Many of us lead comfortable lives. We have shelter, are well fed, we have jobs that we are good at, and a close group of friends. In our spare time we tend to follow the same routine and do the same things. Over time we find things that we enjoy that take up the smallest amount of effort and mental energy. We feel safe and life feels predictable.
This is not a bad way to live. Comfortable is good in many ways. With busy lives, it is important to preserve mental energy and simplify our lives. Otherwise, we become too many things to too many people and our quality of life becomes diminished.
What’s the problem then?
The problem with comfort is it limits our ability to move forward in our lives. In fact, it could even result in us moving backwards.
If we are in the comfort zone it stunts our opportunities to learn and grow. How can we if we are doing the same things day in and day out? If we are unwilling to learn and grow we could move backwards in our lives or jobs. If we become comfortable with an unhealthy lifestyle we may slowly gain weight and experience health problems. If we become too comfortable at work we may not react very well to change and get left behind. In other words, if we aren’t moving forward we are moving backwards, because everything else around is moving forward.
Being too comfortable also causes a lack of purpose. Most successful people are that way because they have plenty of drive and are extremely energetic. On the other hand, unsuccessful people tend to lack the drive and are much less energetic. They tend to be more negative. This is because they have become too comfortable and not willing to make changes. As a result, they start to resent people who have been more proactive in changing their life situation. Have you ever read the comments section of a news article from a young person that successfully purchased a house, or maybe retired early? These articles really bring out so much negativity from people, most likely because it makes their situation not look as good. They attack the successful people or make excuses as to why they can’t be as successful, in order to make themselves feel better about their decisions. Being negative and complaining about our circumstances won’t help anything. We must be more proactive with our own lives.
I find comfortable boring. I couldn’t think of much worse than doing the same thing day in day out for years. I am constantly reading and learning, looking for ways to broaden my experiences. We should be looking for new experiences that add excitement to our lives. If I didn’t go outside of my comfort zone I never would have got married, had children, started a business, or gone back to school to study. All these things have added so much value to my life, and I would be bored if I didn’t take these risks. I would still be single, at my old job that I didn’t enjoy and not learning anything new.
Comfortable leads to missed opportunities. Yes, some people do get lucky in life, but they still need to take it with both hands. If you are comfortable you may experience your own luck and not even realise it to take advantage. If you don’t see the opportunity in front of your own eyes, luck will pass you by on to the next person.
In Montgomery USA, lived Claudette Colvin, an African American woman. In 1955 she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. She was arrested for her stance. Later, the courts deemed the segregated bus system in Montgomery was unconstitutional and abolished this practice. She was only 15 years old at the time. If Claudette didn’t take a risk and step out of her comfort zone, then African Americans may have been giving up their bus seats to white people for a period longer than they did.
If discomfort is so good why don’t we all seek discomfort?
Because it is hard. We like easy. Learning new skills and discomfort takes time and effort to figure things out. Many of us can’t wait until later to experience pleasure. We want it now. We want comfort.
What can we do about it?
To grow as individuals and move forward in our lies we do need some discomfort. Yes, it can be hard and time consuming but the rewards are worthwhile. Here are a few tips to getting out of the comfort zone:
Deliberately seek things that make you uncomfortable. If you are afraid of public speaking, look to join toastmasters or a public speaking course. If you are afraid of dogs, look to spend more time with trustworthy dogs.
Choose things you wouldn’t normally choose. If you normally read books on history, go and read a book on something you would never normally choose such as modern science. You never know what you may learn. Take a different route to work. Try different foods.
Be positive. There will be many things we try that don’t work out and we may fail several times. This shouldn’t stop us from ever trying new things. Don’t fear change because of the risk of failure. If we keep learning from our mistakes then we will get better. I applied for 15 jobs before I got my last one. I didn’t give up after just the first 5 rejections.
Say no to the boredom of habituation. Habits are great but can lead to boredom. Realise that you have habits in all areas of your life and shake them up every now and then. Proactively seek new and exciting challenges that are not part of your current make up.
Don’t get too comfortable. We shouldn’t be satisfied with too much comfort. Too much comfort will result in always taking the easy options. This will often lead to a lack of progress in our health, wealth and happiness.
What are the benefits of being uncomfortable then?
So, what are we getting in exchange for our feelings of anxiousness by stepping out of the comfort zone? There must be a payoff to the pain right?
You’ll lead a more balanced life. By stepping outside of our comfort zones we will learn a broad range of things and skills which will make us a more well rounded person.
You’ll find it easier to cope with change and uncertainty. Changes to our lives happen whether we like it or not. It is outside our control. By training ourselves to embrace change and uncertainty in a controlled and managed way we are better equipped to handle change when it is outside of our control.
You’ll be more productive. Instead of sitting in front of the TV or jumping on Facebook, you will be learning new skills and enjoying new experiences. Maybe a new language, or a musical instrument.
You will be more passionate and excited about life. Once we get past the initial fear and unwillingness, we get more of a zest for life when we are doing something different.
You will get better results. By doing things that are difficult, challenging, and somewhat uncomfortable, we will achieve more than we would have if we sat on our laurels. By exercising when we don’t feel like it we get healthy and an adrenaline rush. By taking the time to learn about the stock market we will get better results with our money. By accepting difficult work assignments we will get better job prospects.
The comfort zone is neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s really just our ‘home’ point. The place we always return to. But as with anything, too much is not ideal. Too much comfort can be boring and restrictive. Too much discomfort can be off putting and too anxiety producing. Changes should be made slowly so that we aren’t too discouraged by feelings of anxiousness and failure. Otherwise we may never try to step outside our comfort zones again.
As we age, we tend to get more comfortable and set in our ways. It is harder to step outside than when we were kids. This should not be an excuse not to try new things though.
Because our comfort zone is our home point, we should always bring back our experiences from the place of discomfort. Only from discomfort can we grow. Each time we come back home with a new skill or learnings, our home grows and is a little less boring. I like being at home as much as the next person, but we should venture out every now and again. Who knows what nuggets we may find and bring back with us.
The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here
Comment below. What challenges do you face when stepping outside your comfort zone? What rewards have you experienced from doing so?