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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23 Responses to “I’m out of my Comfort Zone here…”

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i’m with you on this! i feel like people are always wanting more out of everything and themselves. while that’s not a bad thing, but sometimes it can be too much!

i love my comfort zone, i appreciate the cushy-ness of it, i enjoy being comfy!

Thanks, sulz! Yay, another vote for cushy-ness! I like that word cushy–mmmm.

i’d say it’s good for me to be out of the comfort zone once in a while. otherwise my life becomes bo-o-o-o-o-o-o-riiiing! 😦

but i wouldn’t dream of trading my comfort zone with any amount of newness ever! no matter how fulfilled i can be in future because of that! i just wouldn’t survive the process! there are limits to how much i can stretch……i don’t want to pull a mental muscle! ouch!!:D

NG! I agree, going out of the zone is great sometimes, to stir things up. It’s just that constant striving and pushing that seems more stressful than helpful to me. Now I need to go put a mental ice pack on my mental muscle.

Muse, I like your post. My initial reaction is to say that I agree with the self-help books, that would be until I read “Loving What Is” which talks about accepting reality in every moment. I think so few people truly accept their current moment. THAT, to me, is the message we should all be learning. When you’re comfortable where you are and you’re free from fear, you can make a conscious choice to change your circumstances WITHOUT fear. Maybe these self help books should teach people how to be ok with their comfort zone before they ask us to step outside it. πŸ™‚

Great comment, Felipe, particularly the last sentence! Thank you.

Hummm… good post that require some thinking…My perception right now about get out of my ”comfort zone” will be more about acknowledging my fear and then doing something about it in order to get some positive outcomes….I spent a couple of years being so comfortable within my self zone that I was going in circle…So, in my case, I really have to ”get off mu butt” and find myself a purpose to actually get a more cozy life… This being said…I want to get out enough not to be resting on my laurels but not getting out too much either to not being myself no more…

I do the same thing most days. I place a post on my blog. According to self-help, I’ll never advance by doing this. But with each post I gain more visitors, expand my reach, by doing the same thing every day.
I have a theory about self-help counsellors – they invent mantras to con us, and help themselves.

I laughed out loud! Challenging the accepted buzz of the day while sitting in your comfort zone. (-; Great post!

So many ways to look at this. But basically…if a person wants to take on a new adventure and some of that involves shaking up things that feel comfortable (read: safe) – great. Odds are there are things they aren’t all that comfortable with if they need to make changes. But if you find peace where you are, then no one else’s idea of what’s right for you should matter.

Quick story: I have a cousin whose stay-at-home very-routine life always seemed so dull to me. It took a while before she got it through my thick “but-don’t you want more excitement?” head that she worked hard to get her life exactly to the place it was/is and she loves it that way. And there I was judging her many “comfort zones” with my own eyes and values. Tsk Tsk. A hard lesson for me. I guess I finally got comfortable with it! -;

Colourful: I like what you say about not resting on your laurels! That’s a great point because we often will rely on a big accomplishment to give us energy for the rest of our days. I certainly wouldn’t want to continue on doing the same things if they didn’t feel new and fresh! Great insight that “getting off butt” for you resulted in a cozier life!

Anthony: Wow. Your comment made me realize that some self help books actually encourage dogged persistence, along the lines of what you said, putting a post on your blog every day. This is the way to achieve those goals, after all, one step at a time. But, I imagine this feels fresh for you most days? And, are you comfortable with that? πŸ™‚ I’d like to believe most self-help authors mean well…

Ronnie Ann, I’m giggling back atcha. Your comment was also most provocative in that you reminded me that many of those books equate “comfortable” with “safe”. I’m sure we’d all like to feel safe most of the time, and sometimes getting too complacent (another word!) can start to feel unsafe, too. I may have a fear “I’ll end up just like your cousin!” –Oh, no! And that fear wouldn’t feel very comfortable. Great story, and I applaud you for looking beyond your own parameters to realize her life is right for her. And very insightful that you noticed she worked hard to get there! I might not think this about a similar situation, so I’m re-evaluating my judgment (yet again!), so thanks. I know for me, family members are great mirrors both for what I want, and what I don’t so much.

