Self Help Sanctum

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Your Comfort Zone – Haven or Prison?

Your comfort zone is that set of circumstances and tasks in which you feel completely at ease, ie you are able to operate with little need of conscious thought or will. Essentially you are on autopilot and your mind can continue in its preferred state of slumber.

The comfort zone is not a fixed region; it changes throughout life, in the light of experience. A baby’s comfort zone is lying on its back waiting to be fed and changed. But instinct forces it to expand that comfort zone to include walking, talking, reading, writing… Eventually it has to expand far enough to be able to survive in whatever society it finds itself.

We each need a comfort zone large enough to put food in our bellies and a roof over our head. But do we really need to extend it further? By definition, venturing out of our comfort zone is uncomfortable. But it’s something we all need to try if we are to fulfill our very purpose in this world, ie the accumulation of experience. And when we achieve that expansion the satisfaction is enormous.

Our comfort zone continues to change throughout the journey of life, usually expanding, but sometimes contracting. For example, when we learn to drive, every maneuver requires conscious effort. After a while we internalize the procedures and they become automatic, ie part of our comfort zone. The zone can also shrink in certain areas, ie things that were once comfortable are no longer so.

Comfort zone expansion can spring from two sources. The most controlled is when we choose to push our boundaries, perhaps taking on a new profession, undergoing study/training, taking up a new hobby/interest… The right time for such a venture is signaled by great energy and enthusiasm for proposed new direction. It’s good to get into the habit of listening to one’s inner instinct.

More difficult is when life springs one of its inevitable surprises on us. Like being thrown into deep water, we either adapt or drown. An example would be losing our job in a dying industry and having to re-train for something else. It’s oft said we’re never given challenges we can’t cope with and even when faced with traumatic upheaval the human Spirit frequently demonstrates remarkable resilience.

Our potential for pushing the boundaries varies over time. Sometimes we’ll be fired up and ready to try something new. And so we should go with the flow. Other times we need to retreat to the very heart of our existing comfort zone, where healing and rejuvenation can take place. That’s fine too. When we find a new direction and the time is right to reach out once more our inner instinct will know it.

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