Comfort zone

In my late thirties, I went through a period during which I felt miserably unhappy. It seemed to me that so many choices I had made up to that point in my life had been wrong, including my relationships, my daily activities, how I used my money, and where I was going with my career. 

I felt stuck in a life I didn't want. It was like living within a prison cell and not seeing a way out. Although I knew that I held the key that opened the door, something kept me locked up inside. 

It wasn't until my mid-forties that I found a way to leave the prison cell. Working with therapists and coaches, I realized that to use that key, I had to put aside some of the thinking that kept me living inside those walls. A whole bunch of "can'ts, musts, must nots" and other beliefs had reinforced the walls and put extra locks on the door. As soon as I began to dismantle them, the door actually opened on its own and I was able to walk right out. 

Now, a few years later, I recognize that there are times when living in a prison cell still feels real. Only this time, it has turned into a comfortable room, less bleak, perhaps than a prison cell, but still a space I am choosing to live within. The problem is that I am equally captured within its walls and am either unwilling or not feeling capable of breaking out.

The comfort zone is always there. You know it well.

Someone asks you to come to a networking event. "Oh no," you say. "I am not good around strangers." It's outside your level of comfort.

Your comfort zone is the place you go to when all the thoughts you believe and decisions you make as a result of those thoughts keep you limited. You might actually want something different, you want to make changes, but the comfort of your life is keeping you complacent, or simply isn't energizing you enough to move you outside that zone.

Fear is another factor. You could be afraid of leaving the comfort zone. After all, outside comfort is discomfort.

It's natural to pull yourself back into your comfort zone when you begin to notice tension, physical discomfort or anxiety. But what is important to realize is that you grow when you allow discomfort in your life. When all you seek is comfort, you will stay stagnant, unfulfilled, and begin to feel less than alive. That is when the comfort becomes more of a prison.

You are never stuck. You just keep re-creating the same experience over and over by thinking the same thoughts, maintaining the same beliefs, speaking the same words, and doing the same things.
— Jack Canfield, "The Success Principles" 

To break out of this cycle, you must focus on what you want to create. Actions come from your reactions to the thoughts you have. If you believe you are able to accomplish a goal, you are more likely to take action than if you believe you are unable.

AFFIRMATIONS

You can use affirmations or simply train your mind with new thoughts and images. Affirmations start with "I am..." and describe what you are doing in your new future. For example: "I am confidently expressing myself openly and honestly." 

Speak the affirmations one to three times a day. The best times are mornings, mid-day and the end of the day. Use your affirmations during meditation. Tell someone you trust your affirmation to share your excitement. Put your affirmation on a 3 x 5 inch card and laminate it. Keep it with you at all times. Put your affirmation on your screen saver.

How ever you use affirmations, they can be quite powerful. People who use them swear they work, including such successful stars as Jim Carrey. 

TAKE A NEW PATH

sidewalk-hole.jpg

The poem below points out how what we observe, explain, talk about, and take responsibility for, creates our lives.

"An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters," by Portia Nelson
 
I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless. 
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
 
II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
 
III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in... it's a habit... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
 
IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
 
V
I walk down another street.

As this poem suggests, we can change our lives. That's the good news. We don't have to retain those old beliefs that keep us walking into the holes in the sidewalk. Or that keep us inside a prison cell or comfort zone.

What actions will you take today based on this understanding?

If you have any questions, please call me at 781.583.8242.