The Comfort Zone is a place that we settle into that is familiar, has low stress, and has little or no challenge. It is where we maintain the status quo, or the norm. The Comfort Zone is not necessarily a comfortable place. Many people become familiar with misery, jealousy, pain, suffering, financial stress, loneliness, boredom, a job that offers them no passion….. So the term Comfort Zone may also be called the “familiar zone”.
Just above the comfort zone is the Success Zone. This is where the workaholic, the person who is addicted, the person who stays busy so they won’t have to feel their feelings, will typically be. It is a place of high stress, and people who stay in this place for long periods of time are usually unhealthy. They may appear to be very successful, energetic, enthusiastic, and full of energy. What makes the success zone appealing is society’s acceptance and encouragement of a “good work ethic”. Corporate America encourages “long hard hours” to “make it”. Eventually people who stay in the success zone burn out, have to pull in and isolate to recharge, and develop physical and stress related symptoms, such as stomach problems, chronic headaches, stiff necks, and ulcers.
They have not mastered a state of balance in life and teeter back and forth between the extremes of intense action and energy expenditure, and the exhaustion of burn out.
Just below the comfort zone is the Doldrums. This is a place of boredom and stagnation. People who stay in the doldrums too long will seem somewhat flat, have low energy, and will tend to have a negative slant on life. They are unchallenged in their lives. Because of a lack of motivation, movement, and action they are unhealthy physically, and often emotionally, and spiritually as well. You might feel tired just being around someone who has been in the doldrums for a long period of time.
Sometimes it is all right to stay in the doldrums for an extended period of time. If a woman is recovering from having a baby, or an athlete is healing from an injury it serves them well to take it easy and give their body and spirit time to heal. Though they might
be bored or miss a more active life style their wisdom tells them that they are doing the right thing. If they move too quickly they both run the risk of further pain or injury.
The Comfort Zone
Years ago a major computer company did a study on a new sales group. They discovered that the group as a whole had a very high level of success initially. After a few months the group dropped in the level of sales achieved. A few months later the level of sales increased, but not to the previous high levels the group had achieved initially. A few months later the sales levels again dropped, but this time not to the previous low levels. Over time they found that the group moved into a level that was somewhere in the middle of the highs and lows they experienced during the first few months they were out selling the product.
What this told them was that the group as a whole was not comfortable with extreme levels of success, nor were they comfortable with extreme levels of failure. They settled into a place somewhere in the middle.
Fear of Success/Fear of Failure
The first concept this study reveals is Fear of Success. Often when a person enters into a period of extreme success, old messages and beliefs begin to surface that tell the person that this level of success is way out of their Comfort Zone. With athletes, the messages might be about not deserving to win, or that it is not acceptable to perform at such a high level. A couple might believe on some level, that they cannot handle extended periods of calm and connection, so they create stress, chaos, and disconnection. Because of a lack of healthy entitlement, the sales person might slack off just enough to experience a drop in sales.
The second concept this study reveals is Fear of Failure. If an athlete, a salesperson, or a relationship begins a downward slide they will eventually hit areas of failure that are unacceptable to them and those around them. To counter this, we engage in activities that will increase levels of performance. The basketball player will stay after practice and shoot free throws. The baseball player will take extra batting practice. The golfer will stay on the practice tee and hit more golf balls. The sales person will make more cold calls, and study to learn more about their products. Those in relationship might seek out a counselor, learn ways to resolve conflict, or learn how to negotiate their way through the disconnection and struggle.
The Ego and the Status Quo
The Ego wants us to stay in our Comfort Zone and maintain the “status quo’. The ego likes what is familiar, and has the misperception that this is a safe place for us to live.
You can think of the ego as a giant magnet pulling us back into our old comfort zones.
The ego is threatened when we make changes in our lives. When we begin to do our lives differently those around us might have a difficult time with the changes we are
integrating. Rest assured that others in your life will let you know that they are not happy with these changes.
