Residing in the suburbs of your comfort zone

By Sue Ellen Haning

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” — Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States.

In my last column, I related a story of a local person who, in her mind, had erected a severe limitation, and once she stretched herself she found out the barrier was indeed all in her head.

So it is with all of us. Getting past the mental controller is a mounting challenge. This is when “Just do it anyway” may come in handy because the internal editor works 24/7.

Hey, you’re ugly.

Now that I have your attention, do you give little credence to compliments you receive but perk up when you are being criticized? It’s natural for most of us. Darn — that praise takes us outside our comfort zones every time!

This week, pay attention to the times someone says or does something nice. It doesn’t have to be an outright compliment, but maybe something as small as waiting for you to go before them or holding the door at the grocery. See if you can allow yourself to soak in those nice words or gestures for a moment rather than offering a quick thank you and moving on. When you can enjoy the nice aspects of life, pat yourself on the back. You’ve moved beyond your habit. These small everyday actions may be a step outside your comfort zone and could be huge in the long run.

For some, a trip outside the zone every now and then becomes a game and not much more.

“Let me see if I can do this. I haven’t been outside my CZ for a while.”

The purpose of getting outside our comfort zones is to stretch enough to be able to stay there, making that our new residence. This is not possible if we visit the area once in a while. Remember, the directions on how to stay outside the box are written outside the box where change takes place and where we need to be.

Someone told me last week that we are outside our comfort zones all the time. I had to disagree because I know people who go to great lengths to stay inside their comfort zones. I used to be one of these people. Some of us require constant reminding to continue spending time outside the zone. Some of us need a two-by-four over the head to get the message.

Some of us simply don’t care.

As a teacher, I believe learning is not possible anywhere but outside our comfort zones.

My mother’s favorite saying was, “Good, better, best, never let it rest. Get your good better and your better best.”

It would have been super if she had helped me understand about getting outside my comfort zone, since her words were instructing me to continue growing, learning and stretching. But she made sure we were tucked nicely inside our comfort zones all the time.

So, what does it take to stay outside the zone, to live life to the max every day? To so eagerly anticipate waking each morning that it’s difficult to go to sleep at night? What are you doing right now that makes you a little uncomfortable?

Someone told me it takes too much energy to stay outside the zone. “Being excited all the time is tiring.”

This person has watched others experiencing the amazing gifts outside their zones and made a judgment. Getting outside your zone requires passion to live, to grow, to inspire, but it doesn’t require bursting energy all the time. It is who you allow yourself to be minute to minute. Your next minute is a blank page and you can fill that page with anything, or nothing.

Can you identify what takes you outside your comfort zone? Is it the desire to make a change? Could it be a dare? Curiosity?

It is different for everyone. Focusing on what motivates you to move outside your comfort zone will take you there more often and it’s like anything else — practice, practice, practice. We think nothing of our favorite football team (Broncos) practicing the same plays over and over all week long so they can blow the socks off the opposition, but it seems to be asking too much of ourselves to practice something in order to get better at it.

As Nick Seitz, editor of Golf Digest says, “The breakfast of champions is not cereal, it’s the opposition.”

In our case it’s the CZ.

I’ve seen a product for dogs and cats called “Comfort Zone” (cool name!). Its purpose is to infuse the air with a fine mist that the animal inhales, and I quote from the material, “his stress level is reduced making his behavior more desirable.” In other words, he is back in his comfort zone. I wonder if it has the same effect on humans. Have you stayed outside your comfort zone long enough that your behavior has made someone else uneasy? Ah, this may be where the true problem lies: others’ views of us.

This week, focus on what it is that motivates you to get outside your comfort zone. Whatever it is, see if you can make it a part of you. Carry it in your pocket, tattoo it on the inside of your eye lids, whatever it takes to stay outside your comfort zone, stretching yourself. The Broncos beating the opposition is nothing compared to what you can do.

I would love to hear from you. Make your week a great one.

This story was posted on October 17, 2013.