They don’t call it a “comfort” zone for nothing. Try approach its outer limits and you’ll soon feel pain and resistance. And why would anyone want that?
Well the truth is, you do, because you have big goals and dreams and you know you won’t achieve them by walking the same worn path and covering the same old ground.
You need to break free. To embrace the discomfort.
And I’ve got two ways for you to do it.
In the same way that dogs are trained to stay within the confines of their yard, your comfort zone is the invisible fence that keeps you hemmed in. It’s made up of other people’s opinions and expectations, your own fears and insecurities, a lifetime of conditioning, and a biological and evolutionary urge to avoid discomfort.
Those burdens are your invisible boundaries. You can’t always see them but, if you get close, you can sense them.
Eventually you come to accept them. You feel that you have freedom because you have the run of the yard, but all that’s happened is that you’ve blinded yourself to the world beyond.
But escape is possible. It all comes down to how much pain and discomfort you’re willing to withstand. Because on the other side of that lies complete freedom.
When you stop caring about what others think of you and break free of your fears, a whole new world of opportunity and possibility presents itself.
Here are two ways to push past your perceived limits:
1. Dip your toe
This first way takes longer but builds up a huge amount of strength and resistance. Essentially, each day you expose yourself to just a little bit of discomfort until it becomes familiar and tolerable.
You take a small step, you complete a tiny task, you test out a new theory, you embrace curiosity, you commit to learning something new, you allow yourself to fail in an insignificant way…
Once you do this for a short while you can then take a step further out and repeat the process, slowly increasing your pain threshold over time so the things that once bothered you are now far behind you.
Finally, you’ll take a step beyond the boundaries where you no longer feel any discomfort, you can see as far as the horizon, and all your fears melt away.
2. Dive in the deep end
This second way is quicker but requires an iron will because you’re going to run at your limits for all you’re worth. The pain and resistance will be sudden and immense, and most likely a huge shock to your system.
It will be extremely difficult not to get knocked to the ground and run scampering and whimpering back to your bed.
But if your resolve is fierce and your focus is on the long-term gain after this short-term pain, you’ll soon break free.
You’ll forego all the small steps in favour of taking massive action.
The resistance (both internally and externally) will be acute but you’ll rip off the bandaid and be done with it.
There is no right or wrong way. Each leads to freedom from limits, and each has its pros and cons.
When you dip your toe it takes time, but you build confidence and character along the way, and setbacks are smaller and easier to manage.
When you dive in the deep end, it’s sink or swim. You’ll get another chance if you fail, but it may take you a while to recover from the shock. The rewards can be big and immediate, but so are the risks.
There are times in life when the second option is required so you just hold your nose and hope for the best. You know you’ll eventually see the surface again, whether by yourself or with the help of someone else.
So you quit your job, announce your new business, have a baby, expose a vulnerability…
Most likely, though, you’re going through life using the first option. You’re learning slowly, step by step, testing the waters.
The problem is that sometimes you end up endlessly treading water instead of swimming.
You get stuck on a boundary line, not wanting to go back to where you came from but not knowing if you have the strength or courage to go on either.
Just like the dog who discovers the back gate has been left open, you stand on the threshold looking back. Joy and excitement are counterbalanced by fear and guilt.
The world of possibility is tainted by the fear of the unknown and the potential for punishment.
If you know you’re destined for more, don’t allow invisible boundaries to limit your life. Decide now that you’re going to break free, and then all you have to do is choose whether you’re going to dip your toe or dive right in.
And if you find yourself hovering right on the line, looking back at everything you once knew, ask yourself:
Do you love your life enough to stay and pee on the same patch of grass forever…
Or are you ready to run free?