When I was just beginning my spiritual journey I was in what I call the “sponge” stage. I was reading every self help and new age book I could get my hands on. I was attending workshops, going to seminars. It was a time of tremendous change and transformation in my life. The friends I had at that time and some family members began to work on me. I would hear things like “you think you’re better than us”, “who do you think you are”, “what is all of this psycho babble about”. It hurt and my ego responded to this. I began to feel guilt, fear, shame, anger and other emotions that surface when we choose to change the way we do our lives. Had I given in to these emotions I never would have made the changes I have made over the years. If I had turned back every time I was hit with a guilt trip, or felt ashamed for speaking up, I would have stayed in the same unhealthy relationships, or continued on in a job that brought me financial rewards, but no passion. Instead I integrated a few strategic concepts into my life.
Surround Yourself With Like Minded Others
In the early 1980’s I was fortunate to have a mentor who guided me through these tough times. One of the most important things he ever said to me was to “surround myself with like minded others”. He said to create a life where I surrounded myself with others who share similar interest, passions, morals, values, and standards for life. He also said to seek out people who were walking a similar path and going through the similar experiences. And to create a circle of supporting people who were meeting similar resistance from within and from those around them.
I have managed to integrate this into my world in a very effective way.
My wife is very grounded in her own personal and spiritual work. We believe in parenting the same way. We are comfortable in the same church. We have strong values around health and wellness and have integrated routines and rituals around health.
My friends are on the same spiritual journey.
Exercise and wellness are important parts of my life. I have many friends with the same goals as I do around mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellness.
I have a strong passion with biking and have created a core group of fellow riders who support and encourage each other. The rides are spiritual journeys themselves.
I have tremendous passion about the Civil War, and have friends who share this interest with me. We have long talks that are fascinating, and emotional.
By creating this circle of “liked minded others” I have created a support system. I am fortunate to have a group of people in my life who challenge me to get out of my comfort zones, support me during the transitions, and very importantly, help me to stay energized, and passionate about the things in my life that are important to me.
Create Life Giving Rituals for Change
If I ask you to go to bed at night without brushing your teeth you might think I was a little wacky. If I ask you to begin staying up an extra two hours at night, or stop bathing
on a regular basis you might feel the same way. These activities have become important rituals around your personal wellness. They are things you do without giving it much thought. Being asked to change them interrupts important rituals for your standards of health and wellness.
To really commit to the process of Accelerated Behavior Change you must begin to create positive life giving rituals. For example, I get up every morning and take a hot shower, and fix me a healthy breakfast. If I don’t do this, my mind is not as clear and I don’t have the energy level that I normally enjoy on the days that I do take the time to perform this ritual for health and wellness.
Positive life giving rituals might include:
• morning meditation
• writing or journaling first thing in the morning
• a morning walk
• reading for a set amount of time each day
• reading to your kids at night
• taking a ten minute break during your work day
• taking your lunch to work as a way of eating healthier and slowing the pace of the day.
• walking your dog after work
• keeping a dream journal
I am sure that you are thinking of positive, life giving rituals that you can integrate into your life. Schedule them into your day. Be sure to defend the time that you do set aside. It will be very easy to say yes to things that will take you away from the activities that you are trying to make routine. Be willing to say no to those activities or opportunities that will sabotage your attempts to create these positive rituals for a healthy, energized life.
You will find that taking care of yourself will become just like brushing your teeth or taking a bath, it’s just what you do without thinking about it.
By now I am sure you can see that The Comfort Zone Theory is one of the core principles of Accelerated Behavior Change.
If you find yourself with low energy or motivation, boredom, or the doldrums in any of these areas, it means that you have been in this Comfort Zone for too long.
The way out of an old Comfort Zone is to create positive challenges that will move you from one level or vibration to a higher one.
If you are a runner you might challenge yourself to run farther or faster. An artist
might show their work in public. Making a phone call and asking for help on something might move you out of a comfort zone of isolation and doing things alone. A challenge around building better boundaries might be to tell a friend how much something they did hurt when you would usually keep it in and build resentment. Saying no when you usually say yes is a great way to challenge yourself to move out of your Comfort Zones.
By integrating these principles, theories, and tools you can create life giving rituals that will help you create a life filled with passion, connection, energy, fun, support, and infinite possibilities.
Robert B Andrews MA is a sports psychology consultant, licensed therapist, and the director of the Institute of Sports Psychology and the Accelerated Behavior Change Training, both in Houston, Texas. To find out more about Robert and his work you can visit www.tinssp.com or http://www.theabctraining.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org