We are hard wired to run from pain and seek pleasure. These two motivations drive every action that we make. Our brains try to create the path of least resistance to achieve both pain avoidance and pleasure seeking. These patterns create our comfort zone. Our society encourages this natural behavior and with modern technology it is possible for us to sit in a comfort with pleasurable sensations thrown at us through all five senses all day every day. How easy is it succumb to that comfort? Too easy. The reality is that we are not our brains and we should not succumb to a constant comfort zone. When we do we get weak, unmotivated, and lose our passion for life. Getting out of your comfort zone requires risk, facing challenges and possibly failure. While that sounds scary we have to realize that to live an optimal life we REQUIRE RISK and FEAR and FAILURE. We have to challenge ourselves to grow. We have to get out of our comfort zone on a regular basis.
Everyone’s comfort zone is different but we all have one. It’s the familiar space in your house, the drive to work on the same roads, the foods you eat on a regular basis and the activity that you’ve been doing that no longer serves you. It is the routine that your brain sees as safe, familiar and certain. The drive for routine kept us from getting eaten by wild animals generations ago. It was a requirement to survive in a very wild and unpredictable world. Now we live in the opposite environment. We live in a place of food abundance, comfort and constant stress. Our routines generally are putting us in harm by reducing our ability to handle the biggest risks we have today, chronic stress and boredom with our lives.
We have become animals in captivity. Our culture and society has created invisible bars and walls around us like a tiger at the zoo. Just like those miraculous monstrous beasts on display we too have become tamed, tired, unmotivated and a shell of what we were designed to be. Like hamsters on the wheel we have created a predictable life that checks the boxes our culture tells us we need to fill but we fail to be fulfilled upon completion.
Getting out of our comfort zone on the other hand sounds easy but to do it consistently takes intention, planning and help. We FEAR change. We RUN from pain. We FEAR failure. Getting out of our comfort zone requires us to face fear, lean into pain and possible fail. While that sounds terrible the benefits are tremendous. Once we break our cycle of monotony we will notice an improved set of skills, increased interest in other people, improved relationships, gratitude for what we have that is great and possibly some humility. All of these potential benefits can improve our response to daily stress which is actually what is killing most of us. When you step out of your comfort zone you may also find that what you thought was boring you in life is actually something you should be profoundly grateful for and simply need a new perspective of.
To get started you may need to take baby steps. Something simple like driving a different route to work or changing your workout routine. Once you realize the little stuff won’t kill you try something you’ll really feel like a sauna or better yet a cold plunge. Once you gain momentum try to schedule bigger events into your life. One of voices I listen to in this regard is Bedros Kueilian who plans at least two events a year that are outside of his comfort zone with 6 weeks of preparation each. It could be running a marathon or hiking a mountain peak. Something that really moves the needle and requires an action plan to succeed. Something that puts you at real risk of failing!
In the end life is a collection of events and relationships. What events can you create in your life that will help you answer the question of “am I enough?” What can you tell your kids, partner and friends about that you are proud of? Personally, I am embarking on my first major challenge in a long time. I chose to work with Bedros and his team at the Modern Day Knight Project. A physically challenging, emotionally and mentally stressful approach to personal growth and leadership training with a greater than 50% failure rate. I fear the certain pain and possible failure but know that I will learn a tremendous amount simply by showing up. This email was written on the Monday before the 72 hour event. You are reading this at the earliest on the Friday after I either completed it successfully or failed trying. I have made my entire readership my accountability buddy. What will you do next to get out of your comfort zone and live your optimal life? Who will keep you accountable?