Breaking barriers, pushing your boundaries, going the extra mile, are some of the many phrases that must have come your way as you look for an inspirational spin in your life. However, they aren’t as simple as they seem! It takes a mammoth effort to actually let one of these statements materialize into action. Has it intrigued you as to why it takes so much of an effort? The answer lies in the fact that, getting to such a state is an outcome of you breaking away from a routine, wherein you do things differently! It is nothing but moving away from your comfort zone.
So what is this “comfort zone”? Comfort zone, as you may already know is a state where you are familiar with your activities and routine and confident that your actions will not lead to any undesirable results. Essentially, you have a profound sense of gratification, with acceptable levels of happiness and less anxiety in the work you do. However, research* indicates that a space where anxiety levels are slightly higher than normal yields better performance. This has been termed as “optimal anxiety” and it is the realm just outside your comfort zone! Any stress or anxiety beyond this pushes you to a panic zone and will have a counter-productive impact on the performance.
While the term “optimal anxiety” may be new to you, the experience of this state is one that we are all familiar with. All of us have gone through various instances in our lives, where we have had to push ourselves to do the “uncomfortable” tasks, to choose a path less tread on! A path, that challenges us to deliver at a new level. This is the path that is guarded with optimal anxiety. It is important that we are not averse to such experiences as they enable us to grow, at the same time we have to be cautious to not push ourselves too hard as it may yield a negative result.
Here are some thoughts on how you could break free from your comfort zone, and try new things!
Look back into your early days on this planet, you may not have the faintest memory of those days but you surely would agree if I said that – as a child staying in the warmth of your mother’s arms was easier than starting school, or enjoying the perks of being at home with your family was better than adjusting to the hostel environment in during your college days, or the days as a student was so much more rewarding than the day you entered the portals of the corporate world.
The list could go on, and as we look at it one point emerges clearly, that every phase which we thought would be hard to cope up with was your comfort zone when you had to leave it behind. How could that be? How could an event in your life which made you uncomfortable, allow you to transform?
Is happened because you chose to start or you were pushed to start a new phase and create an experience for yourself that taught you some distinguished lessons. The first step is to start, it is the most uncomfortable and it takes the most will to do, the key however is to give it your commitment.
- No Excuses
The word ‘dieting’ is a rather familiar one to all of us, and most of us would have given it a shot at some point in our life. On a lighter note, the safest assumption I could make here is that all of us would have experimented with some diet just before getting married.
Starting a diet is pushing your mind and body to a new level of comfort however sustaining a diet comes with commitment and perseverance. And this applies to everything we do, let alone a diet. When you start something new, you would expect results, you will expect rewards to compensate and justify the difficulty you may be facing, and nothing may come through as you expect it. What follows next is the urge to quit. There’s only one element which can destroy this urge and that’s your strength to believe in what you are doing. From this would emanate the power to persevere. Keep going and keep the excuses at bay!
I recollect meeting this wonderful person a few years ago, who was passionate about nature, plants in particular. Having moved from a suburban village in India to a metropolitan city, he was wretched by the concrete jungle around him. The situation did not give him an option to run away from the problem. After wandering the streets of the city for quite a few days, he happened to find this lovely house which was located on the terrace of a two story building. It was a really tine house and it failed to impress any of us, nevertheless he took it up! We all wondered why!!! The answer came sooner than expected as he transformed his terrace into a lovely courtyard for the house. He used everything around, from used plastic water bottles to tires, to create his magical space! There were plants in bottles and pots, there was a water station for birds that were hovering around, and lovely chairs made from truck tires! It seemed like a page from one of my childhood fairytales just became real!
So when confronted with a problem or an unfamiliar task, look at it as an opportunity to explore your creativity. Remember that old adage, “Necessity is the mother of all inventions”? Well, that’s what it is. You may be the next Edison!
- Seek Support
The move away from your comfort zone should be gradual and not drastic, it is not a leap but a consistent and systemic process else you will hit the panic zone. As you take baby steps to expand your comfort zone, you anxiety levels will increase and it would be anything but natural for you to collapse back! This is a journey, and you may make the transition all by yourself, or at times you may need a few pillars to lean on. Introspect at every stage of the journey, look at each milestone and do not hesitate to reach out as and when you need help.
There has been a disruption in your life now, you have transformed in some way, learnt something new and started re-defining your fears! As you let these experiences define you, you do have to remember to celebrate your learnings irrespective of whether they came from successes or failures. You have dipped into a new pool of untapped knowledge and resources, celebrate it by taking time with yourself and meeting the new you, It would be no less than a blind date with yourself.
To conclude, powerful forces will conspire to keep you in your comfort zone, often due to the natural tendency to be risk averse. It takes effort to break away, and as you do so, you will create a new comfort zone for yourself. The moment you feel everything is perfect, you ought to ask yourself if it is time to seek out the next challenge. Eventually, you will learn to grow comfortable with the uncomfortable! Lean in to the discomfort and take baby steps away from your comforts. Life is an adventure and there is no adventure without risks and there is no excitement without adventure! Keep it exciting, keep growing!
The word 'safe' is an adjective meaning secure and a noun meaning an enclosed locked container. If you’re living the adjective then you’re living the noun. – Steve Pavlina
*Psychological experiments by Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson, 1908