I’ve always thought “exceed your limits” is an oxymoron, so I’m glad someone agrees with me! πŸ™‚ I can see a benefit to pushing outside of your comfort zone; if I’m not testing myself, then I’m not really going to learn about other influences or create new opportunities. I suppose an example would be dating; if I’m going to the same bars and functions all the time, then in a way I’m limiting my chances of meeting someone new, or just finding excitement in exploring something different.

But I don’t like being forced out of my comfort zone either. It’s not just that it’s comfortable and safe, I don’t think by staying in my zone that I’m really limiting myself that much. I have my routine that works for me; I work, write for several hours, blog. I’m meeting new and different people every day, and exploring different thoughts in my work. I mean, would you advise someone who has a secure job to change it because it’s too comfortable after 6 months, when you don’t know if they’d be able to find another?

I like to think of my comfort zone as a window. While it’s closed, it’s nice and warm and I’m comfortable; but every now and then I like to open it to get some fresh air and see what’s happening outside… ok, bad analogy! But you get the idea. πŸ˜‰

cj, thanks for your always insightful take on things. I have a few questions. First you see “a benefit to pushing outside of your comfort zone.” I have no quarrel with stepping outside the comfort zone sometimes, it’s just the “pushing” I question. Let’s say I’m all snuggly in bed on a cool winter morning, (probably hard to imagine in Aus right now!) and it’s a day I can sleep in if I want to. No matter how comfy-cozy I am, I, on most days, will eventually tire of just lying there, and will want to get up to do something different. If my life is generally going well (i.e. not depressed or ill, or sleepy) I won’t feel the need to push myself to get out of bed. I’ll just be ready for the next adventure. Personally, I feel that we’d do well to trust that sense of “ready” in life. You also say…”if I’m not testing myself…” –I must admit I’m not sure what you mean by testing yourself. Do you mean testing your limits to determine if they’re real? If, so, I’d agree that this would be useful. If you mean, though, that you are measuring yourself against some pre-determined level of courage, I might take issue. But I won’ put words in your mouth πŸ™‚
Your routine sounds somewhat like what Anthony describes in his comment here. You work, you write, you blog. I’m sure you do many other things, but that’s the basic routine, right? My life is a bit chaotic at the moment–perhaps that’s why I felt the need to write this post! Your routine sounds peaceful and comforting to me. I’m not complaining at all, I’m doing what I want to do. I’m just thinking perhaps I’ll rearrange my priorities a bit.
Finally, I actually like your analogy of the window very much! Opening it and letting the fresh air blow away the cobwebs is just what’s needed at times. As always, I appreciate your comments and the thought you put into them.

I suspect I don’t have a comfort zone. I like being comfortable now and then, but for the rest I like to be out on the edge, walking the razor’s edge between taking a calculated risk and being foolhardy.

I don’t push myself out there, it’s just where I live. There’s a clearness of vision, a sense of focus, a more vibrant smell (probably the pig s***), a clarity of thought and an absence of cultural fog in my zone.

Sorry, that was a bit of a slip of the keyboard about “pushing”. I meant it in the same manner as you mean “step”; I’ve heard both used over here quite a bit, and I tend to chop and change between them more than I should. Sorry for the confusion. πŸ™‚ I agree, though, stepping out of your comfort zone is really about choosing your time, not having it forced on you by what other people think. For me, if things are going well, then I don’t feel the need to as much; and when I do choose to do something different, it’s because I want to, so I enjoy it rather than resent it. πŸ˜‰

By testing myself I mean stretching myself; I want to evaluate my boundaries to see if I can push further or past them. An example would be if I’m writing something and I decide to try a different genre, or write with a different voice; I’m extending myself and I enjoy the challenge, but I’m not measuring myself against it. Sometimes I find it’s too much for me, but that I can come back with more experience later and succeed, and my limits get pushed back again. So it’s a learning process, and I think that’s what stepping out of your comfort zone is all about.

Glad you liked the analogy, though, Muse! I wasn’t sure if I was describing being in a comfort zone or maybe more holding back (which wasn’t what I meant), so I’m glad it made sense. πŸ™‚ My routine is fairly peaceful, but it helps that a lot of my activities are things I can do at my own pace. Life gets chaotic sometimes, but I trust when it does you can always draw strength from your spectacular view. And your friends around you. That’s what’s important, in the end, isn’t it? πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the great post, and peace to you, always.

