Are you living in your comfort zone? I want to talk with you about this here on the blog and in on the podcast in episode 054 because I think a lot of people struggle with this in different ways and for several reasons.
Your comfort zone is the space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and a pattern. It’s a state of mental security that provides low anxiety and reduced stress, but studies show that we need a state of optimal anxiety to help move us forward in any real direction.
With optimal anxiety, we are pushing ourselves to live our best life due to just enough ‘anxiety’ to make us work hard and feel challenged, and in order to do this, we have to lose the idea of balance and comfort.
Here’s a few of the main signs you should be aware of to see if you’re in your comfort zone. This may require you to be more honest with yourself than you’d want to be, or digging deep and questioning how you’re feeling:
One reason we have such trouble leaving our comfort zone behind is because we fall into the work trap. We make ourselves appear busy so that we can stay in our comfort zones and we can avoid doing new things.
It’s a procrastination technique that allows you to stay in your comfort zone while feeling, or at least seeming, productive, and saying no to new activities. This can include things that are new or scary like meeting someone new, going to a group meet up, putting off replying to important emails, etc.
The second reason it’s hard to leave our comfort zone is because you feel the need to be perfect. When you hold too tightly to this idea of perfectionism, you’re missing out. This can happen because you’re focusing on failures instead of opportunities. Even if you have failed or been hurt in the past, you cannot continue to carry that weight with you. It’s better to have a life full of failures that you’ve learned from than a lifetime filled with regret of never trying.
Here’s the greatest news of all, right now you have a 100% survival rate of all the things you’ve done that you were scared to do. Start making small steps towards your goals. Doing a little is where we start. Taking risks in a controlled way and challenging yourself to do things you wouldn’t normally do helps you experience uncertainty in a manageable environment.
Here’s the hard fact: We don’t find ourselves in a fulfilling, deeply satisfying path in life – we have to create it. Your comfort zone feels comfortable, but it’s a dangerous place to live because, as much as we seem to enjoy comfort and routine, we’re often happiest when we’re challenged and making progress.
Here’s what I want you to know – doubt is still present even when you’re on the right track. When you go into a situation and you expect that fear and doubt are going to show up and you prepare to tackle them, you’ll be much better off than if you listen to that fear and doubt.
You cannot expect others to follow you into the deep, dark unknown. People who are too comfortable with comfort find the idea of it unsettling. It reminds them that maybe they don’t have the strength or the courage to venture out themselves.
Keep in mind, you might be called crazy long before you’re considered cool. My first company was comfortable. It felt easy. It was comfortable and unfulfilling. When we told our friends and family that we were closing down the business to open inkWELL Press, they all said we were crazy. Why would you give up a perfectly good business?
Sometimes you have to swim upstream to get to where you really want to go. Here I am today with a successful business, a podcast that’s doing amazingly well and an online course that already has a wait list. None of this has been comfortable. Each step has been uncomfortable but man am I happy. You don’t have to choose between your priorities and your dreams.
It doesn’t matter where or when you start, just start now by pushing your boundaries. Find ways to sculpt those uncomfortable situations to make them a little more comfortable.
For example, if you hate speaking with big groups and large noisy situations, find a quiet corner to talk or step outside into a hallway. If you hate public speaking but you feel slightly more comfortable in a small group, look for opportunities to speak with smaller groups or set up intimate coffee meetings for the people you want to network with.
Make yourself take the plunge. Set up challenges for yourself to do things that scare you. Instead of jumping right in, maybe there’s a class you can take like a public speaking class. The first step is always going to be uncomfortable, the key is to just show up.
Try to commit yourself even though it’s difficult. Don’t quit even when you want to. You might not see results right away – but that’s OK – keep going.
The key is to know the answer to the question, “Why am I doing this”? Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. Knowing why you’re on this path helps push past through those feelings and it creates a foundation for you to build your mental and physical toughness upon. When you identify your fears and you face them in small steps, that can really make a difference, that’s an easy first step.
That little bit of optimal controlled anxiety I talked about is good for us. I want you to shine a light into these dark, uncomfortable places. You may find the path that you were meant to follow. I share more details and examples in episode 054 of my Productivity Paradox podcast… head over to iTunes or Stitcher to listen now!