We all love comfort, right? It makes me think of being curled up on the couch in a cozy blanket on a chilly night, sipping on a hot beverage, reading a book or watching a movie with my amazing husband. Or being able to take off my shoes after a long day on my feet has made them feel bound and stuffy. Or being able to step into an air-conditioned room when it’s over 100ºF outside.
Everyone’s level of comfort is different, I’m sure, based on the person’s individual situation. For instance, for a homeless person, comfort may mean the chance to spend the night in a shelter when it’s cold outside. For someone with a terminal or chronic illness, it may mean getting the medicine adjusted to get the pain level down to a 2 or 3 on the pain scale.
There are people, however, who prefer to live in the comfort zone, just cruising through life without really experiencing it. They frequently make the same mistakes over and over again but never figure out why that same thing keeps happening to them. They repeatedly attempt to regain the balance of their comfort zone, buffering whatever is going on around them from the sidelines, putting out fires as they spring up. As a result, a whole wide world of real life, with its varied experiences and multiple learning opportunities, passes them by while they sit in their comfy chair watching TV.
The comfort zone is familiar and safe and stable. It’s the place where challenges, pressure, and problems are not welcome. No hard work is required and that’s what’s preferred. Sure, everyone needs down time to relax and recoup, but it seems like such a waste of a life when we park in that comfort zone. Residents of the comfort zone sit in a mire of apathy, saying things like, “We’ve always done it this way,” or “Someone should really do something about that!” or “What on earth makes you think that’s a good idea?”
A lot of change takes place within the protective walls of a caterpillar’s cocoon, but little change will take place within the protective bubble of our comfort zone where we do things the same way we’ve always done them and get the same results we’ve always got. The comfort zone is padded with good intentions but the only way to break out is by acting intentionally.
For things to change, either some outside influence has to be enough of a disruption to push us out of our bubble, like losing our job, or we have to choose to step out. Even though we may balk, many times that’s the best thing for us. Sometimes, I think God pushes us out of our comfort zone, so we can learn to spread our wings, just like a mother bird encourages her developing hatchlings to leave the nest when they’re old enough to learn to fly.
Only when we step out of our comfort zone, can we really experience life and grow from it, interact with and influence others, increase our knowledge and learn from our mistakes, and make a difference in the world.
Believe me, I know, it’s not easy to break out of the comfort zone. I’ve had to go beyond what’s comfortable for me to even start this blog, but I’ve found taking baby steps helps. It takes courage to take that first step, especially when we’re having to fight against the voices that tell us not to (and one of those voices may be our own saying, “Are you sure you want to do that?”).
It takes resolve and commitment to keep on taking steps after that first one, too. Fear and insecurity may seep in, making us wonder if we’re doing the right thing. People may criticize us or disown us or get angry. We may lose friends that don’t want to work that hard and don’t understand why we would want to, either.
Although different personalities act in different ways, when we do step out and try something new only to be met with a setback or failure, it’s natural for many of us to want to shrink back to the safety net of the comfort zone and say, “Well, I tried, but that didn’t work out, so I’m not going to try something like that again.”
(If you’re familiar with personality theories at all — of which there are several — the one I like the best says there are four basic personalities, each designated with a name, color and/or animal. Of course, we are all a mixture of 2 or more, usually with one predominating.)
After a failure or setback, the typical ‘Type A’ personality (red) might continue to drive forward, plowing on towards their goal, without much problem, aiming to be the first or the best at whatever they’re doing. Even reds, though, as they bulldoze on through, can get stuck in a rut (aka comfort zone) of doing things the same way they’ve always done them.
Other more timid personalities (white), like me, often struggle with a lack of competitiveness, an inability to set and follow through towards a goal, and a fear of failure that keeps us from trying in the first place. Personally, when something gets hard, I often just want to give up. That’s a tendency I have to fight. I’ve found being my own cheerleader and changing my self-talk to something like, “You can do this!” is helpful.
The typical easy-going, fun-loving (yellow) personality may laugh it all off as “not fun” and “too much like work” to be bothered with any of that goal-setting nonsense, whereas the analytical, deep-thinking (blue) personality may stay frozen in a state of analysis-paralysis, unable to decide which route would be the best one to take, and so they don’t take any.
Whatever our personality, though, to step out of our comfort zone and make headway in our personal growth, it does take intentionality in our actions and commitment to see it through to the goal. Only then, can we fulfill our destiny, leave a legacy, and make the world a better place.
Take a look at what you’re good at or passionate about. Decide on something that interests you and will benefit others. Tap into that passion, interest, or skill. What goal can you set for yourself today that challenges the confines of your comfort zone? Write it down, then write down some actionable steps you can take to head towards it. Take baby steps, if need be, but don’t just settle for good intentions.
Tell me in the comments what you’ve decided to do and let’s encourage each other.