I don’t like to be out of my comfort zone, which is about a half an inch wide.
Most people live their lives inside fairly well-defined boundaries. They determine the scope of their comfort zone and rarely choose to stray beyond those borders. And as people age, their comfort zone tends to shrink: they stop trying new things and spend more and more time on those activities that are the most familiar and comfortable.
Unfortunately, you can’t grow as a person when you’re maintaining the status quo. Growth only comes through challenges and change – conditions that don’t exist in a carefully guarded sphere of comfort. It’s also more difficult to feel happy and fulfilled when you’re stuck in the same patterns. Research has shown that the more often you repeat an experience, the less joy you derive from it; it’s by exploring the new and unfamiliar that we discover new pleasures.
A big leap beyond your normal boundaries can be invigorating and exhilarating, but it can also be frightening and intimidating. For most people, it’s easier to take things slowly, expanding their reach a little at a time through minor changes to the routine.
You can gradually begin to stretch your comfort zone with small, seemingly insignificant changes: trying a new food or drink, going to a new store, listening to a different type of music, or reading a book outside your usual genre. Starting with these little changes will help desensitize you to the discomfort of doing something unfamiliar; you may even find the process exciting and energizing.
In time, these experiences will become familiar enough that you’ll be ready to do something bigger: trying a different haircut or clothing style, adopting a new hobby, or meeting new people. Each fresh experience will stretch your comfort zone a bit farther and help you grow. Eventually, you might be ready to do something that’s currently too daunting to consider: travel to another state or country; take a solo vacation; pursue a creative goal; even change jobs or careers.
If you want to get the most enjoyment out of life, you need to look beyond your carefully cultivated routine. Each little step outside your comfort zone will fuel the next; keep going and one day you’ll have a life you never dreamed possible.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
Neale Donald Walsch
Copyright © 2015 John Chancellor and Cheryl Chancellor