Back when my wife and I were just a couple of kids and had just started dating, I—for reasons unknown to me—jokingly told her that I coined the phrase:
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Maybe this whole life coaching thing has been written on the wall for a while *shoulder shrug*.
With that said, as I’ve explored my own personal growth and have facilitated it in others, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of chatter about comfort zones.
Break out of your comfort zone.
Challenge your comfort zone.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
All of these T-shirt worthy slogans (including the one that I came up with) are legitimate and help a lot of people make decisions that lead to a more fulfilling life.
But I think that there’s something missing from the conversation:
From what I’ve seen, people do a lot of things that aren’t comfortable, but keep at it because they are incredibly familiar.
The subtle difference between the two concepts may be the reason that you’re stuck in your relationships, your career, or your life in general.
Familiar vs. Comfortable
Think of something that you want to change or improve in your life.
No matter what that thing is, here’s my gut feeling:
That area of life is uncomfortable as hell, but over time it has become familiar to you, which is why you haven’t fixed it by now.
Your gut that hangs over your belt is uncomfortable.
Your relationship that you’ve been spinning your wheels in is uncomfortable.
Your bank account that’s hovered at the same (low) number for years is uncomfortable.
If you have a comfort zone, these things aren’t a part of it. They make you uncomfortable whenever they cross your mind.
But they are super familiar. And since they are so familiar to you, it’s harder to change than someone might think.
We hate breaking away from the familiar. You could spend an hour telling your friend about how bad your relationship has gotten, and they will say with objective certainty:
“You gotta get the hell outta there, man!”
But since you’re so used to going through the motions with your lady that the security of having an unhealthy relationship feels nicer than breaking away from it and experiencing the unknown.
The pleasure of what is familiar trumps the pain of how unhealthy and uncomfortable a situation makes us.
We’d rather carry around the 20 pounds of body fat than get off the couch, start eating right and hit the gym.
We’d rather let our bank account hover around $0 than ask our boss for that raise—that we probably deserve—because there’s a chance they’ll say no.
We’d rather loathe our relationship than risk being alone and taking some time to figure out what we really want.
There are plenty of things that you are familiar with that make you REALLY uncomfortable. You don’t need to step outside of your comfort zone, there’s nothing comfortable about the situations listed above.
You’re already experiencing discomfort.
What you need is to break away from the familiar.
The Gift of Novelty
In order to step out of what is familiar to you, you’re going to have to get friendly with the concept of novelty. You’re going to need to be ruthless about trying new things to break away from your cruise control way of existence.
Think about how awkward it was when you first got behind the wheel of a car. Since everything about the experience was fresh and new, it felt all kinds of unfamiliar.
“Which one of these things is the brake pedal?…” you’d awkwardly ask as you hit the gas with enthusiasm and shot your parents car through their garage door.
With all the new pieces of stimulus that are a part of driving a car, your brain had to wake the hell up from its subconscious state to actively participate in the process. You couldn’t just go through the motions.
It was novelty 101.
When you experience something new and different, your mind can’t be running on autopilot, it has to actively participate.
This is why it’s so important to force yourself to do new things when life has become too familiar. It doesn’t have to be actions and gestures on a grand scale at first. Start with small adjustments and minuscule steps outside of your norm.
It will force your brain to wake up. Once you’re #woke there’s two important things that will change the way you operate:
- You’ll begin to see that you’re old way of operating in life was a bit flawed. You’ll notice some of your automatic patterns that weren’t serving you and understand why it might be important to move past them.
- You’ll start training yourself to do things that are unfamiliar. Starting with something small can be an entry point into a world of change that you then dive into head first. Before you know it you’ll be asking for raises, hitting the gym, and walking away from that dead end relationship with a smile.
But none of this will happen until you intentionally do something different, something new, something unfamiliar.
Try some new shit this week!
Break out of your familiar zone.