None of us are born with a roadmap for life, let alone a destination or a means to get there. These all need to be worked out along the way by means of trial and error.
We spend most of our time throughout childhood going from one experience to another, trying things out and seeing what works best. Those things we enjoy we tend to go on to put the most effort into and focus on finding better ways to progress and advance in, so we continually keep a sense of excitement.
Then on the other hand we have those fairly regular knockbacks that make us build defensive walls and barriers to prevent us making mistakes again or going near painful situations again. On top of this trial and error of our own, we are constantly bombarded with other people’s experiences, embarrassing stories and great reminders of how not to do things.
We build a myriad of habits to prevent exposure to anything that may hurt us emotionally or physically. Adding to those habits we build a belief system that will justify our actions to prevent us from failure. This is all based around our comfort zone, the place where we end up in the middle of our lives which our subconscious mind uses to justify our current position and would do anything to stop us from leaving.
But is the comfort zone our friend or our enemy? Well, it is neither one nor the other, but in fact both at the same time. Let me explain.
As we grow up, that dreaded four letter word ‘fear’ changes its meaning; it expands and morphs beyond recognition. Yes of course, fear very often prevents many bad things happening. It is always needed in children, but doesn’t always kick in when it should. I’ll share a personal experience, but we can all recall a childhood event like mine; I once jumped out of the bedroom window with carrier bags attached to my shoulders thinking I would float down gracefully like my red plastic toy soldier with his plastic parachute. Needless to say the new fencing panels that were placed flat waiting to be erected now had my size 4 foot-holes in the top two.
So, as we can see, when we need this fear as a child it is very seldom there, but as we approach middle age and would like to leave our comfort zone and try something new, our fear has grown so adept at keeping us from any type of danger that even saying hi to a stranger feels more dangerous than jumping out of a bedroom window.
When I say the comfort zone is neither our friend nor our enemy, I believe it comes down to what you make it.
If you avoid dealing with the fear then it becomes your enemy and this gives it power, so much power that it is able to tell you exactly what you can and cannot do. It will manipulate, twist and exaggerate any situation to make you more fearful and keep you in your comfort zone.
But, if you make it your friend and treat the ‘advice’ that innate fear gives you as guidance and nothing more, this will give you the ability to overcome its power and control.
You can then start living life on the edge of your comfort zone and stepping in and out at will. The zone itself will expand and grow as your courage builds. Soon what was once difficult to face will be comfortable and commonplace and there will be a new challenge to confront instead.
Stop thinking “what’s the worst that could happen?”, and start thinking “what’s the best that can happen?”
Updated for 2023