Do you find it easy or difficult to step outside of your comfort zone? Are you a creature of habit? Many of us are. Do you desire change, but draw back when you arrive at the line of demarcation between comfort and discomfort? What holds you back?
Take a moment and look at the photo of the cat in the tree looking at the moon. Do you think the feline is a creature who lives in the outdoors and is in its comfort zone? Or do you imagine the cat was accustomed to a cozy indoor lifestyle and decided to leave its comfort zone for a night? It is something to ponder for a moment or two. What does the cat see? How does it feel?
Maybe it is an outside cat who sits on the tree branch often and is in its comfort zone. Maybe this feline is lonely though and is deciding whether to take a chance with human beings to find a new home.
It makes me smile to imagine the cat is an inside creature who decided to leave the house. Maybe this cat is sitting on the branch filled with a sense of awe at the beauty of the night. It is feeling somewhat satisfied with itself as well as feeling a bit of nervous excitement and even peace! The cat could be thinking, “I did it! I stepped out of my comfort zone for the day and what an awesome adventure!”
There are people who crave constant change and dislike habits and repetition. Sometimes chaos ensues because of the extreme “need” for something new and different most of the time. This post does not address the extremes of constant change and no willingness for change.
Many times survivors need to normalize their lives. Forming routines or patterns, especially during the initial stages of healing, can be hugely beneficial. Survivors at that point in time need comfort, consistency, and the confidence both comfort and constancy bring to the healing process. Chaotic homes were the norm for many survivors of abuse and trauma. The only given was that abuse would happen. Eventually though boredom or stagnancy may occur if someone is not able or willing to allow positive change to occur. Fear of any change may prevent any one (a survivor of abuse or trauma or not) from leaving one’s comfort zone.
Frequently life’s occurrences force us out of our comfort zones. An example of this is if your significant other changes, you are often times needed to transition also. As synchronicity occurred and I pondered this subject, I found myself in several separate conversations regarding relationships changing due to one person’s transitioning in various areas, including career or lifestyle.
If your relationship is positive and healthy, it is possible for both individuals to adapt to the changes. Each person needs to be aware, acknowledge, and accept life as it is and might become. Flexibility and healthy communication are essential.
Recommendations of minor ways to leave your comfort zone are below. These are suggestions only. Have fun with some of them! Be silly even. It is amazing how stuck we can be in our routines and daily habits. Use your imagination to explore other methods to grow and to walk across the comfort zone line!
Go to a different coffee shop or restaurant! Order a different food item or drink.
Dine in a restaurant alone. That is uncomfortable and difficult for many individuals.
Add a purple streak in your hair (especially if you are older and never have)!
Join a Toastmasters’ group if public speaking is your fear.
Try a physical activity that is unfamiliar to you … gigong, yoga, Irish dancing, to name a few.
Walk your favorite nature path from the opposite direction. If you normally walk it counter-clockwise, walk it clockwise. Your view changes. What do you see differently? Perspective matters.
Meditate (if you never have)! Find a class or an audio. Listen … to your inner voice.
Decide to check your smart phone only twice on a certain day this week. Do not text except for those two times when you check your phone. Do not use the Internet. It is so easy to read news stories, etc. on your phone instead of reading a book or a magazine. Balance may be needed. When I recently bought my first smart phone, I vowed to continue reading books!
Answer your phone if it rings. How often does your phone ring? That in itself is an interesting question. Many people avoid contact via phone calls. It is easier to remain in the comfort zone of texting! (Joshua J. Whitfield wrote an editorial regarding being slaves to your screens. This editorial appeared in the University of Colorado’s daily newspaper as well as other papers across the nation. Read: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20160907-we-are-slaves-to-our-shiny-screens.ece)
Go alone or with a friend to a religious service that is not your own church (whether you belong to an institutional religion or not). Of course, you are not attending to become a member. Just explore what your friend experiences or what others experience in their spiritual life. I, as a child, was taken to a Baptist Church across the street from where I lived because an adult friend of the family attended that church. Although I do not remember much now, I know I enjoyed the service which was somewhat different than the traditional Catholic Mass at that time. Our perspectives widen when we explore and experience other ways to believe and practice.
In my lifetime, especially in the last six years, I have truly gained insight from attending spiritual services of various beliefs – Buddhist, Episcopal, Catholic, Baha’i, Sufi, renegade Catholic, etc. I have found value in each of them.
Being around children and/or raising children can awaken us from our comfort zones. Children ask questions that many adults avoid. Young people often times state the obvious that is being ignored. As adults, we are challenged to answer these children in a beneficial manner.
Many people shy away from leaving their comfort zones even when the benefits may be obvious. Recently I had an unexpected, rewarding, and pleasant encounter with an individual. The relationship with this person started off rocky. Our differences are obvious. One day she told me she truly appreciated me. The genuineness in her body language, tone of voice, and words showed. I responded, without thought, that I appreciated her and listed several reasons. She said I made her day, then changed it to longer! The next encounter with her after that positive exchange was a bit uncomfortable in a good way though. Vulnerability works that way sometimes. These positive comments exchanged between us benefitted our on-going relationship. Sure, we still have differences that may not change. We do, though, have a mutual respect which forms a foundation for further conversations.
There are times we hesitate to have a heart-to-heart conversation with a loved one because we are afraid to rock the boat. It may be awkward to introduce a topic of concern or importance to us. How will the person receive what you want to share? Once again, these one-to-one deep conversations mean swaying out of your comfort zone. I have discovered on my path that a true relationship based on love becomes stronger when topics of concern or importance can be addressed. Even if there is not agreement, further understanding and a deeper love may follow.
The willingness and ability to leave one’s comfort zone entitles us to stretch and grow. As a life coach, I will encourage you do so … to explore … to feel one’s discomfort and still move forward in one’s life. I highly recommend following one of my suggestions above or thinking of your own ways to experiment leaving your comfort zone. Be aware of what you feel and how deeply you feel those emotions. Does a sense of self-satisfaction follow? Do you discover you can go further and do more than you had believed? The excitement of trying something new or doing something again that made you feel dis-ease or uncomfortable can flow into other aspects of your life. Even if you do your best and your best did not seem so great, so what? You did it!
Taking the small risks helps you tackle the bigger challenges of life whether on a physical, material, relational, or spiritual level. We all have our comfort zones in all areas and aspects of our lives. Where do you want to be in your life? How do you want to be?