steve@stevehansonspeaks.com

The (un)Comfort(able) Zone

The following anonymous quote is one that I remind myself of often, as it is one of my personal favorites.

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there”.

The message is fairly straightforward, and its implications should be obvious; your level of personal growth is directly tied to your willingness to put yourself into new, and unfamiliar circumstances. In truth, the term comfort zone is a bit of a misnomer, since it is oftentimes a pretty painful place to be.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of physical growth. Think of it like a child’s foot. When a child gets a new pair of shoes, we want to be certain that the shoes fit. But as the child grows, they’re going to become a little bit tight. After a while, his or her toes are going to be pushed up against the front of the shoes, making it difficult to walk. Eventually, if the feet keep getting crammed into the same, ill-fitting shoes, structural issues and deformities may occur.

So, what do we do? Do we keep forcing that child to wear a pair of shoes that no longer fit? No, of course not. We buy the kid a new pair of kicks. And who knows, maybe they’ll even be able to run faster and jump higher. I mean, that’s the goal, right?

The same is true of our emotional growth. Just as it is with a shoe, we can feel discomfort in our lives. We’re aware that something isn’t working. When we find ourselves in a relationship, a job, a city, a home, or any set of circumstances where our needs are no longer being met, it’s time for something new.

The question then becomes, if we’re aware that something isn’t right, why do we continue to live with it? Why do we keep wearing the same old pair of shoes, even after it’s become obvious that we’ve outgrown them? There are many reasons, I suppose. But here is some food for thought. Perhaps we stay in the same place because we’ve been conditioned to believe that the end result of a successful life means arriving at some sort of final destination. Maybe we see the need for change as our own personal failure, because deep down, we’re afraid that it means we didn’t get it right the first time.

But here’s the truth. Wanting a change is not only a good thing, it’s a perfectly normal and healthy desire. In fact, there is scientific evidence that suggests human beings are hardwired to want something more, and that the very act of seeking has been shown to be quite satisfying, in and of itself, regardless of the results. Adapting to something new, taking on a different challenge, reinventing yourself; this is what it means to be alive.

You’ll know when it’s time for the next step. The only question is whether or not you’ll take it.

It’s up to you. It’s all up to you.

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