The Joy of Comfort Zones
“I don’t like mushrooms. Please keep them away from me. I’m fine with other veggie assortments.”
“I like cities but I do not want to drive in them. They are too intimidating and I’d rather stay on back roads.”
“I don’t want strange people in my car. It’s my place.”
“I say, I say, I don’t need your high-fallootin’ pale ales! I’ll stick to my LaBatt Blue. And there’s no way you’ll ever catch me sippin’ whiskey! That stuff is gross!”
These are all things I used to say (or, at the very least, feel) about myself back in the day.
Like you, I used to have some very specific likes and dislikes.
And, like you, these likes and dislikes evolved to the point that I found I had created my own little comfort zones.
I like comfort zones. They make me feel… well… comfortable. I like to snuggle right up into them like I’m wrapped up in a fresh, straight-out-of-the-dryer blanket on a cold winter morning.
I like a clean house with no dog hair on the couch. I lose my mind when I find dog hair on the couch. Like my world is being invaded by another dog. Don’t even get me started about what happens when I unsuspectedly sit in it, and find it all over my clothes.
I like spending time with friends I know and trust.
I like tacos, but only from specific places. Like my plate, for instance.
I don’t much care for horror movies. I’d rather watch comedy, scifi, or adventure.
These are the things that I find in my comfort zones. It goes without saying that I prefer my comfort zones over anything else.
As anyone would.
But there’s something that happens when you stay locked up in your comfort zone. You tend to become complacent or immobilized. You start to get depressed and bored (I mean… if you’re constantly telling yourself that your life is pretty mundane, there’s a good reason).
In general, you tend to lose your adventurousness. You stop learning and growing.
You stop living.
And not living kind of sucks.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
So what do you do about that? How do you bring a little adventure into your life?
By pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone!
And how do you do that?
By saying “Why not?”
Saying “why not?” may sound like a lazy way of saying “yes”, but it’s not. If you say “yes”, you’re definitely making a point of moving forward into this unknown, sure… but if you say “why not?” you’re actually acknowledging there’s no reason not to. You’re rhetorically suggesting to yourself that there’s no upside in staying right where you are.
“Why not?” is not just a shrug. It’s a deliberate act of recognizing the consequences of not taking up the challenge and stepping out of your comfort zone.
For instance, because I said “why not?” when my wife insisted I try sautéed mushrooms, I not only found I like mushrooms, but I’ve discovered the Joy of cooking various dishes with them, from stir fry to pot roasts. “Why not?” told me I had nothing to gain by not trying the mushrooms, and plenty to potentially gain by trying them.
I said “why not?” when Uber presented me with an opportunity to make some much-needed extra money, and found that not only am I capable of driving in cities, but I practically prefer doing so over driving down dark country roads at night. By saying “why not?” I acknowledged that I didn’t have any other opportunities to make this extra money, and I chased away any anxiety or fears about driving people around in the city.
And an added bonus – I’m completely okay with strange people being in my car. I’ve met so many interesting people that way!
What about pale ales? Well… I said “why not?” to a friend, and let’s just say that over the past decade I’ve become a bit of a craft beer snob. There are very few beer types I don’t like (mainly porters, since they give me migraines). And I’m often out trying new drinks with my daughter’s godfather (someone I know and trust), either at various taprooms around the city, or in his garage when we’re done brewing them ourselves!
Oh… and I’ve become particularly fond of whiskey. Bourbons, especially.
By saying “why not?” to these things, I told myself that I didn’t have anything to lose by trying an IPA or a whiskey. Were they going to kill me? What was I afraid of by trying something other than a Bud Light? It’s a bit silly if you think about it.
What You Gain By Leaving Your Comfort Zones
Don’t get me wrong – being nudged, or even shoved, out of my comfort zones can really stress me out sometimes. It’s the opposite of a comfort zone for a reason. No one wants to be in an “uncomfortable zone!”
At the same time, however, I like being pushed to get to know more about me.
After all, the more I get to know about me, the more comfortable I am in my own skin, and the more easily I can befriend, and be compassionate toward, other people.
Not only that but there’s a side bonus that comes from this. Surely you’ve felt that you haven’t been getting as far ahead as you’d like, or that opportunities haven’t been coming to you as often as you would have expected.
Have you ever considered that perhaps this is because you’ve simply been languishing in your comfort zones?
Here’s the thing – life isn’t going to come to you. It isn’t going to land in your lap. And those opportunities you are longing for aren’t just going to come knocking at your door.
You have to go out and meet them.
Life doesn’t happen in your lap.
You have to take the challenges that your goals and your dreams present and meet them head on.
And you do that by leaving your comfort zones.
So the next time you’re challenged with the possibility of leaving your comfort zone, just say “why not?”
You’ll have already convinced yourself you can’t lose.
When have you deliberately left your comfort zones? What happened when you did? What did you learn? What do you think would have happened had you not left your comfort zones?