The Comfort Zone: A great place to visit; no place to live!
Ideally, our comfort zone is an individualized, protective world where we feel safe and secure, free from any anxiety producing risks or unexpected twists. Its walls only permit entry to the people, activities, and situations that support us. In stressful times when we are facing major challenges or feeling overwhelmed, our comfort zone can be a healthy place to visit for rest and renewal, a place to relax, be our self, and let down our guard.
The problem is that our comfort zone is a difficult place to leave. Without our knowing, its architect was inertia, who designed an unmovable monument to the past. Our so-called comfort zone was built to protect and enclose the person we used to be, with no consideration or vision for who we might become. Its brick and mortar are old habits and beliefs, which served us well at one time, but are now terribly outdated.
What we once perceived as our castle can become a prison. We feel stuck, bored, and uninspired. We idle away in neutral but are constantly exhausted. Or we expend tons of precious energy maintaining the status quo, while progressing nowhere.
Unfortunately, comfort zones are most often built on a major fault line. The forces that threatened their very existence are the most essential components of life – change and growth.
In truth, our future, all our untapped potential, lies outside the walls of our comfort zone.
So, how can we experience the intended benefit of comfort and still remain free to grow and change? Here are four important guidelines:
1. Have a Vision: It is important to have a vision of the person we were meant to be and to always be in the process of becoming. We must never stop asking, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” At any age, dreams keep us young and free.
2. Keep Stretching: If we want our dreams to come true, then we need to wake up! Unless they are exercised and stretched, muscles atrophy and so do our heartfelt yearnings. We need to actively keep reaching for our dream, moving forward one step at a time.
3. Rest with Purpose: Life is not linear. We can not keep charging forward, higher and higher. We need to find plateaus where we can rest, regroup and play. But we can also use this time to check our inner compass and realign our path with our values and purpose.
4. Be True to Your Self: Lasting comfort comes from knowing who we are and being at home in our own skin. We all have many parts to our personalities, but we need to spend time with the heart and soul behind this cast of characters. We need to invite that Self to come forward and direct our life.
Ultimately, the concept of a comfort zone is an oxymoron. Comfort and joy are the by products of a life well lived. They cannot be pursued for themselves and cannot be maintained within a delineated area. Comfort is a reward to be savored in moments of grace.