Comfort zones are everywhere unlike the wifi zones. From the moment we are born, we weave these little nests called comfort zones. Some visible, some invisible. I happened to meet a person who is working in creative writing field. He has done some great work and I got to know it because of my interaction with him. But not many people are aware of his work. Why?
When I asked him, he told me that it was his humility that prevented him from publicizing his art among his own social circle. “How can I promote my own work?” is the excuse many such people give. Maybe at an idealistic level, it is just fine to create your art and let it be there. Whether people appreciate it or not, it doesn’t matter. That may be all right if you are doing it purely as a hobby and have no intention whatsoever of using it commercially.
However, in most cases, even if the person wants to do something in a commercial manner, there is something holding back. This is our first example of a ‘comfort zone’.
I suffered from comfort zone syndrome whenever it came to public speaking. I almost always passed the buck on to someone else when it came to presenting on behalf of our group. I was ok in one to one conversation or in a group in round table setting. As soon as I was forced to present something from stage, I used to freeze. Most people I know suffer from this and I thought it was normal. Yes, it was in a sense but for achieving something, you need to do something abnormal.
Exercising is another area where we manufacture a comfort zone. Even if we are able to push ourselves to do Yoga or go to the gym, we exercise well below our potential, don’t push the boundaries. In my last Yoga class, when the instructor hung my back in an uncomfortable position, my breath almost stopped and I felt that my soul will leave my dear body the next moment. However, nothing like this happened for a minute and then I was let go. Phew.
When I pushed myself to graduate from running 10k to half-marathon, similar issues cropped up. There was some hidden indicator in my body. As soon as I ran for 10k or about one hour, all parts of my body stopped moving in a synchronized fashion. Talk about mind-body coordination? It was perfect in this case.
Studies, hobbies, work, habits, addictions and for that matter everyday life. We want to live in the comfort zone and blame everything and everybody else for lagging behind our goals or for failing to realize our dreams. Even goal setting suffers as we refuse to go pick up a pencil and paper to write the goals.
To my mind, it is essential that we break free of the artificial boundaries created by ourselves. Here, I am sharing a few ideas that can help you do that:
- Goal Setting. Call them goals, dreams, projects or anything else but write them down. I was recently speaking at a seminar and biggest problem that people shared with me was that there mind stopped working when they sat down with pen and paper to write the dreams or goals. If that is the case with you, make it an ongoing process. Carry a small notebook with you. Whenever, you experience a desire, small or big, short term or long term, write it down then and there. Thoughts can vanish as easily as they appear. Another resource that I found great for goal setting guidance is the book – Seven Strategies for Success and Happiness by Jim Rohn. It’s a short but sharp book. Go buy and read it.
- Break the Egg Slowly. You got it. If you happen to strike the egg little more forcefully than required, instead of getting a yummy omlette, you get to clean the kitchen and an odor that last for a few days. Expand the boundaries slowly. If you run 5k, increase it to 6, then 7 and so on over a few months. If you increase your running distance by one Km every two weeks, you can run a half-marathon in six months’ time. Ain’t that amazing!
- Talk to People. Don’t Think, Talk. Many people tell me,”I was trying to reach you”. My answer is,”Don’t try, just reach out”. If they called me and I didn’t return their call, this is a good excuse but if someone kept thinking in their mind that they want to call me, there is little chance (due to telepathy and stuff) that they will reach me. Share your issues with people you know. Specially, if someone is doing something that we want to do but cannot due to your comfort zone, ask for small practical tips. You will be surprised people are generally happy to help. But you have to ask first. This was my biggest learning from the process of writing and publishing my book. If you read through the acknowledgements in my book, you will realize that all these people who helped me have been around me for many years. It was I who delayed in asking.
- Take expert help. Talking to people helps generally but if you have a technical impediment, like a joint problem in case of exercise, do consult a expert like a physiotherapist. These experts are not there to assist only in case something is out of order completely. You can spend some money on taking pre-emptive advice. One of my friends who wanted to do full-marathon after many years half-marathon, joined an expert coaching class for runners. After joining them, he regretted not doing it earlier. Doing things on your own can take you only thus far.
- Its all in the mind. Many people will kill me for saying this. Its clichéd but true. Work on strengthening your mind. While addressing a large audience recently, the biggest impediment people pointed out was the mind. Calling it a mental block is same as the comfort zone. So, mind strengthening techniques, concentration exercises and mindfulness are the ultimate weapons to break-free and expand your potential. I cover these in greater detail in my book – Happiness is All We Want! I am sure there will be multiple other resources and book on the same topic. Use any of them but be consistent for a few months. Maybe drop everything else (other than your main job and daily responsibilities) and just work on this. Then, other things will start falling in place subsequently.
I am not suggesting that you take a sabbatical to do this. The real and long-lasting change can come only through slow and steady steps that are in-built in your current routine. Feel free to leave your comments here or write to me at email@example.com.
Happiness is All We Want! is available on Amazon, Snapdeal and Infibeam.
A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.