Let’s stop vilifying the comfort zone

Guest Contributor: Jennifer Hunsaker

Follow Jennifer on Instagram at: Jen Hunsaker Homes

My dear friend Bobbi has one of my favorite Instagram accounts @about.being.whole. As a certified life coach, she specializes in helping people deal with traumatic events in their lives. And if you know her story, she has dealt with more trauma than most people can only imagine.

She said something not long ago that stopped me in my tracks.

“Let’s stop vilifying the comfort zone.”

I had to read it twice. Once with a look on my face like, “What the…” and a second time to really understand what she was saying.

She went on to say this:

  • Well-meaning goal setting gurus have skewed the idea of what a comfort zone is really for. They have taught us to view a comfort zone as a bad thing. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • Our comfort zone is our recharging station. It is where we feel most alive, where we feel safe and in control.

  • In order to make friends with discomfort, we have to know that we have a safe place to go to regroup after the uncomfortable experience.

I sat for nearly an hour trying to remember the last time I felt comfortable, safe, and in control. To be honest, I couldn’t remember a time in recent memory.

You see, I’m a chronic “Type A” over-achiever. I remember hearing the phrase, “Get out of your comfort zone,” at a very young age and boy, did I take it to heart. I started college at 16, while I was still in high school. I moved across the country by myself at 18. I got a Master’s degree at 22. I held down the fort during my husband’s combat deployments. I ran marathons. I competed in a beauty pageant after my third baby. I started a business. And then another. And then another.

For me, comfort was the first warning sign of complacency. I knew, deep in my bones if I became complacent, I would never succeed. In anything. At any level.

Comfort was a major trigger.

Husband home for longer than a year? Can’t get too used to it because he’s probably going to have to deploy again. Better keep functioning like he’s already gone so I don’t have to make that adjustment later.

Smooth sailing on the parenting front? It’s just the calm before the storm. Something terrible is bound to happen. Better double down on their spiritual, physical and intellectual development so we’re ready.

Got all the kinks out of the business during year one and enjoying some of the payoff? Oops, that’s a little too comfortable. Better start a new venture so I can cover my bases in case the market collapses.

It’s exhausting.

So, what is a recovering comfort-phobe to do?

Sit in the discomfort of comfort

Being comfortable will not be… comfortable. At least not for me. At least not in the beginning. I am afraid if I let myself get comfortable, I will never venture outside of that zone again. The truth is, I probably will. It may take some time to recharge a chronically depleted battery, but a new challenge will eventually come along that will tempt me away from the safety of my recharging station.

Break the habit

Charles Duhigg wrote a fascinating book called, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business.” He dissects habits into three parts – the trigger, the behavior, and the reward. How do you break the habit? By replacing the less desirable behavior with one that gives you a similar payoff. For me, if I can find a way to feel like I’m progressing, without taking on new challenges or new projects at the first signs of comfort, I will be golden.

Give yourself a whole lot of grace

We live in an “eye for an eye” world at a “tooth for a tooth” time. Yet, we are in need of a whole lot more slack than we give ourselves. We are allowed to feel comfortable. We are deserving of peaceful times in our lives. Our worth is not contingent on how much we can accomplish. We are not in a race against each other, ourselves, or time. We are entitled to fall down, get up, fall down, and get up until we learn how to be better.

Our comfort zone is our recharging station. It’s time to stop running on battery saver and start plugging back in.

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