Being in one’s comfort zone or not has become an easy marker or diagnosis of what we are doing wrong. It can be useful unless we turn it into a form of black and white thinking as a way of beating ourselves up. Our inner critics love ideas like this.
I consider myself a creative person. However, I find many ideas about comfort zones and getting out of them, to have very little to do with creativity and creating a good life for yourself. To be effectively creative in doing great work and having quality of life, I think that reevaluating comfort zones is a necessary step before it is possible to actually improve your life.
Distorting Comfort Zones
Current ideas of comfort zones, in particular getting out of one’s comfort zone, are very much tied to the growth model of economic progress. Getting out of one’s comfort zone appears to have become somewhat of a cultural ideal and I think that is problematic. Being uncomfortable is not necessarily better than being comfortable. It is important to be able to know when to step out of “comfort zones” and when not to.
Here are some reasons, a society might value having people move out of their comfort zones:
- if our comfort zone is “bad”, we will seek continuous self-improvement. Although there is nothing wrong with learning, it is better when it is for healthy reasons rather than to live up to a cultural ideal.
- we buy and consume more, in particular, more than we need. If living in a smaller house and having fewer possessions makes sense for us, it will be demeaned in a consumption-based economic system. “Enough” is just a synonym for your comfort zone.
- it can be thought of as supporting the hypermasculine culture of Western civilization with its emphasis on markets, competition, conquest, and expansion. Nurturing and sustaining activities are mostly devalued. One example of this mindset occurs with those people who assert that they will rest when they are dead as if rest is a waste of time.
- if we are out of our comfort zones, we may not be true to ourselves. For example, we are out of our comfort zone when we pretend to be happy when we are not. If we do this often enough we lose access to and recognition of our real feelings and true selves.
- if we go along with getting out of our comfort zone as a cultural requirement, we may not be able to identify our real values and aspirations.
- there is more to comfort zones than the demands of a hyper-consuming society.
- getting out of one’s comfort zone is not about becoming extreme in sports or any other endeavor.
- getting out of one’s comfort zone implies that what is natural may not be good. Should we be rude because being cordial is in our comfort zone?
- dissing comfort zones suggests that the ordinary is not good enough. Actually, the ordinary is magnificent if we can stop long enough to see it.
Getting out of one’s comfort zone can be as mindless as any other idea.
Reframing Comfort Zones
One way to get out of the trap of comfort zones is to reframe what you are doing because frankly, your comfort zone is really not all that important an idea to wrap your life around. It certainly should not be a reason for doing anything.
If you make yourself present to where you are, what you want or need to do and the steps to accomplish what you need to do, how do comfort zones enter into that?
Do you need to get out of your comfort zone when brushing your teeth? Perhaps standing on your head while brushing would be out of your comfort zone, but would it be worthwhile to do so?
Perhaps you should consider sleeping standing up because that would be out of your comfort zone.
A Better Use Of Comfort And Discomfort
All absolutes are problematic because there aren’t any. Absolutes are an illusion. So turning anything into an absolute as a guide for living life is a mistake. That includes “getting out of your comfort zone” if you use it as a measure of whether or not what you are doing is a good idea.
It is far better to use comfort to determine when something is working or not. We use it as a tool for learning and living in a healthier way.
We sensitive people have the ability because we are so intuitive, creative, and in touch with our feelings to notice comfort and discomfort as a way to make life work better – not as an absolute but as a tool for compassionate living.
That is really the value of discomfort and comfort and one of the wonderful ways sensitive people can add a lot of value, creativity, and magic to the world.