Have you ever had a friend ask you to go out somewhere new and intriguing out of the blue, with very little time to prepare? Or your boss has asked you to step in and help with a presentation (and she knows it’s your worst nightmare!)

Or maybe, you’ve had a crazy work week and all you want to do is collapse on the couch on a glorious Friday night when your friend calls asking for a girls night out.

What did you do?

If you’re anything like me, the first thought that went through your head was probably, “uh, do I have to?” But you said yes, did it anyway and loved every minute, or at least looking back you did.

So, what is it that invokes this reaction, even though we’ve been in the same situation before, when doing the thing turned out to be just what we needed. Why is it that sometimes we still need to be dragged – kicking and screaming ( or at least winging quietly) to do different things.

The need for comfort


One reason you’re likely to feel like this is comfort .

Everyone loves a bit of comfort. Whether that’s having some RNR and pampering yourself, spending time with people you know well instead of going out and meeting new people, or sitting in the back row of anything ( ever do that?). Whatever it is, we all love to feel comfortable.

These are just a few examples of things that happen in life, where you have to make a choice that involves doing what feels comfortable or choosing the uncomfortable option.

The thing is, you can’t be in a persistent state of comfort, as the old saying goes,nothing exciting happens there. Yes it feels warm, safe and cosy. But you also miss out on lots of opportunities.

So Why do we have a comfort zone and what does happen in the comfort zone?

The comfort zone isn’t necessarily a physical state, it refers to your mental state.
When you operate within your comfort zone you feel just that – comfortable.

The need for comfort is a completely natural thing and is driven by our need for safety. Our brains operate at both a primitive unconscious level as well as a conscious, rational level. In our primitive minds, anything which causes a level of discomfort is BAD and we must avoid it. Therefore, we are naturally driven to stay within our comfort zones.

Your unconscious doesn’t differentiate between a presentation and a lion chasing you, it just knows it feels bad and therefore it’s dangerous and must be avoided. So you can see why so many of us have difficulty doing things outside our comfort zone.

Things in your comfort zone are things which you find easy, safe, predictable, routine. They don’t make you feel scared, challenged or unsafe in any way.

Although that might sound great, think about what you’re missing if you choose to stay there.

Adventuring out


So what is beyond the comfort zone and why is it important to venture out?

The zone after your comfort zone is known as the stretch zone and the things that fall in this zone are the things that stretch you.

When you operate in your stretch zone, it means you’re learning and having to push yourself. Whether that’s learning a new skill or doing something for the very first time.

The stretch zone is where you have the opportunity for growth and development. When you do things in this zone you will experience a sense of accomplishment, fulfilment, and achievement. And if this isn’t enough to convince you, the stretch zone is also where you experience excitement. And we all want more of that!

The discomfort of progress


Even though all the things we want are outside of the comfort zone, many of us still have to really push ourselves to get out of it. They don’t call it a stretch zone for no reason, If you’ve ever done yoga for the first time ( and last time if you’re me) then you know how it feels to really stretch.

The fact is that stretching yourself, although it might be good for you, isn’t always as exhilarating and fun as we’d like. You start by feeling a little pain. With your unconscious screaming at you to go back to safety!

But, in life, there is no gain without pain. If you really want to get the most out of yourself, and out of any aspect of your life whether that’s your career or your workouts, then you have to be ready to feel that initial pain and keep going. Because if you always stop at the first sign of discomfort, then you’ll stay stuck.

The good news


If you continue to do the things that feel painful and uncomfortable, you get better, they get easier and over time, they move into your comfort zone.

The game is to increase the number of things within your comfort zone and to continually push yourself further afield.

So, the next time you have a decision to make, ask yourself, which one is the safe option that keeps me in my comfort zone, and choose the opposite!

What uncomfortable things will you do to push yourself out of your comfort zone?