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Escaping the Comfort Zone – the comfort zone is not about comfort – it’s about safety and predictabil­ity.


In This Moment

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comfort zone

Comfort zones….. sounds… well… comfort­ing, eh? I don’t think so!

Most of us spend much of our energy trying to find, enter, and stay in the comfort zone. And it’s odd what some of those zones look like.

  1. A client has been married for 12 years. She’s been unhappy for 10. She stays because the compli­ca­tions she’s created to leav­ing outweigh her sadness.  She’s comfort­able in her discom­fort.
  2. Another had a rela­tion­ship break­down 18 months ago. After griev­ing, she decided to start dating. Except, all her dates were with guys she picked up in bars. Lots of sex, no rela­tion­ship. Rather than look at her locale choices, while acknowl­edg­ing how much she likes sex,  she sighs and says, “I’m comfort­able being alone.”
  3. Another has had a series of body pain issues. It’s related to her tension around her parents. In Bodywork, the pain lets go. I suggest she work on her parent issues. She says, “I’m much better with them. I need to figure out the mechan­ics of why I keep hurt­ing myself, and curtail more activ­i­ties.” Her comfort zone is her ever – shrink­ing world of phys­i­cal activ­ity.
  4. I have a belief that I’m not great with foreign languages. Goes back to hating German classes in High School in the 60s. I’ve been work­ing on Spanish for almost a decade, and I can make myself under­stood in restau­rants, hotels, etc. Conversation? Not so much. I lately have been saying, “Maybe we should go to Belize. They speak English there.”  I’m comfort­able find­ing excuses for not becom­ing fluent in Spanish.

Here’s the thing: a comfort zone is always about the past.

caught in the pastWhen I worked on myself last, I didn’t have a beard…

Think about it. In the past, the “where you are and who you are” was differ­ent. There were things you liked, things you didn’t like, and you shifted and changed things, and ended up with a story that worked for you. Back then, you bumped your nose, and you did some­thing differ­ent, until you stopped and gave in.

Believe this: how you are right now, unless you are rigourously working on yourself, is your comfort zone.

If you are complain­ing that you hate some aspect of your life, and are not moving heaven and earth to do things differ­ently, then you are stuck in your comfort zone. If you sigh and blame others, you are stuck. You have accepted the status quo.

We call them comfort zones because they are comfortable

It’s easy to believe that complain­ing is the same as acting. It’s easy to think that blam­ing exter­nals is the same thing as work­ing on an issue. It’s easy to think that “The way I am is the way I am,” and use that as an excuse to go to Belize.

It’s much harder to challenge ourselves

In case 2, above, my client says, “Changing this is hard. Looking at myself is hard. I’d rather be alone.”

Another client: “I’ve been with him for 8 years, and shut down half of my person­al­ity at his behest. And he still doesn’t treat me with respect. Now, he’s dumped me. I wonder what I have to do to get him to take me back. After all, I’ve been with him for 8 years…”

Change is hard, until it isn’t

Somehow, in yoga, I messed up my SI joint. I waited a year to do anything to fix it, other than seeing a chiro­prac­tor. My hip was slung way over to the right, and hurt 24 / 7. I thought, “Well, I’m getting old, and this is how it is.”

Comfort in pain.

A client recom­mended her phys­io­ther­a­pist. I went. Painful exer­cises and manip­u­la­tion. 3 months later (still doing the stretches,) I’m 80% back to “normal.” Acceptance is not neces­sar­ily the best choice.

This is how all of this works.

waiting for things to changeWaiting for things to change

Because we resist hard work, we accept pain. “Better the devil you know…” We call this our comfort zone. Outside of the comfort zone, is the grow­ing edge. Like with a cut. The grow­ing edge is where the pain, the itch, the swelling, is. The wound heals right at the grow­ing edge.

Many clients walk right up to it, freak out, and back away. The stories come up, “Can’t go there, do that, shift that, accept that — and work with it… nope — no way. What will people think? Is it OK to do that? Will leav­ing scar my kids? What happens if I put myself out there — in the discomfort zone?”

Heads tuck back in, life passes by, and… you’re dead.

We suggest pushing through

What I’m saying is being in your comfort zone is always about being caught in the past. Caught in the moment when you broke out of your last comfort zone. You breathed a sigh of relief, and decided to bask in comfort. So far, no issue.

And then, you noticed a nudge, a tremor, a hitch… and you decided to suck it up. To accept. To put up with. To focus on other things. And you moved into the comfort zone. You decided to find a way to distract your­self from the pain… drugs, booze, TV, busy-work. Whatever.

Instead, you could see the “itch” as a growing edge, and do whatever you can to nurture it, experiment with it, to work through the issue.

Not easy, not comfortable, but, I think, better than endlessly floating in a comfort zone that might better be described as a prison of your own making.

Over the next week or two, some ideas about “prison breaks.”


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So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

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