Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

I would love to do something like that, but I don't have the drive or determination


“Are you part of the Olympics?” a guy on the tram asked.  The giveaway was the British Cycling kit I was wearing, I was on my way to training.  I explained that I was a cyclist.  His response was “I’d love to do something like that, but I don’t have the drive or determination.”  This got me thinking about the reasons why people don’t pursue the things that make them happy.  This is also the natural follow on from my previous blog post about turning luck in your favour. It is within our human nature to resist change.  We are generally much more comfortable to accept the world is as we perceive it, and we-are-as-we-are,  Furthermore many of us are happy to continue along this path, despite knowing that our views of the world and of ourselves are limiting us.  This is known as the Comfort Zone.


What is the Comfort Zone?

The Comfort Zone is a psychological state in which we are at a low level of stress and anxiety.  This tends to occur when we are in familiar places, following our normal routine.  In this state of mind we are relaxed with our surroundings and comfortable with the people who are around us.  When we are in the Comfort Zone we are capable of producing a steady rate of performance in whatever task we are doing.  There is significant evidence to suggest that stress and anxiety are detrimental to our health, so in some respects, the Comfort Zone is not a terrible place to be.


Why Leave the Comfort Zone?

For those wanting to grow, or to experience new things, the Comfort Zone is a dangerous place.  It is all too easy to settle in to a life that just ticks on by.  We hear stories about the amazing things other people do, and see TV programs about the wonderful places we’d love to visit some day.  Yet we do nothing about it as we don’t have the time, will or confidence to make a change.  There is an optimal level of stress.  At this point, where the effects of something that challenges or scares us, our bodies feel more alert and receptive to what is going on around us.  Think of that moment when you are watching your favourite team play, scores are level with minutes to play.  Or perhaps for you its the moments before you perform on stage at school.  Your blood starts pumping, cortisol is secreted in to the body, and this is what makes us feel alive.  Your team score, you take a bow to a rapturous applause on stage.  These are the moments in life that we remember.  These are the moments that are life.


My Personal Comfort Zone

My personal story in this blog isn’t going to be one from my sporting background.  Though I’m sure you can imagine that sitting on a start line ahead of the biggest race of your life, with thousands in the crowd and a TV camera in your face, is far from comfortable!  Instead I want to talk about something that arose due to my Visual Impairment.  Music has always been a passion of mine, the thundering of the drums and wailing of a guitar solo.  I’ve always seen myself as a rock star, despite never taking the time to learn an instrument, and so I’ve had to make do with listening to music.  Despite this love, until my late 20s, I had never been to a gig.  My eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa, has always affected my night vision particularly badly.  Going out in an evening was something that used to bother me quite often.  And nothing was more daunting than loud places, the one sense I need most when my vision is completely compromised, is my hearing.

I was fortunate, I had someone to give me a good, hard kick out of the Comfort Zone.   Lora came along, and kindly pointed out how ridiculous I was for not going to places just because it was difficult for me to see.  After all, she is completely blind, and attended many a rock concert when growing up.  Watching Lora negotiate her way around Manchester City Centre, with the help of her Guide Dog Libby, was incredible.  I instantly felt foolish, for years I had let my condition get the better of me.  I started going out more in an evening, with the help of my white cane, and began to experience things I never had before.

My favourite band, Biffy Clyro, were playing in Manchester.  Lora told me we were going, the show was incredible.  I had stepped out of my Comfort Zone, and I had experienced something that will stick with me forever.  Needless to say I have been to many more gigs since.


How do I step out of my Comfort Zone?

Well nobody said it would be easy, and you may be lucky like me and have someone who will push you to do it.  But more than likely you are going to have to find that motivation yourself.  The key is to first step back and take a look at your life.  Are you where you would want to be?  Do you feel as though you are challenging yourself?  Do you often feel as though there is something more out there?  Think about the things in life that you are passionate about, and then think about how you could pursue them.  Instead of looking for those reasons why not to do something, take the time to consider the reasons why you should.

I have no doubt that, if you do step out of your Comfort Zone, you will experience things that both challenge and inspire you.  Ultimately you will find your life to be far more rewarding.  Remember, the fear of failure can be debilitating, but those who truly live life see failure as an opportunity.

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