Your go-to pizza order, the kind of clothes you like to wear, what you choose to do for fun, and the amount of risk you’re willing to take. Your comfort zone is the most familiar place you know.
We stick to a bubble of safety based on natural instinct. When going through day-to-day life, we choose pathways that will lead to the lowest amount of discomfort we can experience. Whether this means we don’t try new foods or we avoid having difficult conversations, the comfort zone is the place that you feel comfortable and safe.
This phenomenon is both good and bad. Finding things that work for you is a great feeling, and being able to retreat to a place of comfort and safety while dealing with all of life’s turbulence is great. But what happens if you have too much? What happens if you stop challenging yourself and experiencing new things? A lot of bad things, actually.
One of the biggest benefits we don’t think about from being challenged is the boost of confidence we experience from overcoming difficulty. When we advance past something we weren’t sure we could handle, we become increasingly sure of ourselves and more comfortable taking on other challenges of similar size. This is what growing is all about. But when we stop doing this, we get stuck. We’re no longer becoming better and leveling up, so to speak. This often leads to the feeling of being stuck in a rut. If you’ve been there, you know how frustrating it is and how confusing it is to try and fix it.
One of the most surefire ways to fix this problem is to switch up your routine. Force yourself to experience some discomfort. When you get through it, your comfort zone will expand because you’ll realize there are numerous possibilities for yourself — you’ll stop feeling so limited.
Your comfort zone can also blind you to things that might be bad for you. Maybe it’s a toxic relationship or friendship, but if you’re too scared to become uncomfortable, you will stay in a harmful situation. It’s the equivalent of not wanting to get out of bed to go to the bathroom because you’re too comfortable — ripping off the bandaid is beneficial in the long run.
The way I like to imagine growth in this context is thinking of it like weight lifting. In the moment, it’s hard and it doesn’t feel good to be tearing your muscles and building them up. At the beginning, you can’t even lift that much. But over time, it becomes a little bit easier — growth doesn’t come without discomfort.