Dr. Jenna Renfroe
F*ck Your Comfort Zone
I went on a trip to Ireland about a month ago and connected with a group of fellow travelers (who also happened to be in the mental health field.) The intent of the trip was equal parts business and pleasure and I was able to bring my spouse which was a real treat. Suffice it to say, the experience was life-changing. Coming out of two years of being more isolated and home-bound than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had forgotten what it is like to push yourself out of your comfort zone and your home “nest” and into new culture, scenery, and new groups of people. In fact, it had been so long and there were so many complicating factors of traveling during this time that there was a hefty dose of nerves and anxiety around the idea of taking the trip leading up to it.
If I had let those nerves and trepidation stop me, I would have missed the experience of a lifetime and the benefits that continue to come from it in the form of memories, joy, inspiration, and relationships.
This is such a metaphor for life – they say, “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” I don’t fully agree with that because I think there is also so much life and joy to savor in the small, day-to-day moments of the life you have created (and if you do not slow down to focus on occasion, you’re missing it), but growth certainly does not occur until the edge of your comfort zone and beyond.
In fact, those feelings of safety and security are exactly why people stay put. How often have you heard someone say they are “stuck” or that they really “want” to do something but never do it. What stops them? Ninety-nine times out of one hundred – it is the fear of the unknown and avoidance of discomfort.
To leave your comfort zone, the first step outside of it is characterized by the most intense fear and anxiety.
You are entering a fully unknown territory, where the loudest thoughts are ones like “I don’t know what I am doing” or “This won’t matter” or “What if I fail?” More often than not, this is where the buck stops for people. They go no further. And it makes sense because it’s the most intensely uncomfortable stage. But if you can push through that, the next stage is a bit gentler.
When you get to the next stage of exiting your comfort zone, past the initial fear and anxiety, then you are in the learning, problem-solving, and overcoming stage. Your mind says things like “I still do not like this, and I am not comfortable, but I am figuring it out” and “Okay, what do I need to do next?”
The second stage is where the new road starts to be built and paved, the road that will take you to your new destination.
Once you pass through the stage of learning and overcoming, you are now in the third stage, the growth and reward stage. You are able to begin reaping the fruits of what you have sown (Perhaps still on a small scale! Patience, young grasshopper) but you are not so dang uncomfortable anymore. Dare I say, you might even be happy, or excited! You have reached the “other side” – which is the start of your new comfort zone.
When you are ready to grow, you will leave it once again. This is how one creates a life worth living, one that is ripe with purpose and fulfillment. You continue to repeat the process of change by exiting your comfort zone. You enter through the stages once again, going from confident and comfortable to pushing yourself back into the swampy, murky waters of fear and uncertainty…knowing that the view from the other side can be spectacular.
If you feel stuck or need to get out of your comfort zone - we can help. Contact Tailored Brain Health at (336) 542-1800.