The common wisdom – at least for those of us who read a lot of self-help books – is that we all should live life outside of our comfort zones. Endless quotes of ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone’ or ‘nothing ever grows in your comfort zone’ or ‘your comfort zone is the graveyard of all your hopes and dreams’ pepper Pinterest and Instagram.
For the second time in as many weeks, I’m going full contrarian and will suggest the opposite – there are times when you should stay smack dab in the middle of your comfort zone.
Why You Should (sometimes) Stay In Your Comfort Zone
If ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone’ why should you sometimes stay there?
You Can Feel Safe
Your comfort zone is your home base, your norm, your ‘regular.’
Things there are (at least somewhat) predictable and they don’t cause you too much stress and anxiety.
It creates a strong and safe base camp.
You Can Be Your Youiest You
Your comfort zone is where your personal qualities can shine.
Where you can learn about the personal attributes unique to you and where you can most effectively make your contribution.
You Can Learn What Works For You
You can be quiet and focus on you.
Focus in on what you want and what is and is not working in your life.
You can learn what self-care methods work best for you, or what you need to do to recharge and recuperate from your not-as-comfortable outings.
When You Should Consider Staying In Your Comfort Zone
Specific Times and Places
What these are will vary from person to person, but you know them when you have them: The times when you need to stay nestled inside your comfort zone.
Living in the midst of a global pandemic has been a good time for many of us to stay squarely in our comfort zones, finding safety and comfort wherever it can be found.
I don’t care what the inspirational sayings tell us, when going to the grocery store becomes an ‘out of comfort zone’ activity, the rest of the day is a great time for comfort and recuperation.
In the running world, I’ve always found the marathon taper (the last few weeks before race day when the mileage cuts back and race day fast approaches) is a perfect time for known comforts.
If You Already Have Several ‘Out of Comfort Zone’ Activities Going On
It is seriously mentally taxing if you are entirely out of your comfort zone at all times.
Revert to your comfort zone as needed to refresh and re-energize before you head back out to explore your new, uncharted territory.
If You Feel Like Things Are Out of Control
If everything seems to be going wrong, don’t force another challenge in your life.
But It Isn’t All or Nothing – Expand Your Zone
“It’s not about getting out of your comfort zone to reach your goal. It’s about widening your comfort zone so far that your goal fits comfortably inside.” -Richie Norton
Staying in your comfort zone does not mean staying still or wallowing in a rut of sameness. You can still take action from within your comfort zone.
And those actions, properly planned, don’t make you leave your comfort zone – they expand it.
Go one step out from your home base, then return.
Get comfortable getting just a little bit uncomfortable.
The more you take a single step out, the easier that first step will become. Next thing you know, you’ll be taking two steps. Then three.
Plan Your Steps
Any big plan or goal, no matter how far out of your comfort zone it is today, can be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces. Many of those smaller pieces will comfortably fit within today’s comfort zone.
Work this backwards:
- Consider your big, monster, ‘I get scared just thinking about it’ goal. This idea may seem crazy. You may be embarrassed to tell people about it, it is so far out from where you are today.
- Break this goal down into smaller, intermediate goals. These goals still might be big and scary, but they usually aren’t quite as terrifying.
- Break these goals down into smaller and smaller steps until you find something that fits within your comfort zone. Start there.
Think of it as a dartboard. The bullseye is your comfort zone and everything else radiates out from it.
So what does this look like?
If you are just starting to run, the idea of running a marathon or an ultra can seem insane and waaaay outside what you can imagine or are comfortable with.
But break it down:
- The insane, out of comfort zone idea: Run a 50k (yikes!)
- The crazy, but not totally absurd idea: Run a half marathon
- Broken down even more: walk for at least 30 minutes every day, run every other day, run a 5k
Broken down far enough, each of the little steps is just one step away from where you are comfortable today. Master that one step, then move on to the next one. Repeat as necessary, taking one step further each time.
Before you know it, these little steps will build on each other and multiply, expanding what is comfortable for you.
Start expanding your comfort zone today