In addition to upping the cozy factor in your home and in your body–as I covered in the previous two episodes–seeking coziness and comfort is also worthy goals when it comes to making life decisions, like what you do for work and where, who you’re in relationship with, and where you live. Which flies in the face of most conventional advice, which says that you have to leave your comfort zone if you want to have a fulfilling life. So let’s break this down a bit.
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Here’s what I think
You are going to be forced to deal with discomfort whether you seek it out or not. You don’t need to pursue discomfort. It will find you. It could be because something happens that you weren’t expecting and didn’t want, OR because you started moving toward something that you do want, and that required you to put yourself in unfamiliar situations, which can feel pretty uncomfortable sometimes. Either way, discomfort is a given.
So your focus isn’t to force yourself to leave your comfort zone – life will take care of that for you. It’s to figure out how to be comfortable even in uncomfortable situations. How to, as the Dude says in The Big Lebowski, abide, so that you can tolerate discomfort for long enough to create a new comfort zone.
My friend Terri Trespicio, who is the author of the new book Unfollow Your Passion and who was my co-host the week leading up to the New Year says it this way: “Don’t seek to leave your comfort zone; seek to expand it.”
Remember how on Monday I was talking about how important it is to feel safe, because it quiets your nervous system?
Well, that’s a pretty important benefit of staying in your comfort zone.
Feeling safe also quiets your inner critic, aka your ego, because nothing will perk up your ego’s ears faster than putting yourself in a situation that it perceives as being unsafe–which is basically anything new. For the vast majority of us, one whiff of feeling judged or otherwise in some form of danger–including just being in unfamiliar surroundings– and your best thinking will shut down, like a lid slammed on a pot of bubbling soup. Feeling comfortable, on the other hand, is when you feel safe to explore ideas, to daydream, and to think creatively.
It is no way wimpy to want to make your reality more comfortable. Rather, it is perfectly natural and human of you to want to seek comfort, and to do things and be around people that make you feel at ease. It’s wise to seek to increase your comfort, because when you’re comfortable you can do your best thinking and work.
I know that some people argue that they do their best thinking under pressure, but I wager that they’ve just gotten USED to thinking during stressful situations, and the brain can equate familiarity with comfort even though the things we’re used to aren’t necessarily comfortable–more on this tomorrow.
Here’s an example of how I have managed to expand my comfort zone over time.
When I first started producing this podcast, it took me days and days of work each week to feel like the episodes were publishable. It was quite a time suck, honestly, that took away from my paying work. I have had to adjust my comfort zone to being OK with condensing that amount of time down to less than one day a week, and letting these episodes be good enough instead of feeling like every one has to be perfect, so that I don’t feel like it’s too much work or that my paying clients don’t feel like I’m giving them short shrift. It wasn’t immediate but it definitely happened.
And now, all the other four+ days of the work week I don’t have to worry or stress about the podcast, because I know that I’ve got this down. AND I am much more comfortable in general because I know that I am devoting time and energy to getting my own creative work out in the world–when I wasn’t doing that, I was feeling sad and angsty. My schedule may have been more open but I was uncomfortable in a deep way.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to think about where your comfort zone might benefit from some expanding. Is there something you’ve been exerting a lot of effort on that maybe you could get more comfortable with your efforts being good enough? Or maybe something that you need to pay more attention to that you’ve been ignoring because it’s felt like too much work–and maybe you could work on getting comfortable with the actual doing of the effort? Or is there some change you could make to that would make some challenge you’re facing a little easier to take?
Come back tomorrow when I’m talking more about the difference between comfort and familiarity, and how to figure out if your current comfort zone is truly comfortable, or if you’ve just gotten used to it.