Staring Down The Discomfort Zone


Here’s the thing. How many times have I excused my own bad behavior, saying “I can’t (blank) because it’s outside my comfort zone”? How many times have I overstated the importance of something I’ve done, with a self-laudatory proclamation that “it was outside of my comfort zone”?

As I’ve tried new avenues for finding work, met new people in new places and with varying degrees of success (i.e., had a great time, still no job), I’ve been reflecting a lot about what I now see as the myth of the comfort zone. And all this time I was allowing myself to believe that I was taking care of myself! Oh, I was “taking care” of myself alright…walling myself in, cutting myself off, wallowing in inaction…all in the name of comfort!

So. Why a myth?

Consider the comfort zone to be the comfortable and familiar place you inhabit emotionally and physically. Then think about your experience. Ask yourself—and answer honestly—am I happy in this space? All the time? Some of the time?

If in your answer you admit to having moderate to high levels of unhappiness in your so-called comfort zone, ask yourself why you call an uncomfortable place a comfort zone.

What delivers comfort? Familiarity? Happiness? Satisfaction? Adventure? Peace? How much of that are you getting in your “comfort zone”?

Or is your comfort zone really a thick-walled box that you simply have no idea how to break out of?

If that’s the case, then right now is the perfect time to think about perspective. How we look at things influences our behaviors, attitudes, and choices…and it also has far-reaching impacts on people we come into contact with. The comfort zone is no exception.

I’ve decided that I’m going to look at my life and my actions as I have illustrated it above. There is no comfort zone. Rather there is a discomfort zone, a space of varying size between the known and the unknown. And we reflect the dark and shadowy space between onto the unknown, and view that as equally dark and shadowy, thus scary. And maybe the zone appears in different ways at different times…deep chasm, high walls, raging river…in any case it’s up to me to stare down the discomfort zone, to figure out how to get myself across the space between, to get to know the unknown…to open my mind and my heart to new things, to new challenges…to view my mastery of the discomfort zone as ongoing personal growth. To continue to leap across these zones, to scamper up over them, to crawl through them, to push them down…or, in some cases, to bang my head against them, repeatedly…

So forget about your comfort zone. Stop using is at an excuse for inaction or to overinflate your sense of accomplishment. Instead create and execute strategies for navigating the discomfort zone, to open yourself up to new things, new places, new people, new horizons, new heights to soar…new ways and new places to be the you that only you can be!



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