Can You Manage a Challenging but Fulfilled Life Outside Your Comfort Zone? Try These 3 Strategies in the Years After 60
I just returned from a three-week trip to northern Spain and Portugal. Every day, every minute, I was living outside my comfort zone. Granted, I was having a fabulous time, given that I was encountering new people, places and things, learning about new cultures, food, and different ways of living life.
Yet, it took me time to adjust and modify behavior and thought from city to city. The most uncomfortable moments came with food. I didn’t like the food (I am a plant-based eater), and I dreaded dinners. But I coped and smiled as my fellow travelers gushed over the local cuisine.
Travel isn’t easy. Every hotel room was different. Bus rides from city to city were tiring. Simple movements like walking and standing provided some discomfort. But we all moved past our comfort zones and explored an exciting and inspiring part of the world.
If you have ever gone on a blind date, you’ve been outside your comfort zone. If you’ve ever walked into a happy hour where you don’t know a soul, you’ve been outside your comfort zone.
If you’ve attended an academic class that was outside your learning experience (that would be a math class for me), you’ve been outside your comfort zone. Just think how stressful it is to learn new technology. Most of us are way out of our comfort zones in that arena.
We all have fears that stop us from stepping into our potential, into a new and different level of personal expectations. The comfort zone is a place where fear is minimized so that we can function at an acceptable level in our daily lives.
However, acceptable can put us to sleep mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially. We develop a level of reaction that can flatline and energy depravation takes over. I’ve had introverted boyfriends that never adjusted to new and different social situations. It was painful and our relationship never grew.
Let’s take a different view!
What You Give Up for the Sake of Comfort
You don’t always realize how much you give up for the sake of comfort. In fact, dedicating your life to the comfort zone is overrated. Instead of plunging into an exciting life experience, you retreat, step back, or run from what can be a transformative moment.
In an effort to minimize your greatest fears, you can be sacrificing your heart’s deepest desires. In the name of comfort, you sacrifice potential.
Most great motivational speakers talk about confronting your deepest fears. Yet, this is precisely where life begins to take on meaningful experiences as you start the process of transformation.
Easier said than done.
Moving through our fears takes courage. It might include risk. You could encounter limitations, become intimidated, and start to retreat, instead of embracing your human potential.
Breaking Free of Fears
The following are 3 ways to manage life outside your comfort zone.
Struggle Is Overrated
Most days are filled with stress as you encounter a myriad of individual inconveniences. Some of these inconveniences turn into struggles. They get more complicated with time and negativity settles into your unconscious with a vengeance.
When I taught yoga, I would always give the following mantra to my students: Struggle is overrated. When you struggle, you encounter your ego, and that ego gets in the way of staying present, and being present helps you to feel comfortable in any environment.
Yesterday, I spent almost 18 hours trying to download an operating system for my computer and failed. I was devastated. It turned into a battle with myself. It should have worked. I did exactly what was told me. And yet, the rules of the tech game failed me.
In my mind, I failed, too, because I was operating under the delusion that I was using a Mac product, but because I was out of my comfort zone and not present, I was actually using a PC product. Obviously, I was far from present. Struggle had won the day.
But struggle is ubiquitous.
I took a walk today, concluding that everything we encounter probably takes us out of our comfort zone in one way or another.
The idea is that most struggle comes from a limited belief system. You want to be expressive, but your mental functions are limited. Your ego says: It’s risky or dangerous. You’ll be rejected, or criticized, or you will fail.
The struggle is between an ego that does not want to expand your mental boundaries and the unleashed desire for potential. You can’t blame the ego. It’s the job of the ego to keep you safe and that doesn’t correspond to reaching your full potential, which is limitless.
Look for the Opportunity
One of my closest friends once said to me, “Behind every door, there is an opportunity. But to get to the opportunity, you must understand the possibilities.”
This is when imagination takes over and change becomes a reality. This is when you begin to see beyond your comfort zone. You can dare to be comfortable outside the familiar.
Imagine what your life would feel like if you decided to exercise every morning no matter the weather. You will begin to see changes that are pleasing. You will begin to see different, more pleasant results from your actions. It is then you are making choices from outside your comfort zone.
You grow stale by making decisions inside your comfort zone. Sometimes you don’t like your choices. They are repetitive and uninspiring. In effect, you create a kind of been there, done that paradigm.
Different results require doing things differently. That’s what makes life exciting, new, and inspiring. You begin to realize that the comfort zone is a mental and emotional trap that perpetuates limited thoughts and feelings daily, weekly, and monthly.
Take a risk and go outside your comfort zone and discover beliefs and ideas that are new to your consciousness.
Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Anyone who has ever accomplished anything great has done so with the element of risk – not necessarily physical or emotional danger, but a risk that makes the ego concerned.
If the ego doesn’t know how to deal with new situations based on new beliefs, then the prognosis for change and growth is overtly negative.
For some people, the idea of doing something they haven’t done before can be daunting. They might lose control, find themselves in a negative or compromising situation, have their feelings hurt, or any number of uncomfortable reactions.
Sure, it is a risk. But the real risk is to maintain the status quo, and that means no human growth. The results are unhappiness or worse, depression.
When life gets uncomfortable, smile, laugh, find humor, express your truth, project your personality, and go for it because what have you got to lose? Nothing.
Regroup your belief systems, re-stage your life, re-orient your mind set. Travel, be curious, be bold. Search for more exciting possibilities and let your new potential shine through.
What kind of techniques do you use to manage your emotions when you step outside your comfort zone? What is your least favorite “outside your comfort zone” experience? Please share your stories with the community!