“I suspect I don’t have a comfort zone.” Stonehead, knowing you just a wee bit, I can well believe that! Clearness of vision and a sense of focus sound like dreams to me, but I’m happy they are yours. Knowing there are people on the planet like you calms me. What I’ll take into meditation: “absence of cultural fog”. That one requires some contemplation. Thank you.

cj, thanks so much for returning and clarifying the cultural fog surrounding your previous comment! πŸ˜‰ So testing is about challenge, and trying new things to see if they fit for you or give you joy. I can understand that. I am also setting up activities I can do at my own pace. I’m finding the motivation comes from within. Peace to you as well, my friend, and all good things.

Cultural fog is a miasma that blankets the modern Western world and, increasingly, the less developed world as well. It’s a mental state that allows vast numbers of people to shelter in a manufactured and delusional reality sold to them by corporations, government and mass media.

Living within that cocoon, the bulk of people do not have to deal with the harsh realities of finding shelter, food, water and warmth; they do not have to make hard decisions and accept real responsibility for their actions, and they largely avoid real contact with death, corruption and decay – without which life is largely meaningless.

As a result, most people are not active, thoughtful and aware wayfarers through life. They are immersed in banks of cultural fog that cloud their perception, impair their judgement and reduce the meaning of their journey.

Most westerners have a comfortable existence in a relatively safe and sanitised bubble of vanity, self-satisfaction and ease. But do they really see, smell, feel, hear and taste the rich and infinite textures of life?

Personally, I’d rather be at the helm of my own small craft than a passenger on a vast corporate-controlled liner. I like to choose my direction, navigate the shoals, ride out the storms and, if the mood takes me, head into the deep blue.

Friend of Stone, many thanks for coming back and explaining. I would generally agree with your first paragraph.

ΒΆ 2 – I’m with you until the last sentence. I agree that western culture generally does not deal very well with death. I’ve been around death and dying humans quite a bit, and I deplore the way we sanitize and devalue death. I’m unclear how corruption and decay will enhance my life. I believe you mean awareness of them is necessary so I may freely choose how to react? In my view, that is the first step to lessening their power.

ΒΆ 3 – Perhaps so, I will not disagree, although I am not in a position to judge someone else’s journey.

ΒΆ 4 – Yes, the first part describes some elements of my existence fairly well. My answer to your question would be: “Sometimes.” I think many of have a longing for connection. Whether that is to the earth, or a spiritual entity or something else is for each of us to determine. I remember a moving comment by Mr. Spock in the Star Trek episode “The Way to Eden”: “There are some who feel… uncomfortable with what we have created… they hunger for an ‘Eden,’ where spring comes.” The episode resonated with me when I first saw it and still does. Authority vs. rebellion; natural vs. synthetic, etc. Can we each live in a world of our choosing?

ΒΆ 5 – Well, we know by now you’re not a fan of corporate culture, Stoney. Me, neither. I don’t work for “The Man” anymore, and didn’t like it much when I did. My parents were small business owners in a large city, and I’ve always admired the small business ethic. I think there are some who may flourish in large corporations, however, I am as suspicious of some of their motives as you are. I do believe most of us are better off when able to choose for ourselves, which ultimately (and here we may differ) I believe we all really do! If we’re hypnotized, it’s because we’ve invited that in.

I live my life, which includes connection to both suburbia and nature. I don’t raise pigs, but my aunt was a chicken farmer. Does that count?

When I do things that feel risky sometimes, I am more times than not pleasantly surprised. Things I might have thought I was afraid to do, once I did them I was happily rewarded.

That’s it from me today – that along with a long overdue hello and I hope all is well with you. Wishing your peace, love, beauty and comfort in your life today.

~ RS ~

Ruby, it’s great to see you around the neighborhood again, and I’m glad things are going along with you. I do believe what I wrote in my post, but my ideas have been refined, and parameters broadened by insightful commenters such as yourself! This is one of the best things about blogging for me. For instance your comment makes me wonder if by taking the fear away before doing something new makes it less of a challenge, and therefore less of a feeling of accomplishment. There are times when I would think that’s true. I was in a discussion a few days ago about the nature of fear. We came up with three words: fear, excitement, and enthusiasm. It was felt by some that if we can feel the latter two without the fear, we can have the new experiences we seek without over-stressing the body or mind. I’m still processing this one, and you have given me food for thought. Good thoughts and Peace to you.

It’s light and dark. Without dark, you cannot know light. Without light, you cannot know dark.

