We hear a lot about comfort zones. Mostly how they’re bad. But is comfort really such a bad thing? Not always.
I was chatting with my friend Shannon the other day about a talk she’s preparing and she shared a really cool metaphor with me:
“When I went to Jamaica on my honeymoon, we walked along the beach right up to where the resort property ended. At the boundary there was a man with a huge machine gun, and he told us we could leave the resort if we wanted – if we wanted to stroll past the guy standing there with the big gun. The choice was clear: safe, comfortable, beautiful resort or some zip lining, discotheques, and God knows what adventures behind the man with the gun. Obviously we chose the safety and comfort of the resort.”
That, Shannon told me, is how she pictures her comfort zone: a safe place to relax and recharge.
“You can’t live in the comfort zone,” she said, “none of the really exciting stuff happens there. But it sure is nice to hang out there once in a while.”
I’ve noticed an interesting pattern with my coaching clients recently. They jump into coaching all gung-ho to make changes and explore what makes them happy. They do some digging and get all excited about new self discoveries and the effects of tiny behavioral tweaks.
And then they show up to a session completely rattled, freaked out, insecure, and wondering what in the hell happened to all their progress.
I reign them in. I tell them it’s normal to feel insecure when you’re shaking up your foundation. And I tell them to take a break from all that changing for a little bit.
Basically, I pull them back to their comfort zone for some R&R.
After a brief hiatus from the pushing and growing, they always recover their confidence and are ready to get back at it again.
I’ve seen this pattern play out with lots of different people from different parts of the world who have completely different goals and challenges.
They push. They grow. They freak out. They pull back and rest. They get ready to push and grow again.
You can’t discover new oceans without the courage to leave the shore, but you also can’t expect to circumvent the globe without making a few stops in safe harbors.
Summer and winter for me always feel like natural times to pull back, to rest and recharge before the massive changes that tend to take place in the spring and fall. Maybe that’s why I am avoiding a lot of my own big pushes lately. (Or maybe the heat and my lack of central air is making me sweaty and lazy. Whichever.)
I want you to know that it’s normal to get fed up with adventure and growth and big changes after a while. I bet even Oprah and Brené Brown and the most enlightened person you know has to sit back once in a while and say “screw it, I’m not reframing squat today.”
I want you to know that the harder you push, the more gentle you’ll have to be with yourself.
And mostly, I want you to know that if you find yourself cowering and shivering and hallucinating in the desert of “Uncomfortable Land” it is perfectly OK – smart, even – to haul your butt back to Comfort Zone Resort for a little while.