A great deal has been written about comfort zones.

You only have to Google search these words to discover all sorts of quotes, articles and blogs explaining how you must get out of your comfort zone to truly reach your potential.

So are we doomed to being ordinary (and not extraordinary) because according to psychologists, we spend a vast majority of time in our comfort zone?

Why stay inside your comfort zone?

The best explanation for why we act this way is a desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Our comfort zone is where we feel safe and secure, wrapped in a cocoon of familiarity. It’s where we can function at our best, and feel great in experiencing a small, manageable amount of stress and anxiety.

I believe there’s wisdom staying inside your comfort zone. Life is truly frustrating, painful and draining on the body at times. In fact, change and growth are painful things, and we may not be ready to make the leap. Immediate change may not be in our best interests.

Staying inside your comfort zone for a period can bring about a new awareness about ourselves, an understanding of our habits, or clarify an assumption or a belief. It can also keep at bay unresolved feelings that are not ready to be processed.

Staying inside your comfort zone provides a life balance between routine and spontaneity. But when it stops being a helpful routine and we sense being trapped, that’s when your comfortable zone is getting too comfy!

Baby Steps

Rather than getting out of your comfort zone, try expanding it slowly. That way you can move past the fear, pain or hurt rather than trying to self medicate, self soothe with food or alcohol or allow your inner critic to berate you.

My client Diana, a swim coach had frustrations about her career path working at a private girls school. She had a terrible work-life balance because the hours weren’t conducive to what she felt was a normal social life. Yet, Diana wouldn’t take any time off (because of the culture) and felt he would be letting her swim squad down.

Diana developed a very good way of identifying hazards or problems (some real and some imagined). I would go as far to say that she looked for them more than she looked for solutions. She had a real aversion to discomfort, struggle or inconvenience. When Diana noticed a situation that would cause her discomfort, she stopped or shut down to avoid it as opposed to looking for ways to overcome it. Sadly, this resulted in Diana staying stuck in her comfort zone. From her self-imposed padded cell she could control her environment because there was little stimulus and few obstacles to overcome.

Diana agreed with my analogy, but didn’t know how to get out. I told her to devise an action plan that would help her understand how to begin mobilising (i.e. to go from emerging energy, planning, deciding, and preparing to move through to taking action through engaging, expressing, and experimenting). I asked her what would happen if she directed some of that energy, the care and compassion she had for her swim squad, towards herself and her future?

It was important that Diana identified this self-sabotaging behaviour. If we started working on any strategies in advance of the identification, Diana would find negatives or roadblocks and shut down our sessions. So I invited Diana to start watching how she shut herself down. I told her to keep a diary or use an iPhone voice recorder. I instructed her to notice what was happening as she stopped herself from dreaming big, and requested she answer these questions:

What are you feeling? What are you saying to yourself? What is that little negative voice inside saying?

Sometimes Diana had bursts of enlightenment and insight, which both scared and excited her. A few days after our session, Diana started speaking to people, and loved the idea of travelling overseas with her partner. This excited and energised her, but her partner asked what she would do when she got home and where she would live. That’s when Diana fell back into confusion, wondering what she would do.

Together we talked about staying in the comfort void. I wasn’t trying to force or push her; I was supporting her, trying to get her to stop shutting down whenever uncomfortable feelings arose.

In subsequent sessions Diana stopped ruminating over thoughts and began seeking answers rather than guessing and catastrophising over them.

Diana took the energy she would have used fighting to change school policy and put it towards creating a better future for herself. To her surprise doors opened and she took the first steps towards attaining a personal training qualification.

You too can slowly push past your comfort zone, and when you do, it will open up a path of possibilities.

Excerpt taken from Fiona Craig’s award-winning book, Stuck in a Rut: How to rescue yourself and live your truth. A paperback copy can also be purchased through Fiona Craig’s website, Life Balance Coach.

new stuck in a rut book available soon by Fiona CraigFiona Craig is an NLP practitioner & life coach, psychotherapist, business mentor, and published author of the award winning self-help book, “Stuck in a Rut – How to rescue yourself & live your truth” helping women remove the fear, worry and guilt to confidently take the steps towards creating the life they want to live.

Fiona has been interviewed by The Australian Women’s Weekly, Women’s Fitness Magazine and The New Daily and written articles for Collective Magazine, Herald Sun Melbourne, Sunday Life Magazine, Career One, I Am Woman Magazine, plus Mouths Of Mums and other online publications. You can learn more about working with Fiona at www.lifebalancecoach.com.au or call 0405 433 217.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash