In the interests of full disclosure, you should know I am the sworn enemy of comfort zones.
I have met so many people, packed full of potential and talent, anchored to the ground forever, because of their stubborn refusal to be - or their unacknowledged fear of ever being - uncomfortable.
You may have heard their justifications for not daring to risk, not daring to be, or not daring to do? It usually follows the line of: "Life's too short!", "Live for today and tomorrow will take care of itself", "Life is for living" - or some variation thereof. Whilst I entirely agree with the premise that life is for living, and is indeed too short, these statements are nothing more than blanket forts for those unwilling to strive for success, or to ever be inconvenienced and uncomfortable. Their comfort is of paramount importance to them, which is fine, it's their life after all.
BLANKET FORT DWELLERS DARE NOT
For those of us seeking more out of life however, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As the wise old saying goes: To be where you've never been before, you have to push yourself further than you've ever been before, and this process is uncomfortable. The not knowing, the unfamiliarity, the unpredictability is too much to bear for the Blanket Fort Dwellers. Only the strong and the brave dare to march forth on the road less travelled.
What the Blanket Fort Dwellers don't fully appreciate is that comfort is stagnation. Stagnation is defined as a state of inaction, inertia, idleness and lack of growth. Who in the world wishes this upon themselves? We may not all want to be ground-breaking captains of industry, Olympic athletes, bestselling authors or Field Marshals, I grant you - but inert...really?!
As the process of growth requires a constant state of discomfort to be effective, how can we ever get used to being uncomfortable? Surely our instincts encourage us to stay safe and avoid risk, don't they? Yes, that's true. Our instincts do ensure i.e.: we crave high fat and high calorific foods when we're dieting, because our instincts can't be sure where the next meal is coming from. Yes, our instincts do try to ensure our survival by trying to stop us abseiling from tall buildings, or embarking upon high risk activities and extreme sports, but our instincts are 200,00 years old - we're functioning on seriously outdated operating systems here.
Our instincts don't know that our fridges are comparatively well stocked nowadays, and that we don't need to burn excessive energy hunting our next meal. Our instincts don't reckon on the safety harnesses, airbags, roll cages, or our advanced medical developments and life saving procedures. Our instincts have one job, to keep us alive. There's no room for nuance in our instinct's almost robotic, black and white perception of its singular task. We do however have the ability to override our instincts, to take us out of our (non-life threatening) comfort zones.
HOW TO GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
You have to take the road less travelled. When you're presented with a hard and soft option, and you naturally want to lean into the soft option because it's easy, deliberately and mindfully choose the hard option, because that's where the growth is. Comfort zones are lovely places to visit, but nothing ever grows there. So, if you're out for a meal and you should order the salad because you're watching your weight, but you don't want to because you're craving a (high fat, high calorific) burger and fries; order the salad. If the alarm goes off early and you don't want to get out of bed for that big important meeting; get out of bed. When it's cold outside and you don't want to go for a run; go for a run. When you have to phone the tax office with a problem, and you really don't want to; phone the damn tax office and just get on with it!
Growth requires resistance to be effective. Think about it this way. As you're sat reading this blog, whilst holding nothing heavier than a Biro in your hand, do five bicep curls for me. Easy, huh? But what if you had a body-building, or an improved physical fitness goal, how useful would those empty handed bicep curls be then? We're in chocolate teapot territory, am I right? To achieve greater muscle mass, you're going to have to introduce resistance into your bicep curls, for the muscles to grow and become stronger, and resistance in this example equals weights.
All of the studying you do, for the exams you will eventually will take, drags you out of your comfort zone as you oftentimes resist reading and revising, but how else are you going to learn the subject, and grow educationally? Do whatever it is you're resisting.
2. Push Past HARD!
Do you remember doing PE at school and being told to run 1500 metres, how your heart would sink (mine did), because you know you're going to get so far around the track, before hitting THE WALL? Urgh, I remember it well. What did your teacher tell you to do? Push past hard, push on, push through it, keep going. It's the same principle for whatever success you're attempting to achieve now. Whether you're trying to be a captain of industry, a future Olympic athlete, a bestselling author or a Field Marshal, at some point you are going to hit the proverbial wall - be it physically, mentally or emotionally. Is this where you quit?! Is it hell. This is precisely where you push past HARD!
