Archive for November 4th, 2007

I’m out of my Comfort Zone here…

Posted on November 4, 2007. Filed under: Culture, Spirituality |

Is this a cultural thing?–I’d really like to know. In my particular culture, people are constantly admonished to “get out of your comfort zone.” “Push past your boundaries,” we’re told. And I like this one: “Exceed your limits.” –um, wouldn’t that be contrary to the definition of “limits”? Sometimes it’s put this way: “Don’t let your limitations hold you back.” –so, now I’m supposed to assume I “have” limitations imposed from outside, therefore seemingly unchangeable, but once I acknowledge this, I must refuse to accept their power.

I’m a little confused. I won’t address all these phrases, much, but the first one keeps coming up in literature of the “self-help psychology” variety–at least that which I read. So, I must ask, “Why”? Why should I leave my comfort zone? It’s called that for a reason, isn’t it? It’s…let me see if I can dredge up the word for this “zone”…ah, yes, its comfortable! Isn’t that a clue right there? Why would I want to get out of such a zone as that? The reason I think it may be partly a cultural question is because of the Puritan ethic still prevalent in my culture. Anything too comfortable or fun is looked upon suspiciously as not holy, necessary or true. “Work hard! Put your nose to the grindstone!” Ouch!

I typed the words “comfort zone” into a search engine to find out why I should “stretch” such zone. I’m given the following “reasons”:

...stretch your comfort zone and expand your opportunities. Shake off your inhibitions and move forward with life! The “reason” here, is, apparently to “move forward with life”. My comment: Is there any way not to move forward? And how, exactly, am I supposed to “shake off my limitations”?

...move forward, through awkwardness, discomfort and anxiety until such feelings subside. And when that happens, a new experience is achieved. Here, the reason is “so a new experience will be achieved”. Again, every moment is new, is it not? I might say that living in a cave, and eating the same meal day after day might not bring on new experiences. But, first of all, not many of us are willing to do that. Also, even if we did, we’re bound to notice a new bug or something, and have a new experience observing it. Finally, it’s widely reported that people who spend a great deal of time alone, meditating, or even just “being” often have profound spiritual awakenings. That would be something new.

…get off your butt and try something outside your comfort zone… Well ,this is not a reason, but just a restatement of what I’m told to do. It assumes I’m on my butt in the first place, and even if so (it’s a nice place to be sometimes), why is that unacceptable?

My thoughts include the notion that the term “comfort zone” is often misused in the popular media. I think what the psychology folks really mean here is “habit” or “inertia” or “rut”. If we were feeling oppressed by any of these, we would not be comfortable, would we? It is at the moment when our comfort zone begins to feel uncomfortable that we look for ways to feel better. Some teachers then advise us to get in touch with our fear, “and do it anyway!” Pardon me, but I think this is terrible advice. Unless one is extremely pressed for time, i.e. a charging tiger is rapidly coming towards one, I think it’s a much better idea to look at the fear, and release it, therefore making room for our true desires to come forth.

In thinking through these ideas, I was startled to discover myself challenging the assumptions of a cherished self-help and new thought mantra: “If you keep doing the same things, you’ll keep getting the same results”. Put a slightly less complimentary way, I’ve also heard: “Insanity is doing the same things expecting different results”. Well, yes…on the surface. But these sayings assume what needs to be done is to go out there and “DO” something different–whether it’s scary or not, or uncomfortable or not, or many other things…or not. I keep learning and feeling that it matters so much less what we “do”, than what we think and feel. It’s at that level that any change we are wanting takes place. If we trust that, the action follows naturally.

My advice to myself, and anyone else who wants to take it, is: “Be as comfortable as possible! Do whatever it takes to revel in comfort!” Contrary to what the title of this post might suggest, I’m not out of my comfort zone in writing it.

Get it the Zone! The Comfort Zone! Woo-hoo!

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