Are You Living Within Your Comfort Zone?
Let’s start with old Gene’s definition of “comfort zone”: Being able to do those things and live a life that contributes to your happiness and sense of well-being. Notice that I didn’t say “makes you happy”. To a large extent, we are responsible for producing our own happiness. It comes from within us. It is a result of our positive approach to life and its challenges. But to be realistic, the things that are happening in our lives do have a definite influence on how easy it is for us to generate those happy feelings.
So how do we know when we’re trying to live outside of our comfort zone? The most obvious way is when we are aware - either consciously or through a really strong gut feeling - that our situation just ain’t good. Our job, marriage, financial situation, family relationships, etc. are in the crapper. We find ourselves spending a lot of time thinking about our discomfort. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else. It’s difficult to smile. It’s hard to be happy.
There are times however, when the old brain will play tricks on us – or at the very least, assume the role of a willing co-conspirator in the manipulation of facts. Here’s an example. Let’s say you are working for a rather large company. You enjoy your job and are progressing nicely up the ranks toward management. One day your boss informs you that upper management is sponsoring an after-hours social event and they would like you to attend. Fantastic! This is a great company and this would be your opportunity to network, have some fun and perhaps even make a few points toward your next promotion. You eagerly accept the invitation.
The day of the event arrives. The morning goes smoothly although you do notice that you have just a bit of a headache. In the afternoon, you feel a little queasy but it’s nothing you can’t work through. As your work day is ending, you find that your queasiness has progressed to a full-blown case of diarrhea. Dang! Hopefully you’ll finish purging before you have to go meet the big-wigs. Because after all, this will be a fun get-together and an opportunity to chat with some of the folks who could have a tremendous influence on how soon you will be considered for the next promotion. It would be a shame to miss out on this opportunity.
To cut a long story short, you go to the event with a bad
case of sweaty palms and armpits. You
make three trips to the bathroom and feel fortunate that you didn’t upchuck in
So looking back over this series of events, were you really operating in your comfort zone? Initially… yes – or at least you thought you were. As the time for the actual social hour got closer though, it became more and more obvious that your “comfort” was losing ground to feelings of uneasiness and apprehension. You became consciously aware of what your body had been trying to tell you all along – with the headache, queasiness and finally diarrhea.
Your body knows what your brain is sometimes unwilling to admit. Or to put it another way (and thank you to a great seminar leader several years ago), “You can fool your mind, but you can’t fool your body.” Not uncommonly, many of our physical discomforts and even illnesses are brought on by stress – by operating outside of our comfort zone even though we may not consciously recognize or want to admit it at the time. It’s as though our conscious and subconscious minds are in a struggle. Our conscious mind is saying “I want to… I can do this” while our subconscious is countering with “I’m not sure about this… I don’t think I can…” The end result is that our body acts up and we wind up feeling some level of discomfort.
The bottom line - pay attention to your body and what it is telling you. If you find that you are experiencing frequent headaches, queasiness, gastric distress, colds or flu, assorted aches and pains, sleeplessness or any of a wide variety of common ailments, you might benefit from taking a quick check of your stress levels. Don’t get me wrong here. Stress and internal conflicts are not the only cause of illness, but they can play havoc with our immune system and produce some decidedly unpleasant results.
Sliding outside of our comfort zone from time to time is OK. In fact it can be very beneficial because it will allow us to experience and learn new things which will contribute to our personal growth. Long-term residency in Shakyville is not only uncomfortable, it can be hazardous to our long-term health. Are you living in – or at least reasonably close to your comfort zone?
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