The road to Awareness leads outside our Comfort Zone

YAYOM is about awareness. Increasing the awareness of our thoughts and actions can allow us to recognize the freedom we have to alter them. There are many ways to increase our awareness. One of the most interesting, in my not so humble view, is linked to our comfort zone.

We all have a comfort zone. Or several even. It’s the area(s) in life in which we move in a relaxed way, where predictability is high, allowing us to function on autopilot most of the time. A comfort zone can take on many forms: physical, emotional, behavioral, intellectual, ideological and probably many more.

Predictability is key

Would a crystal ball help gain comfort?

Examples of comfort zones are picking the same dish every time in the restaurant, going to the same holiday destinations every year, reading only fantasy novels, wearing the same type or color of pullovers, consuming the same news media, facing people with the same political opinion and so on.

 

Comfort zones are marked by our habits and mantras.

As stated above, predictability is probably key in determining our comfort zone. That predictability goes both ways: how will the environment respond to me and how will I respond to the environment. There is, by the way, nothing wrong with comfort zones. Predictability is not only key to comfort zones, but also to survival in a world full of predators.

Comfy ≠ happy

YAYOM - Comfort Zone graph
The higher the predictability, the higher our comfort.

But being comfortable is not necessarily equal to being happy. How many people aren’t there that hate their job, but are reluctant to quit it because of all the comfort it entails? Or people who feel frustrated in their marriage, but hang on for the (financial, sexual, educational,…) comfort? Or people who’d like to lose weight, but are afraid of showing their (self-imagined or real) fat ass in the gym?

In the wild, stepping out of your comfort zone means exposing yourself to life threatening dangers, or maybe not, but you don’t know as predictability drops to almost zero. Outside your comfort zone, you can no longer be certain whether your habits and mantras will have the same desired effect. Even for us, who do not live in the wild, leaving our comfort zone can trigger anxiety in its many possible forms.

Go outside

For YAYOM, however, stepping outside our comfort zone is a useful tool for increasing our awareness. As said, outside the comfort zone, our autopilot can no longer be relied on. How do I react to an environment unknown to me? What do I feel when breaking the pattern of everyday by doing something unusual?

Going outside our comfort zone can take on many forms. For me it would be no coffee all day long, for others it could be no mobile phone all day long. For the solo traveler in me, it would be traveling with friends, a fright triggering idea. For many of us it would be starting your own business. Migrating is a very literal form of moving outside your comfort zone.

Expand your comfort zone

But leaving your comfort zone does not only sharpen your awareness of your own habits and of our fear for the unpredictable, it also helps to shed some light on things you may not have considered before. In other words, it can teach you that your fear wasn’t necessary. In still other words: it shows us that our comfort zone could be much bigger than it is today.

Some people make it a sport to do something outside their comfort zone regularly. Not because they are not afraid of the unknown, but because they like the feeling of overcoming that fear, because trust that nothing really bad will come from it, because they want to make themselves stronger and more confident.

Monitor yourself

You can do that too. It doesn’t have to be something big. If you are a coffee machine like I am, you could try to survive a day without. As the day passes, you monitor yourself, your actions, reactions and thoughts. Maybe you’ll find you’re not thinking about coffee at all. Or maybe you do think about it, but apply strategies that prevent you from drinking coffee (like drinking water instead). Maybe you find yourself walking to the coffee machine without you even being aware of it until you almost press that button. It happened to me several times!

YAYOM - Comfort Zone Monitor

Be aware that you can apply the whole comfort zone idea on yourself too. Maybe you think some things in life are not for you, like having a BMW or being eloquent or having a partner. Allowing yourself to imagine the owner of a BMW, eloquent or deeply in love would mean a huge step outside your comfort zone, as many of us already would reject the mere idea.

Allowing yourself to think things your mind would automatically reject, is a form of stepping our of your comfort zone.

Go further… or go back

But what is the true benefit of stepping outside your comfort zone? I already mentioned awareness. You will become more aware of your autopilot functions. But there is more. Leaving your comfort zone will show you that change is possible, that you are not determined to stay where you are now and that it is you who has both the power and the freedom to make that change.

And last but not least there is this one truth about comfort zones that I want to share with you. As the captain of your ship, as the creator of your path, you are at all times free, not only to leave your comfort zone, but also to run back into it if you don’t like what you find outside it. After all, you are your own master.

Next Wednesday I’ll give a personal example of a time I stepped outside my comfort zone.


Recognize yourself? Have you challenged your comfort zone lately? How did it go? What did you do? Want to share it? I’ll be happy to be inspired. Do it here or on Facebook.

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