If you are an adult, whether you realize it or not, you have created an invisible bubble around yourself called the comfort zone. We all do. Your comfort zone includes all your activities and preferences, the lifestyle you have created for yourself. It is also linked to your self-concept, what you believe are your strengths and weaknesses, your talents and lacks, your abilities and limitations.
We are all creatures of habit, and we all love order and stability in our lives. We all have the need to make our lives as predictable as possible, and create a sense of regularity, structure, and smooth functioning. We do not like to experience chaos in our lives, nor do we enjoy taking on extreme challenges that threaten our sense of calm and over-stress us. Our personal bubble, our comfort zone takes care of all that, by playing a selective, organizing and protective role.
In order to satisfy the above-mentioned needs, and in connection to our self-concept, we include in our personal bubble our professional or career choices, our hobbies, the kind of friends or people we like to hang out with, our leisure activities, even such mundane things as the kinds of products we buy, or the kinds of meals we prefer.
Soon enough, though, order, stability, regularity, predictability, and structure turn into routine, sameness, rigidity and a sense of constriction and under-stimulation. The very bubble that we ourselves constructed begins to choke us, but often we don’t realize the reason why we feel so stifled in our lives. This is when our comfort zone is no longer working for us. This is when we need to step out of it and create new experiences for ourselves.
So, if you are feeling stuck, stifled, bored, restless and can’t figure out what’s the matter with you, it’s quite possible that you feel the need for change and more challenge and variety in your life and you need to step out of your comfort zone.
To create this sense of change and variety without threatening to disturb your other needs of stability, order, etc., at least in the beginning, you don’t have to take any BIG steps that might intimidate you.
For example, say you you have been faithfully attending the same aerobics class for the past 3-4 years (because you have buddies in that group, because it fits nicely in your schedule, because you like the trainer, etc) but lately you feel just a little less eager and motivated to go to your class. This is a signal that you need to step out of your comfort zone and try something else, like Pilates, or Yoga. I’m sure that as you read this suggestion a lot of “yes, buts” are at the tip of your tongue..Well, that’s the problem, the comfort zone is resistant to change, so you have to override it. You have to break your bubble and step out of it to create variety in your life, to become more stimulated and feel more alive.
If you examine your daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly schedule and habits carefully you will notice that there are things that you ALWAYS do the SAME way. You always go to the movies on Sunday. You always cook roast on Saturday. You always take the same route to work. You always shop at the same supermarket, you always buy the same brand of tea, you always drink coffee in the morning. Sure, these are all elements of your comfort zone, but now they are causing you discomfort!
A good way to encourage yourself to step out of your comfort zone, is to tell yourself that you will do this different thing just for today, just to see how it feels, and then, if you don’t like it, you can go back to your comfortable routine. That way you can appease that part of you that is resistant to and afraid of change. But once you summon enough daring and playfulness in your attitude, you will discover the immense benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone.
So how can you go about exploring what’s outside your comfort zone? What action steps can you take?
- Begin by making the conscious decision to take control of the situation with a positive attitude. Make an inventory of activities that lately you have been doing with less enthusiasm, or have begun to bore you.
- Find ways to make adjustments to these activities or exchange them completely for other activities you might like to try (Bored with your sketching class? Try water-painting. Sick and tired of ceramics? Try photography.)
- Think of hobbies and interests that you have always wanted to take up but you were either too afraid, or too busy, or just put off pursuing and do so now. (It’s not too late to learn how to ride a bicycle! You’re not too old to learn a foreign language! You’re not too stupid to learn how to water-ski!)
- Make small, painless alterations in your daily schedule, in your small everyday choices, (like listening to a different radio station on your way to work, or buying different laundry soap next time you shop).
- Consider changing your haircut, your hairstyle, your aftershave, your style of dressing, the way you usually combine and match your clothes, try new colors, new materials.
- How long has it been since you took a look at your home environment, is it about time to rearrange the furniture in a different way? Add some new stuff? Add some dash and color to your living-room?
Once you begin to focus on change and experimentation, you will begin to make more changes and become more daring to tackle other areas of your life that have become stale and dull. Once you make the conscious effort to step out of your comfort zone, you will experience such joy, excitement and elation that you will become more and more playful and adventurous, and before you know it you can have a brand new life. A brand new, refreshing and invigorating comfort zone.
It’s a promise!
Copyright © 2009 Ismini Apostoli