Earlier this week I was talking to a friend and I mentioned that I LOVED staying in my comfort zone, and it’s true. The difference is in how I have chosen to define “comfort zone” and that’s what I’d like to explain in this post.
What do you think of when you think of a comfort zone? Do you think of a warm bed, a hot shower, relaxing and taking it easy? Well, all those things are comfortable for sure, but maybe not the entirety of what we would call a comfort zone. A comfort zone, in its most common understanding, is an environment or situation that brings comfort, specifically to our subconscious. It could accurately be identified as something familiar, that tends to lend itself to reinforcing our confidence and our view of the world with minimal effort/discomfort from us. An excellent example of this is a job we have been doing for a long time and are so proficient at that we could almost do it in our sleep or a relationship that we have been in for a period of time. It doesn’t necessarily matter if we enjoy it consciously, as long as it is familiar to our subconscious it is within our “comfort zone”.
Now, does the term Comfort Zone sound similar to anything else? Does it sound similar perhaps to… Habit? A good while ago, I heard the phrase, “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable”. I don’t recall who said it but at the time I thought it was a very ironic catchphrase. It sounded good but really didn’t make sense. I mean, it was a clear oxymoron to me. If it you got comfortable with something, it was by default, NOT uncomfortable. Yep, that’s right, I was totally missing the point. Now, I don’t know if this was the authors intended interpretation or not but here is how I have come to understand it…
A comfort zone’s only real requirement is that it is familiar to your subconscious. If you frame it this way, as I have, it is incredibly similar to habits. A habit as I define it, is a behavior or routine that you do so consistently, it “feels” wrong when you don’t do it. That’s why creating new habits is often so challenging. In order to develop a new habit you have to go against an old one. The most common example of this is eating habits. This goes a little deeper because unlike some habits, not only are we attempting to change our mental thoughts around the food we eat, but the foods we eat also genuinely affect the chemistry in our bodies, so we are working to adjust both our mental AND physical habits, such as transitioning away from sugars, or trying to go Keto. We mentally think of sweets and carbs as fuel and pleasurable, and our bodies agree. Physiologically, our bodies naturally crave simple sugars and carbohydrates. But as we persevere, our opinions on sugars alter and our belief that they are bad or harmful is reinforced through our consistent mental statements to eradicate them from our diet. At the same time, our bodies are also recalibrating to the new food sources and how to process them for energy. It isn’t until we have been doing this long enough that we no longer struggle to avoid those sweets, and that our bodies no longer expect and crave them. THAT is the point at which something ACTUALLY becomes a HABIT. That, is the point where it becomes so familiar to us that it is now our default state, our comfortable state. It is the point at which that healthy eating becomes part of our Comfort Zone. So, what if we created a Habit of challenging ourselves? The same thing happens. Eventually, we become so accustomed to starting new habits, or challenging the way we are, that that behavior becomes the Norm! While there will still be discomfort as we train ourselves to do new things, we have become comfortable with change, and the discomfort. It becomes something that our subconscious simply accepts rather than rebels against as new and frightening.
So what do you want your new “Comfort Zone” to be? What new habits do you want to form in your life? Wouldn’t it be nice if when you decided to try something new, if your brain said, “OK!” instead of the little voice saying “I don’t think we should do this.” I sure think it is.