Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone

By Audrey Marlene

Comfort Zone

I often take a lesson from a hibiscus potted plant I once purchased. I was so excited to see the first flower and enjoyed watching it grow. After some months, I noticed there were fewer and fewer flowers and began to become concerned that my plant was about to die. I added fertilizer, placed it at a different angle to receive more sunlight but it was as if it stopped growing. It seemed the growth was stunted and the health of the leaves and limbs looked unhealthy. Even though I occasionally saw a flower, it just didn't seem healthy. I know what a healthy hibiscus plant looks like and mine was not growing to its potential.

One day my gardener advised me to remove it from the pot it was planted in and transplant it into a larger pot or directly into the ground to which I apprehensively did. Within weeks I began to see new flowers. Within months, the plant grew in width and height and every day it gave me at least 3 flowers. I observed how beautifully the hibiscus flourished in its new environment.

Just like the hibiscus planted in a small pot, our growth can become stunted and we will only perform at a level of mediocrity when we refuse to step outside of our comfort zones. Let's face it…we as humans are often fearful of any kind of change, large or small. By nature be are creatures of habit and we grow accustomed to routines no matter how uncomfortable they may be. When discomforts arise in life a decision to see a therapist is often the solution for many. Some consult with therapists for many years and still cannot resolve the uneasiness they feel. Oftentimes the best therapy we can have is to step outside of our accustomed environments and move past our routine, stagnated way of living.

In my experience, moving past my limited patterns of living and taking a step forward or laterally have been my most productive and rewarding experiences. Just like the hibiscus, our roots will have more room to grow and blossom, taking on new foliage in ways we could never imagine. That's how it is when you step away from the comfort zone – you will flourish and morph into an incredible human being capable of performing at an optimal level. "Man like every other animal is by nature indolent. If nothing spurs him on, then he will hardly think, and will behave from habit like an automaton." - Albert Einstein

I wholeheartedly agree with the saying that we as humans are creatures of habit. We as a species will continue to do same routines even though we get very little out of it. We will stay in unhealthy relationships, unfulfilled careers, or destructive lifestyle habits all because we get locked into the same habits. Even when others point out these unhealthy practices we still continue.

I have a very dear friend who orders the same meal each time he goes to different restaurants. He refuses to try any other items on the menu. He has never tried other items on any of the menus. The first meal he tried and liked is the same meal he continues to order each time. Even when I point it out to him to try something different, the long-winded explanations and his way of rationalizing his patterns shows how difficult it is for him to step into something new. This same behavior pattern he carries over into many other aspects of his life.

There are many habits we are locked into that are not destructive. However, they may be patterns that inhibit growth. They may be patterns that cloud your ability to live up to your own expectations. You may be feeling stagnant in your career, your personal or academic life and may not know why. You may believe you have reached your potential yet a feeling of dissatisfaction lingers within. Could it be that your comfort zone has become uncomfortable?

Use this article to examine your behavior patterns. Look back to see how long you have been locked into the regular patterns you currently have to see what significant changes you have experienced over the years. Has your growth slowed over the years? Could a small, lateral movement bring about more growth in your life?

We often hear of the importance of stepping outside our comfort zones but we don't hear enough stories of the positive outcomes of making such changes. I've chosen to share with you two of my personal experiences.

My first big decision for moving beyond my comfort zone came at 18 when it was time to enter university. I grew up on a very tiny island in the Caribbean and grew accustomed to my life there. Even though I was informed about the opportunities to study in the US, the idea of leaving my comforts and moving to another country where I knew no one nor the culture kept me resistant to the idea. Looking back, I can see how fearful I was about venturing into unknown territory. However, as I recall the personal and academic accomplishments I have made over the years I can clearly see how rewarding that move was.

My next big decision for stepping out of my comfort zone came when I needed to step away from an unhealthy marriage. The comforts of the family unit and the family bonds kept me locked in and made it difficult to walk away even though my situation was destructive and unhappy. Many friends and family members didn't support me in wanting to make a change in my life so I continued to find comfort in my unhealthy condition. Although it was scary, I finally mustered up enough courage to push myself past my comfortable, unhealthy zone. As I look back on the positive aftermath of my move, I know for certain it was one of my best decisions ever made.

Oftentimes we end up in situations because of other people's expectations of us. Are you living your life for you or what your parents, friend, or boss expects of you? Are you sometimes ready to stick your head out but someone else is holding you back? If you answered yes, maybe it's time to exercise some independent muscle and push your way past the boundaries that you or others have established for you. Allow yourself to soar to higher levels and feel free to experience the benefits in store for you. Even though many of us know the importance of making changes in our lives, the idea can create much fear and anxiety. Fear is not just an emotion, but a biological instinct built into us as a means of survival. It is surrender to this fear that keeps you locked into the uncomfortable patterns of your present comfort zone, which inhibits your growth. So how can you move past your comfort zone and evolve to a state of optimum performance?

  • First examine your life to measure your evolution over the years. Are you still doing the same thing you’ve been doing day in and day out. If so, are you at the top of your game? Have you achieved satisfaction at what you do? If not, this is a strong indication that you need to take some steps away from your comfort zone.

  • Ask yourself what it is you want to feel. Remember it is a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that we strive for.

  • Once you have determined how you want to feel, decide what it would take to achieve it. Speak with a coach or mentor to get some insight into your possibilities.

  • List your fears. Is it a physical limitation? Is it emotional or mental? Be honest with yourself and write down what you feel afraid of. Ask yourself, what am I afraid will happen to me if I do …….? If you recognize you need help seek the help you need. Why put it off any longer? If you need to see a medical doctor, make an appointment. If it’s a psychologist you need, set up a meeting.

  • Begin to try new things in your life. Remember this lifestyle pattern you've been locked into is due to close-mindedness or fear. In order to break out of this you must be willing to try something new. Go to a different restaurant and try some new food. Pay someone a compliment you have never paid one to. When you develop the open-mindedness to try something out of the ordinary you are starting to move past you comfort zones and building your muscle for change.

    I hope this article has given you some insight into the importance of moving beyond your comfort zone in order to grow and achieve your optimum. It's never too late to start. Sometimes making changes can feel scary but you don't have to do this alone. If you need help to get started don't hesitate to contact me or a life coach in your area. It's such a wonderful feeling to be able to step out of the discomforts of the present comfort zone and into a new world.

  • "When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge." - Tuli Kupferberg

  • "It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power." - Alan Cohen

  • "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin

  • "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." John F. Kennedy

  • "He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery." - Harold Wilson

  • "Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become." - Author Unknown

  • "If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we are not really living." -Gail Sheehy

  • "Our only security is our ability to change." - John Lilly

  • "He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality." - Anwar Sadat

  • "It's the most unhappy people who most fear change." Mignon McLaughlin .

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