirely up to you. What will you choose?
The absence of risk is the comfort zone. The longer you hang out in the comfort zone the less alive you feel.
Anthony Steward, who in 1992 sailed around the world in a 5.8 meter open boat, was asked when he was most afraid. His answer was: “When I was on the island, because I was going nowhere”.
Where are you going?