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The Drive To Thrive: 4 Tips To Help You Push Past Your Comfort Zones

For many of us, the difference between a good life and a great life is lots of work. Consider what Carl Jung once said, “The difference between a good life and a bad life is how well you walk through the fire.”

Throughout our lives, we’ll encounter many opportunities to walk through fire. The people we read about in history books, business moguls, thought leaders, innovators, inventors, and anyone in the public eye, all had to walk through fire—on purpose!

To take a thought and turn it into reality, we might have to let our feet get uncomfortably hot.

Sometimes, we don’t have a choice and we have to walk through the fire.

I think of my family immigrating from Mexico to the US in the 70s and 80s leaving severe poverty to, still live in poverty—but poverty 2.0—with indoor plumbing, color TVs, and paved roads.

Some thought my brother and I were fortunate because our mom married an American engineer three years before he and I crossed the border. He and I were immediately immersed into middle-class American culture, dramatically speeding up the cultural learning curve. The language, the clothes, the carpeting, the Twinkies and Ding Dongs, MTV, playing space invaders! Culture shock is real.

As a family, coming to America was a huge leap out of our collective comfort zone. The transition was hard as hell, yet we were comforted by slipping back to the familiar from time to time—usually Friday nights to Sunday afternoons. We’d revel in the things we knew—the language, the music, the food, the rich culture, our customs, and our togetherness as a family.

Walking through the fire (the culture shock) forced us to stretch and grow at lightning speed, often at painful rates and all for a worthy cause. Read more about my drive to thrive here.

The comfort zone is very real

First, let’s look at what a comfort zone is. It’s a behavioral state where a person operates neutrally, sort of like being on auto-pilot. It’s using a confined number of actions to keep performance steady, and usually without venturing into uncertainty.

Your comfort zone contracts and grows at different times throughout your life. Sometimes, this may happen naturally when you’re not even paying attention. It’s when suddenly you don’t want to stay out til 4 am anymore as you move forward in your career or begin raising a family.

Think about the operating system on your phone. Maybe you snooze those updates for as long as possible before you’re forced to make the update. Then when the new software is ready, it feels tedious. Everything looks different and feels uncomfortable as we navigate our way around. We’re definitely not as fast or as confident as we were before the upgrades. Just like when you traded in your flip phone for a smartphone, we’re always evolving.

As you push your limits and play with your boundaries, know that there’s no, “Just do this” when we’re dealing with the comfort zone. The comfort zone is an unconscious protector set in place to help us move swiftly from known to known (familiar things) and to avoid pain in doing so.

The problem is that while we’ll have the ability to move swiftly, we can only do so within its boundaries. And while we may want to experience “What’s over there,” those unconscious boundaries will pop up and set off alarm bells disguised as concern, worry, or doubt. to keep us exactly where we are—where we’re “safe”.

Making conscious change is hard.

In 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson developed what’s called The Yerkes–Dodson law—an empirical relationship between arousal and performance. The law says that performance goes up with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point. In other words, we do best when we’re challenged within a certain range, and that range is unique to us.

Our self-esteem is often directly related to where we are in the comfort zone. Think about the last time you had to make a change at work, move to a new city, or drive a new car. It was uncomfortable and maybe left you feeling a little unsure.

There are three zones and they’re different for all of us.

We all deal with change differently. This is called “the coping cycle,” and it’s all about how we deal with change. It may also be affected by the zone we’re in while in the midst of a change.

  1. The comfort zone: It feels safe here because it’s what you know. Being here may even make you feel uncomfortable to a certain degree. You might have nagging thoughts that you’re compromising or stagnating. This could be staying in a job you can’t stand because looking for another one or starting your own business would be too scary.
  2. The growth zone: Also called the discomfort zone. Learning to live here makes people more resourceful and creates a ton of behavioral flexibility. You’ll know when people are in this zone because they usually remain steady when the crap hits the fan. These are the problem solvers and out-of-the-box thinkers. They’re people who have a day job they don’t love and commit to building their dream job on the side. Sure, it’s uncomfortable at first, but as they get used to the new routine and seeing the results of their actions, it begins to feel easier. They see a bigger picture—and because, hell yeah!
  3. The danger zone: This is the panic zone because being here reduces resources and performance to a debilitating degree. Someone who hates their job and decides to quit after a confrontation with their boss. Hurling them into a panic because now, they have no job.

Meeting our basic human needs helps us thrive.

You may be familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We all need to meet the needs at the bottom of the list before we can focus on the ones at the top.

  1. Self-actualization Needs – Full potential, including creative needs
  2. Esteem Needs – Prestige and feeling accomplished
  3. Love and belonging Needs – Friendships and intimate relationships
  4. Safety Needs – Safety and Security
  5. Physiological – Food, water, warmth, rest

These needs are all essential pieces of your life. When you make a decision and take action, you’re unconsciously doing so because of your basic drive to fulfill one or more of these needs.

Both staying in your comfort zone and expanding your comfort zone will meet and challenge our six basic needs. This is healthy!

How to transition out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone

Making the journey from the comfort zone to the growth zone is a process. You may not notice all the growing you’re doing the background for a little while but know that you are indeed growing and expanding your comfort zone. The key is to stick with the process by taking action that supports your growth. Let’s go!

4 tips for taking action:

  1. Take a survey of your life today and identify where the blah-ness of uncomfortable familiarity–where you know you need or want a change. This could be in the area of your health and fitness, in your relationships, your work, etc.
  2. Consider what specific change or achievement would get your growth juices flowing.
  3. Then, consider if this falls within the boundaries of your personal growth zone or if it lands smack dab in the panic zone.
    1. If it falls in your growth zone, name some specific actions you can take to help you move through the growth zone. Then, start doing things on that list consistently.
    2. If it falls in the panic zone, come up with an action to bridge the gap that challenges you enough to move from your comfort zone to your growth zone and gets you closer to your desired change. Then, take action.
  4. Practice doing things you wouldn’t normally do. Maybe it’s learning a new language, trying new foods, speaking on a stage—though this last one might throw you into the panic zone!

This is why awareness and action are so important.

Leaning into the discomfort and embracing the unknown to step out of what we know to get more of what we want requires courage and bravery and trust in ourselves.

As we step out of our comfort zone, our comfort zone expands. And this gives us a richer, fuller, more expansive viewpoint or perspective. Very similar to going on an uphill hike: typically the higher you go, the more majestic the view. And THIS is the magic of expanding the comfort zone.

Because the more you can see within this newly expanded comfort zone, the more natural it will feel to see what else is available outside of its new boundaries. And then we can expand from there with each expansion helping us do and be and have more of what we want. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

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I'm Brenda Terry. I'm a personal development trainer and master coach who works with go-getters like you who want to achieve big results in your business and personal life.

If you're excited and ready to play bigger in business and kill it in life, I help you identify and change beliefs, patterns, and behaviors that aren't supporting your goals so you can make more money, find more joy, better manage relationships, and communicate more effectively.
I'm here to help you make the powerful, effective shifts you're craving- faster than you ever thought possible.

Learn how we can work together here.


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