For most of us, comfortable is the feeling we usually prefer and pursue. In fact, we spend much energy ensuring our comfort: we pay for heat and hot water, we eat when we're hungry, we sleep when we're tired. Most of our time is spent living within our Comfort Zones. Why? Well, for most of us, it's just easier to stay in a space of known versus unknown. We know what to expect, it's an assumed rhythm and it's a place where we feel relaxed and safe. All good things, right?
Yes, and No. The environment you create around you – the community and home where you live, the people you surround yourself with, what you spend your money on, your daily habits such as how you sleep, eat, dress or learn, the ways you interact - all of this gives a sense of security and comfort.
The problem is, if you stay in your comfort zone all the time, you just can't grow into your best possible self. Why not challenge yourself to get uncomfortable once in a while?
A little over a year ago, my partner and I had a very big choice to make. We had been living 3 hours apart in 2 different states for 4 years. We wanted to simplify our lives and were considering blending our families, but were also concerned about how our 5 children would be impacted by a relocation. For months and months, whenever we got close to a decision, we tabled it. "It might not work, it could even be a disaster, perhaps we should wait", we often thought. What if any one of the kids didn't transition well? How could I give up a job I loved in a down economy? What if the kids didn't like their new schools? What if, what if, what if...
Then one day, it became clearer. The children's comments began to sound encouraging, and we paid more attention to what they were saying. This attention also helped us to hear our own voices more clearly. One day in early August, we had a family meeting and, surprisingly, everyone voted to move. We only had 3 weeks to prepare, sell the house, pack up our things and register 4 children into three new schools!
Was there risk involved? Absolutely. Was it comfortable? Not at all. Was it worth the discomfort? No question in my mind.
Anything worthwhile comes with risk. A new or ended career or romantic relationship, getting married, having a baby, moving to a new place, public speaking, or writing a book are all experiences that involve some amount of risk. We just can’t grow or achieve our goals without taking risks. And that means letting yourself be uncomfortable now and again.
Feeling uneasy in a situation which is new, challenging, or off-balance is perfectly normal. We cannot expect to feel comfortable all the time. And, we cannot expect to grow without discomfort. That happens when we allow ourselves to stretch outside our comfort zone.
So, find a way to put a little productive discomfort into your life.
First, the next time an uncomfortable situation comes your way and you feel like running or resisting, don’t. Sit in your discomfort and simply acknowledge it. Breathe slowly and deeply and re-frame the fearful thoughts in your mind. Talk to yourself firmly but lovingly. Recognize the situation as an opportunity to challenge and evolve your potential.
Of course, there’s a big difference between meeting a reasonable challenge and simply taking a foolish risk. Obviously, if you’re not a seasoned athlete, you may find yourself with a lot more than discomfort if you impulsively decide to enter a triathlon with a coworker. But, if you train your body and prepare yourself mentally, it's worth a try.
Fear wears many disguises and it takes real courage to confront fear. Courage is not the absence of fear but the capacity to resist the control it exerts over your choices and actions. When we let ourselves get uncomfortable once in while, our courage grows. And that incremental growth of courage in small ways will allow us to face bigger challenges in the future.
Look back and recall times in your life when you stepped out of your comfort zone. How did you do? How did it feel afterward? What did you learn? Now, consider the things that make you uncomfortable today and choose a new challenge for yourself. Start with something small. Or …
Leap into the unknown! Dance, laugh, sing, jump, and have fun. Let your spirit soar!
Certified Health and Lifestyle Coach, Sheryl Melanson, partners with people to transform limiting habits into mindful choices that express their values, create action plans and recalibrate their lifestyle to optimal well-being.