What if instead of breaking out of your comfort zone, you honored it?
Ok, this might take a minute to wrap your head around, but bear with me here.
The personal development space and many motivational speakers constantly urge us to “break out of our comfort zones”, “push the boundaries” and “take a leap of faith”.
However, when we force ourselves out of our comfort zone we often experience stress, anxiety, and fear in our hearts, minds, and bodies.
Now, I agree, the magic does happen when we push beyond our boundaries, but what if we could take that next step forward, face our fears and take a leap of faith in a way that works for us? In a way that feels safe and protected. What if we could take our comfort zone with us as we step into the unknown?
Imagine how powerful that would be.
We are biologically hardwired for safety
Here’s the thing: we are biologically hard-wired for safety.
When our brain and body sense a ‘dangerous’ situation, the amygdala, or, primitive brain mobilizes to deal with it. Hence we get anxiety, fear, adrenaline. And when you experience those emotions, it’s really hard to focus on anything else!
But, if we keep our psychological safety intact, our brain is free to focus on moving forward and making it happen. Our resources are freed up to focus on execution and progression, not fear and anxiety.
Our emotional safety is as important as our physical safety. Just look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Safety is fundamental to being human. If we don’t find a way to feel safe, we can’t focus on building, growing, extending and reaching beyond our current circumstances, and yes, our comfort zone.
Identifying your criteria for safety
Now, I’m not suggesting you stay where you are so you feel safe and comfortable. I’m suggesting you figure out what you need to feel safe so you can move forward.
I’m suggesting you identify your own criteria for safety. What do you need to feel safe and secure so you CAN move forward?
First, you can identify these criteria overall for your life.
For example, on a whole, my criteria to feel emotionally safe include having a clear picture of what I’m going after, knowing those around me have my back, knowing what I am doing is making a difference to others and making sure I feel grounded – hence why I love yoga and hiking. Others criteria for safety might include: connection, respect, commitment, clarity, data, a plan, a level of certainty, encouragement, or to keeping their options open.
How can you find your criteria? Think about a time (or times) in your life when you felt completely safe and comfortable. Then, identify, what it was about those times that made you feel safe. Write a list and keep asking yourself, what else? Is there anything else?
Once you have a list, you can identify your top 3-5 criteria for emotional safety and translate those across situations in your life where you feel like your way out of your comfort zone.
You can also do this situation by situation. When you’re feeling uncomfortable jumping into something new or moving forward with something you know you want to take action on, but just can’t seem to do, ask yourself, “what do I need to feel safe here?”
For example, maybe you’re scared of going to a networking event and you’ll feel better if you take a friend. Maybe you’re hesitant about starting a new business and you need to talk to others who have walked the path before you.
Identifying the cause of your fears
Need another strategy to try? Next time you face a situation with trepidation or fear, instead of feeling the fear and attempting to push through, seek to identify the specific cause of your fear.
Our bodies don’t really know the difference between the threat of a saber-tooth tiger and the stress of speaking in front of a group of people. It reacts just the same. Getting a handle on what your fear actually is will help you tackle it and move forward.
When you know and understand your fears, you can identify what your ‘parachute’ would look like as you take a leap of faith. Like a kid with their blanky or teddy bear, what is your safety net?
Whatever big goals, dreams and hopes you have for the future, and whatever fears, obstacles and anxieties you might be facing, I encourage you to honor your comfort zone, understand what you need to feel safe and address those criteria as you push the boundaries and take your leap of faith into the big, wide unknown. You got this.
Here’s to living a life you love!