It’s the same with life and death, growth and decay. The more you remove the ugly side, the more you remove your knowledge and awareness of the beautiful side.

Anyway, that’s enough from me for a while.

LOL! You certainly have an interesting take on things, Muse πŸ™‚ Your brand of comfort-zoning sounds a lot like simply following your joy, eh?

I think the truly joyful comfort zone is yummy too, but I’ve come to learn that we get to stay in the not-so-joyful comfy-zone for only so long, lol πŸ˜‰ And then the “Universe” comes along and throws a monkey wrench into it, ’cause its tired of waiting for us to do something different, lol

Of course, the “Universe” is really us. And yeah, I think our thinking and feeling that we don’t like the way things are, but we’re too fearful to change them, is what catapults that monkey-wrench. We still make it happen, but perhaps it might have been more comfortable if we’d taken the action before the monkey-wrench busted everything up — painful.

In the Tarot, that’s called the Tower card πŸ™‚ It blows to bits that which imprisons us, and often our comfort zone is the prison. But I’m not talking about a joyful comfort zone, but the comfort of our worn out ole patterns — that are really making us miserable, but we’re too scared to change ’em. That’s the “comfort-zone” I think they speak of, not the truly joyful one πŸ™‚

What’s cool is even if we do endure the more painful way via the Tower card energy, things always end up (ultimately) being better for that dramatic change. The Star card follows the Tower card, and the Star card, one of the best cards, is a joyful, hopeful one that speaks of our “wish” coming true. I love the Star card (#17). And very telling that it follows the Tower card (#16).

I think it was Einstein that made the insanity statement. And I think he was a pretty sharp cookie πŸ˜‰ But I’m with you on the truly joyful comfort zone. Joy is good, way good! lol

Hey dove, thanks very much for that feedback, and for helping me to explore this.
For me, these days, if it’s not joyful, it’s not comfortable either, but I have to remember to ask myself the question. In the past, I’ve gotten into ruts and just “assumed” that’s they way things are. I think I would even have “assumed” I was happy, without examining that. So, I surely agree that the “worn-out old patterns” you speak of can sometimes be the ones we’re afraid to change, since they’re such ingrained habits.
Indeed, we are the world…and the universe. I have looked at, and been dealt that Tower card. Whew! major shakeup.

I took another of those online quizzes a while ago, called “What Tarot Card are You?” I don’t have the link at the moment. It said I was the Empress–surprised me somewhat.

I’m very familiar with those “challenging” Tower experiences myself, I’ve known more than my share πŸ˜‰ They are highly growth-ifying, lol

Nah, I’m not good with changing either, most people aren’t. They have to take me outta my miserable “comfy-zone” kicking and screaming πŸ™‚ But that’s the thing. We actually are comfortable in our misery. Because all we seem to care about is familiarity. We like the known. Same parking spot, same chair in class, same spouse, same house…

We are so fearful of change, the “unknown,” that we’ll keep being miserable with a mean ole spouse, a drafty ole house, whatever…as long as it’s familiar, we’re “comfy.” Ya’ know? So the term is very applicable. We just have to keep in mind that we do resist change, even good change. And that’s why challenging ourselves to try something different will sort of shift something in us. Park in a new spot, sit in a different chair… There’s just something about that shift in our energy, it will shift the energy in our life. And we’ll see cool little new things from that. And just little changes like that in our energy can show us our power to change for the better, it helps us to have courage in making bigger changes, and it shows us that change isn’t a “bad” thing πŸ™‚ Hey, they say those who can’t do it, teach, lol πŸ˜‰ I have to remind myself of these things too, I love sitting in the same chair πŸ™‚

Yep, I often get the Empress (or the High Priestess) too with those quizzes. It doesn’t surprise me that you’d be an “Empress” πŸ™‚ The Empress is the comfort-zone personified πŸ˜‰ She’s creativity personified. And she’s very nurturing/loving…in love with nature and animals πŸ™‚

There’s a calculation that you can do on your birthday that will show your “Life Path Number.” That number corresponds with an archetype in the Tarot. We are actually all of the archetypes at different times in our lives, but that number shows us our strongest energy, it hints at what our “purpose” is. I’m wondering if your number is 3 (the Empress). Mine is the 2, High Priestess. Email me your birthday sometime and I’ll calculate it for you.


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