As a former coasteering instructor at Celtic Quest Coasteering I’ve seen it many a times. At first glance you would see keen individuals standing in front of you. People who really are getting ready to make a leap forward, down into the deep and cold unknown. Excitingly they look over the edge but suddenly something happens.
They pull back and start to reconsider. Their mind starts to feed them stories, all kind of lousy stories. “No, maybe not”, “I’m not going to do it”, “This is too high for me”, “I’ll fail”, “I’m not ready”, “I’m not confident enough “and “This is way out of my comfort zone”.
They regrettably tack a step backwards.
When you’re doing something that feels uncomfortable you probably know how it feels to suddenly run back to your comfort zone. Back to familiar grounds. Back to your safe haven. Back to where you think you’re protected from all those things out there that just make you feel stressed and anxious.
Because…what the hell are those uncomfortable feelings and thoughts good for?
Why I stayed in my comfort zone (until I could no longer afford)
Everybody has had stories like that and so did I. In my case it was my bloody tax, or more specifically my self-assessment form.
Since it was the first time doing taxes in the UK it felt a bit overwhelming to say the least. I tried to push away the though and denied the problem ever existed. I procrastinated and convinced myself that I still have time to tackle it later. Maybe I will do it tomorrow, but certainly not now!
Obviously, this didn’t take away the problem. It just stacked up. Just like the letters stacked up, and eventually the fines came.
After missing my January 2018 deadline by almost three months – which already resulted in a £100 fine – I was confronted with (another) painful message I would be charged an extra penalty of £10 per day if I would continue to choose to ignore not taking action.
In my case, the £10 fine per day was a strong enough prompt to finally push me over the edge and do my taxes.
What a relief, looking back on it I still wonder why I procrastinated for so long.
Consequences of living in your comfort zone
I chose not to do my taxes, I ran back to my comfort zone. The name ‘comfort zone’ would suggest it’s comfortable back there, but have you ever really stopped for a minute and just felt if you’re really comfortable back there?Does it really feel like that or are you just fooling yourself? Or is it just another story – like mine – so you don’t have to put up with it?
It you continue to choose to live in your comfort zone, you’re living in denial. The more time you’re living in denial and longer avoiding the things you need to do – like doing your bloody taxes – the more habitual it becomes and the more your problems stack up. Hence, I would argue that you’re not really comfortable in your comfort zone at all.
What to call your comfort zone instead
How about you call it the drain zone, the stuck zone, the stagnant zone, the stand still zone, the freeze zone, the flight zone, the missing out zone, the half-lived zone, the I choose not to take action zone, the avoidance zone, the habit zone, the not daunting zone, or simply the same old shit zone.
I hope you get the point. I can go on and on about this.
Much like the discomfort of stepping outside of your comfort zone, there is discomfort in staying in your comfort zone. It’s the feeling of stagnation. This ‘comfort zone’ has no sense of vitality, no personal growth and no positive energy. It’s the same old shit zone.
It has become socially acceptable to call it our comfort zone because it’s a casual and innocent remark to make. We all are willing to accept it because it doesn’t challenge us. But it’s not the truth if you start to think about it. However, nobody calls it the same old shit zone because – apart from the fact it will raise a few eyebrows – no one would be able to relate to it.
Your comfort zone: Two things you could do
To sum up, I’ve hoped to illustrate to you that the thing you like to refer to as your comfort zone isn’t a comfortable place at all if you have a closer look at it. There is discomfort in staying in your comfort zone. It might be the discomfort of avoiding your problems, not facing your demons, like I did with my taxes. For others it might be the discomfort of stagnation, not being eager enough to chase your dreams. Two lessons can be learned from that.
Firstly – and most importantly! – next you refer to your comfort zone it’s in your interest to correct yourself. It isn’t your comfort zone. You’re just fooling yourself. If you want to fool yourself, go ahead. But in the end, you’re only reinforcing the idea that’s it’s ok to stay dormant, whether in reality it’s not. It’s far more enjoyable to grow.
In other words, give it another name. Call it the same old shit zone or maybe something else, something personal that resonates within you.
Secondly, if the action you need to take feels to daunting make your action a bit smaller. Chunk it, compartmentalize it, break it up, or whatever you want to name it. Make it smaller so the challenging action that makes you feel anxious seems less daring. Small term goals are usually less uncomfortable than mid-term goals. Similarly, long-term goals can be really petrifying as they seem way out of reach. In a way, the bigger the goal the further it is out of your ‘same old shit zone’. So, go ahead and try to define and hit the small-term goal first. Before you know it, you have finally done that thing you postponed for such a long time. Once you’re on a roll you’ll feel more confident and able to hit more challenging goals. Like me, it feels great not worrying about my taxes anymore, you could do the same.
Good luck and give me a shout if you need some guidance.