Your instinctive brain will pick up on your discomfort and launch itself into survival mode, (assuming you're fighting off a sabre tooth tiger or something), tell you to stop what you're doing and get back to safety/comfort. Similarly, if you're focused on your work and your brain tells you to check your emails, you must push back hard against being distracted and then focus more determindly than before, with deliberate intent and purpose. There is no growth getting to the wall. Growth and triumph is only achieved by what you do after you hit the wall. It's your persistence and willingness to be uncomfortable that separates you from the Blanket Fort Dwellers.
3. Don't be afraid of failure
This can't be the first time you've ever been told this, and for good reason. If you haven't failed, you haven't finished. Failure is where the edge of your current capabilities sit. For example: if you can run 5 miles easily, where's the growth in that? That's the edge of your current capability, and you're comfortable there. Your growth and ongoing development will come when you push past hard and run 6 miles, then 7, then 8. The fact you have achieved a level of fitness capable of running 5 miles is great, well done, but now what? Yes, you're likely to have jelly legs at 6 miles initially, and it'll feel like failure compared to your easy 5 mile runs, but how soon will you be able to run 6 miles easily, then 7, then 8?
If you provide a service and all of your quotes and tenders are accepted, maybe your prices are too cheap. There is such a thing as too cheap by the way. You may be afraid that by putting up your prices, you will lose some business? This may be true, but have you considered the possibility that by losing a lower demographic customer, you're making room for a higher demographic customer? Not all customers are created equal, and there is such a thing as the wrong kind of customer.
You have to be willing to push past your current success limit, if you want to become bigger, better, stronger and faster.
4. Suck it up Buttercup
Success is hard, and that's great. Why is it great? Well, if it was easy everyone could do it, and by being difficult to achieve, the process of achieving success eliminates the weak. Natural selection in all its glory. You see, comfort is meh, comfort is mediocrity. Mediocrity is the antithesis of success. Can you point to one hugely successful person who is also mediocre? Nope.
Successful people and unsuccessful people hate to have to climb out of their blanket forts to do whatever it takes to become successful. The only difference between the two is that successful people will do it anyway, where the unsuccessful people will shrink behind their "Life's too short" justifications.
This push back hard principle takes guts and sacrifice, for sure, but there's nothing to say you have to like it, you just have to do it. In fact doing something you don't want to do, taking the road less travelled, is precisely the point. To have what others don't, you have to do what others won't. By sucking it up Buttercup, you are separating yourself from the Mediocre Many, and that's a good thing.
5. Think big...no, bigger than that!
One way to deliberately take yourself out of your comfort zone is to create some big hairy arsed goals. Whenever I complete a goal-setting exercise with a small business mentee, or a personal development life coaching client, I urge them to think big - then bigger than that. By making your goals - what first appear to be - ludicrously big and hairy, is going to terrify you. Where do you even start? What were you thinking? How am I ever going to achieve this, it's ridiculous? But think about this: the Wright brothers had to think bigger than the conventional wisdom at the time to design and fly the Kitty Hawk in 1903. Look at what Elon Musk is trying to achieve now with SpaceX, the goal is simply out of this world.
I remember watching Tomorrow's World in 1984 (as an infant, obviously) and learning about plans to build the Large Hadron Super Collider. I was so overwhelmed by how long it was going to take to come to fruition, because it felt like more than a lifetime away - but now it's here. All oak trees start from a tiny acorn. Your potential is as much as you can imagine it to be, and "ridiculous" be damned. If you can visualise it, you can achieve it. So go ahead, think big - and then bigger than that!
It's quite likely that your goals will be so big and hairy that you may need some coaching, mentoring or motivational empowerment to help keep you going, when there's so much to do. Well lucky for you, I'm here. Just like a spotter who helps those bench pressing weights, and as a mentor and coach, I will be there to oversee what you're doing, to keep you on the right track, and to offer you all the support and guidance you need when you need it most. Soon enough, like the runner now running 6 miles with ease, you will grow into your new you, and be more capable than you ever dreamed possible. It's at this point you reach a little farther forward, because a (wo)man's reach should always exceed their grasp.
And when you look back, it will all have been possible because you pushed back hard against what was comfortable. So tell me, what will you do today to make yourself go further, try harder and reach higher than you did yesterday?
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