Can you remember the dreams you had for your life when you were a child or teenager?
I bet they were big dreams, full of adventure and endless possibilities.
You may have dreamt of being a movie director, an entrepreneur like Richard Branson or maybe a famous fashion designer. But over time, something happened; life got in the way.
It may have been the high school teacher who told you to be realistic with your future career, or your parents who suggested you take that course because there are plenty of jobs in that area. You may have been talented at art but going out socialising somehow became more of a priority then creating your art. Was it the thought of having to fend for yourself and having to pay for rent and bills once you left your parents’ home that forced you to be sensible and choose a career that was a little less risky or paid more?
Your comfort zone is the major cause of all your troubles!
Firstly, let’s look at what your comfort zone is. My definition of your comfort zone is being at a place mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually which feels comfortable and secure.
For instance lying on a comfortable lounge watching my favourite movie on a hot day with the air-conditioning on is comfortable. Sitting on a log in the middle of the desert with no shelter and no sunscreen is not my idea of comfortable.
It is pretty obvious which scenario most of us would choose. We do the same with our lives subconsciously all the time; we tend to choose the most comfortable option.
If you don’t believe me ask yourself whether you would prefer to go to a dinner party with close friends and family or to a dinner party where you don’t know anyone?
Comfort has its place in our life but it should never be our main priority. Below I have outlined the three major comfort zones which might be destroying your dreams.
Comfort Zone 1: THE EASY PATH!
The easy path is the path that many of us subconsciously choose to avoid failing. I’m not talking about the Zen philosophy of the path of least resistance. I am talking about the path we often choose to avoid any failure.
Failing makes us feel uncomfortable so we avoid doing anything risky that might lead to failure. That new book that you have always wanted to write or the new business you have always dreamt about starting gets shoved to the back of our subconscious because the thought of failing is just too much for us. So we choose the safe secure path to maintain our illusion of security.
Failing however is often how we learn about ourselves and the world around us. Failure can also be a natural part of real creative work. If we avoid failing, we end up avoiding creating anything of real value in our own lives and the lives of others.
Because we hate failing we choose an easier path where we are guaranteed to succeed and not fail. Over the long term though, we are failing ourselves by not listening to what excites us and taking a calculated risk.
The easy comfortable path is often a path of regret and little satisfaction particularly as we get older.
Comfort Zone 2: PREDICTABILITY
When starting a new business I guarantee you’re going to feel very uncomfortable because there is so much that is going to happen to you and your business that you cannot predict.
People who live comfortable predictable lives are trying to eliminate being uncomfortable.
Why do individuals stay in jobs they hate for so long? Or with partners they don’t love anymore? Or live in a location which they don’t really like?
Predictability is the answer and it is comfort’s good friend. Knowing that next week will be the same as last week is a comfortable feeling that many of us will do anything to maintain.
But predictability slowly kills our dreams. Creating art is not a predictable process. Creating a great successful business is also very unpredictable.
Learning to live with uncertainty and create with uncertainty is the only known cure for eliminating a predictable and comfortable (boring life).
Comfort Zone 3: LAZINESS
Comfort is so pervasive in our culture because many of us (myself included) think most work isn’t fun. So we try to avoid it.
In many ways, work has been given a bad wrap and it’s easy to see why. Most work is meaningless or boring, so naturally we try to avoid it. If we don’t see instant results from our efforts then we tend to give it up or avoid it all together.
Laziness is wrapped up in comfort and pleasure seeking; most of us don’t feel pleasure when we work so we avoid it and this can lead to laziness.
Why is obesity such an issue at the moment? Because it is hard work to exercise and eat well, and much easier to sit on a comfortable lounge, drink a beer and watch a movie.
We know that being too comfortable and lazy causes obesity and premature death for most individuals, so why do we accept comfort as a good thing? If we know that laziness is bad for our physical health does it not stand to reason it is also bad for our mental, emotional and spiritual health?
Comfort is meant to be an occasional reward during life, not the main course!
What if the only real path for mental, physical, emotional and spiritual growth came from working hard and being uncomfortable?
What if being uncomfortable was a pre-requisite for discovering your purpose and talents.
Until about ten years ago Steven Spielberg used to feel anxious and nauseous on the first day of filming on any of his big budget feature films. Here is a film-making legend who has no reason to feel uncomfortable but does. What does he do? Does he quit and decide that comfort is the way to go? Of course not.
All individuals I know who are making a meaningful contribution to this world and doing work they love, are happy with the thought of being uncomfortable for a large proportion of their waking hours.
They realise that being uncomfortable and working really hard is part of the process of living a rewarding life.
Childbirth is not comfortable!
If you need an analogy to prove that anything worth doing will make you uncomfortable, just look at childbirth. Do you think the mother or child are having a comfortable time during the birthing process? Of course not, but without this willingness on the mother to be uncomfortable we would have no human race.
You’re not going to be lying on your death bed thinking ‘Gee I’m glad I had a predictable comfortable life’.
Rewiring your brain
I can only suggest that you slowly learn to take risks and learn to become comfortable with not knowing what the outcome will be.
Rewarding work is uncomfortable work.
Whether it is a fear of failing, choosing predictability or avoiding hard work by being lazy – the outcome will always be the same: an unfulfilled life.
Don’t settle for second best with your life.
Time to get uncomfortable!