Let me ask you a question: Are you where you want to be in your life right now or have you settled for far less than you’re capable of? Think back to the time when you dreamed of achieving great things with your time on this planet. Have you achieved them? Do you continue to stretch yourself or have you relaxed into a comfortable life? After all, you have a car or two, a comfortable house, the kids are happy, a holiday every year…what more could you ask for? For a long time I’ve searched for the answer to this question: What is it that separates those who continually strive for and achieve their dreams and those who simply settle? What is it that separates those who continually stretch and grow and those who stagnate and become average? The answer has its roots in the psychology underpinning the Comfort Zone.
Intellectually we all understand the concept behind the Comfort Zone. We understand that we should never get too comfortable because life will pass us by and ten or fifteen years later we suddenly realise that we haven’t achieved all we set out to (this usually occurs when we reach an age with a zero in it!). Oft times we’re not even aware we’re in our Comfort Zone until we look back and see how little we’ve progressed. So we make new goals and start off with a new vigour and promise ourselves that this time we’re going to stick to our guns but soon the tendrils of complacency wrap their seductive arms around us and lull us back into stagnation for another 10 years.
Escaping the clutches of complacency is difficult to do because one of the key drivers in our nature is the need for assurance, the need for certainty…the need for comfort. Examples include the assurance that we have a job to go to, the assurance we have a bed to sleep in at night, the assurance that someone is there for us when we need a shoulder to cry on. However, there is also a paradoxical need that we must meet at some level in order to feel fulfilled and that need is the necessity for variety, the necessity for surprises in our lives, the necessity for uncertainty. Could you imagine going through life and never being surprised? Never having to stretch yourself to overcome a challenge? Never having anything occur out of the blue? This need is vital to our happiness (good surprises) and growth (challenges) because without it we would be completely bored! The challenge for most of us is that the degree to which these needs must be met are disproportionate. In general, the need for certainty far outweighs the need for uncertainty. Therefore, without being consciously aware of these competing needs in your own life, it’s likely you will eventually drift back into your Comfort Zone at some stage or another.
The problem with living within your Comfort Zone is that you are preventing your own growth and limiting your own life. To expand your Comfort Zone is uncomfortable, yes, but the rewards you gain, and those you can bring to others, are immeasurable.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” ~ George Bernard Shaw.
One of the advantages the human race has over the rest of the animal kingdom is our innate ability to adapt to our environments and we do this very well. It’s a natural instinct but this is the trap we must avoid. It’s a trap because as well as adapting to new environments we may find ourselves in we also tend to adapt to the standards of those around us. We tend to dilute our passions so as to fit in with the crowd and gain a sense of assurance that we belong. Therefore it’s vital to choose your peer group wisely! If you associate with people who have low ambitions and low expectations in life, this will have a negative impact on your thoughts and behaviours. However, if you associate with people whose expectations of life, and themselves, lead them to positive growth you too will find yourself striving for more, striving to be better. “But Coach,” I hear you say, “I can’t dump my friends…and what about my family?” Love them but don’t follow them. You must become Shaw’s “unreasonable man” and expect more from life. Step up and be a leader of your peer group and inspire them to grow through consistent action.
Sounds easy, right? But here’s the challenge: At some stage, we always go back to what we know, to what we’re comfortable with. We all need to meet that level of certainty in our lives. Most people meet that need outside of themselves and this is what separates those who continually strive for excellence and those who accept their lot in life. Some people only get certainty when they receive recognition from others, others fulfill this need by changing their biochemistry through smoking a cigarette, overeating, watching excessive TV, etc. By meeting this need through external means causes us to be dependent on our environment and we give away our power.
So what’s the answer? How do we live in a changing world, push the boundaries of our perceived limitations and still meet our need for assurance? The degree of success you have in this life is directly proportional to the degree of “uncertainty” you can manage and how much “certainty” you can generate internally! Successful people know that, ”no matter what happens, no matter what curve balls life throws at me, no matter how uncomfortable I am feeling at this moment, I can overcome any obstacle that is put in my path. I am an unstoppable force and I will always find a way!”
Don’t ask life to go easy on you, seek out the skills you need to overcome the many gauntlets it will put in your path. If your expectations of life aren’t being met don’t shrink and be reasonable about it. Push through and go forward with the absolute certainty that you will succeed. You see, I believe that life is there to test us so let me ask you this question (and answer it honestly), “Are you where you want to be in your life right now or have you settled for far less than you’re capable of?” What kind of message does this send to your children when you tell them, “You can be anything you want to be in life”? “What about you mammy/daddy,” they ask, “Why haven’t you done it?”
“Instead of seeing the rug being pulled from under us we can learn to dance on a shifting carpet.” ~ Thomas Crum
If you are interested in breaking free of your Comfort Zone and understanding more about what’s holding you back from achieving your dreams, or if you’d like to learn a little more about what coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.