In this post, I want to pinpoint WHY the comfort zone exists and HOW it kills your dreams holding you back from leaving your best life.
Becoming aware of why your comfort zone exists is the first step that enables you to get out of it and live life without limitations.
The comfort zone exists because our brain is designed to keep us alive and store as much energy as possible.
OUR ANCESTORS’ LEGACY
Think for a moment about our ancestors.
They risked their lives every day, be it because of wild animals, severe weather, or lack of food and medication.
They were careful to preserve energy as they needed it for hunting, reproduction, escaping from predators, and building shelters.
As a result, whenever possible, our ancestors stayed safe in their shelters - the known - and avoided getting out in the unknown.
In doing so, they could easily access their energy supplies in case of an emergency.
Even though thousands of years have gone by, this survival mechanism is still hardwired in us.
But, if thousands of years ago it served a purpose, nowadays the survival mechanism is counterproductive.
Because of it, we end up doing what feels comfortable, even if it doesn’t serve us.
We end up doing the same things, going to the same places, and meeting the same people because it’s familiar and easy.
At first glance, it could make sense.
Yet, if we look at it more closely, we can spot a dark side to staying in our comfort zone.
When we are in it, our brain is set on autopilot mode, thus it follows the same neural pathways all the time.
As a result, it doesn’t promote change or personal development.
You can think of our brain as a muscle.
What happens when you don’t exercise your muscles?
They lose strength and tone!
Likewise, if you don’t put your brain to work, you put it to sleep.
What happens when you stress your muscles through exercises instead?
Your muscles are damaged at first, but then they grow and become stronger.
Likewise, when you stress your brain by exposing yourself to the unknown you are building your change tolerance.
As mentioned above, change is something that our brain doesn’t like at all.
Any change is a potential threat to our brain.
That’s why any time you attempt to do something new or different, you feel a sort of resistance.
It’s your brain telling you: “What if this move brings about a change for the worse”?
That’s why we tend to stay in our comfort zone, in our routine.
That’s why we prefer to keep working in a job we hate - instead of starting our own business - even though we are getting more and more unfulfilled.
That’s why we prefer to keep staying in a relationship that doesn’t work - instead of breaking up - even though we are sick and tired of it.
That’s why we prefer to keep smoking - instead of quitting - even though we are unable to climb a flight of stairs without being out of breath.
That’s why we prefer to keep working overtime - instead of spending more time with our loved ones - even though we know we are spoiling our relationships.
That’s why we prefer to keep eating junk food - instead of healthy food - even though we are overweight.
That’s why we keep wasting money buying useless stuff - instead of saving - even though we are in debt.
I could keep going, but I think I’ve made my point.
Doing something different from what we have been doing for a while is challenging.
It takes awareness, willpower, and courage to break the destructive patterns of behavior we’ve normalized by basking in our comfort zone.
Let me stress how dangerous staying in it might be through the following story.
THE BOILING FROG
There once was a frog that fell into a pot of hot boiling water.
The second its toes hit the bubbles on the surface it jumped out and it was safe.
Days went by and the frog fell into the pot again.
This time the water was at room temperature and the frog decided to rest in it.
As the temperature of the water started to rise slowly, the frog became more and more sleepy.
It didn’t realize the looming danger.
It basked in the lukewarm water and when the surface began to bubble the frog realized it was too late and it died.
WHAT KILLED THE FROG?
It comes natural to answer the boiling water.
Even if it’s partly true, what really caused its death was that the frog had settled down and got used to the situation.
The story is a thought-provoking metaphor.
A metaphor for the inability and unwillingness of people to respond to or become aware of threats that arise within their comfort zone.
It is a representation of how most of us lead our lives.
For example, many people need to get depressed and experience really bad health conditions before quitting their unfulfilling job.
Others need to be diagnosed with cancer to stop smoking and start looking after themselves.
In a nutshell, since we are creatures of habits, most of the time we have to hit rock bottom before making changes, and sometimes it is too late.
Why do so many people don’t take the leap before it is too late?
Because they rest on their laurels and get used to their routine.
HOW TO AVOID BEING “BOILED”
As we have examined earlier, every time we are about to do something different we feel a sort of resistance.
That’s a clue suggesting we should force ourselves and act anyway.
When we start stepping out of our comfort zone daily, two things happen:
- our brain’s threat response decreases,
- our brain’s change tolerance increases.
As a result, we are keener to embrace change and break destructive habits.
Yet, too big changes can overwhelm and paralyze your brain even before you start.
That’s why you should consider training yourself to get out of your comfort zone through some tactics I’ll share with you.
Through them, I train my brain to perceive change as an opportunity rather than a threat.
TIPS TO TRAIN YOUR BRAIN TO BE MORE FAVORABLE TOWARDS CHANGE
- Change the route to your workplace frequently,
- Change your breakfast every day,
- Change the place where you have your meals,
- Change your free-time activities.
They may seem like silly changes, but if you try them out, you’ll notice how your brain’s resistance kicks in.
You’ll have to train yourself little by little to silence it!
These are a few strategies I use to help myself become more adaptable to the bigger changes I need to make in my life if I want to achieve my goals.
Bottom line: Expose yourself when you feel the resistance.
Do what feels uncomfortable.
Start from easy tasks to be able then to apply the same principle to bigger changes, the ones that enable you to get to the next level.
Remember: the way you do one thing you do everything.
Thus, if you learn how to make small changes, you’ll learn how to make bigger ones.
When you learn to say YES to change, you open yourself to opportunities that otherwise you might not experience.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. - Charles Darwin
Don't put up with the rising temperatures you are in, don’t settle down, don’t be the boiling frog!
If you feel like you are in a pot of water whose temperature is slowly increasing, start making small changes in your life today.
Commit to it, one small change after another, and you’ll witness over time how they transform your life into a masterpiece.
All you have to do is feel the resistance and take action anyway.
If you want to live a meaningful life, you need to be conscious of how limiting basking in your comfort zone is.
“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life”. - Susan David
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