The Same Old, Same Old
We all have a comfort zone that is, well, comfortable. Day in and day out, week after week, we tend to do the same thing over and over, with little to no change .¨ the same old, same old. We like our comfort zones. They make us feel like we have a handle on life .¨ that we are in control. This is the place where our activities and behaviors fit a routine, a habit or a pattern that minimizes stress and risk to us, at least in our mind.
When we do the same thing over and over, there isn’t much to think about as far as those things are concerned. This provides a state of mental security. Our comfort zone is our autopilot function that provides us benefits, such as pre-determined happiness, reduced anxiety and less stress. And those can be good for us.
I can tell you from personal experience, though, that nothing that ever helped me grow the most or forced me to make the changes I really needed to make ever came from being in my comfort zone. In fact, for the changes to occur, a major shakeup of my routine happened and I was pushed well out of my comfort zone. For me, the gift of being uncomfortable is I made changes that improved my life that I don’t think I would have made otherwise.
When we do the same thing over and over, there isn’t much to think about as far as those things are concerned. Being in the zone is easy when you do tasks that you’re already familiar with.
Although our comfort zones can be beneficial to us, they can also be ruts for us, keeping us stuck where we really don’t want to be. Comfort zones require a balance that many of us don’t find. In fact, because we are trained for limitation and repetition, being out of our comfort zone isn’t an option. But, there is a place just outside our comfort zone where we are most productive and have the greatest opportunity for new life experiences.
Back in 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson performed a classic experiment that brought about the concept of the comfort zone. The psychologists showed that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance. However, in order to maximize performance we need to be in a place where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. It’s a place just outside our comfort zone. Of course, too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive. At this point, performance also drops off sharply.
Today, the latter is where a majority of the U.S. population exists .¨ too much anxiety and too much stress. We have gotten into the habit of working more and more, as if it’s comfortable for us. But, I don’t believe many of what we call our comforts zones are all that comfortable for us. I believe a lot of our comfort zones are ruts that we are dying to get out of. And not getting out of them is slowly killing us.
The “Uncomfortable Comfort Zone”
It was 2003 and I had been dating someone for five years. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t miserable either. So I just stayed in it, plugging along. We went about life with a “business as usual” feel to it, but something was missing. You know that togetherness thing that you feel when you are really connected with someone? Well, it wasn’t really there anymore. Still, I was glad to have someone who was kind and gentle .¨ at least most of the time. There wasn’t much of a physical closeness like there used to be either, but I told myself things change as a relationship matures over the years. I was buying into my own B.S. Deep down, I wasn’t truly comfortable, but I didn’t leave. Why? Fears. Fear of not being loved. Fear of being alone. Fear of change. Whatever it was, I needed to get out of what I call “The Uncomfortable Comfort Zone.”
Many of us are faced with the same scenario in relationships where we stay long past the time when we know it is really over. We aren’t comfortable, but we choose discomfort as a type of comfort zone. Of course, it is easier to stay where we are. Leaving or making changes takes bravery and facing fears. That can be a lot of hard work. But, I believe not doing what we want to do, not making healthy changes and not moving on from lifeless relationships is even harder for us in the long run. But, for many of us, those hardships seem more comfortable than changes that are needed.
We face the same dilemmas with our weight and our health. It clearly is not comfortable to eat foods that make us feel worse about ourselves or that contribute to poor health issues, no matter what story we tell ourselves. But, we continue forth in our discomfort because it beats making changes. Making changes also means digging deep to see what brought us to this uncomfortable place originally. More discomfort. No wonder we stay stuck in our routines, habits and patterns even when they don’t benefit us. I will tell you this, though, we deserve better and we are capable of better.
Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
A comfort zone isn’t necessarily good or bad. The issue is that we tend to stay stuck in the comfort zone whether we are comfortable or not. A routine that is full of pain is still a routine. We have to stick up for ourselves and make a promise to let go of painful situations no matter how comfortable they may seem to us.
In my most recent Viva Glam article, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life (October 11, 2014, vivaglammagazine.com), I noted that we have the amazing power to change our minds if we want to do so. Changing our mind about being comfortable is a worthy cause. When we get comfortable with being uncomfortable, we open up opportunities to see the life we want to live and then take steps to get there. And a lot of us want a life that is different in some way.
The gift of being uncomfortable is that we are making the changes we need to make in order to move ourselves forward in life. Being uncomfortable can mean that we have stopped being such a people pleaser or have freed ourselves from an abusive partner. The more we practice being uncomfortable, the more we get used to it. It isn’t quite as scary or risky as it used to feel to us. And although we may not know exactly what we will get with it, we do know something will change.
Never underestimate the power of making a change, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at the time. That one brave moment of discomfort, or change, often sets a chain reaction in motion that takes on a journey of much needed personal growth and freedom from our fears. Practicing getting out of our comfort zone on a regular basis can:
- Help us become more productive at work or at home,
- Allows us to deal with new or unexpected changes that occur and
- Gives us the guts and strength to break through ruts and comfort zones when we need to the most.
It is time for us to break down the walls of our same old, same old. Here are a few healthy eating ideas to get you started using the days of the week as our foundation:
- Make Monday a Meatless day.
- Make Tuesday an Only Water to drink day.
- Make Wednesday an Extra Vegetables day.
- Make Thursday a No Sugar day.
- Make Friday a Healing Spices day (ginger, turmeric, mustard seed).
- Make Saturday a No Alcohol day.
- Make Sunday a No Processed Food day.
Take your time making changes. You don’t have to make a bunch of changes at once. Ease into it, but do push yourself a little. When we get used to being out of our comfort zone, we have the choice to shake things up a bit without the fear we would have felt before. Here are some ideas to change up your daily routine a little.
- Do 15 minutes of meditation at night.
- Turn off the TV four nights a week.
- Read for 30 minutes before bed.
- Go to the local art museum or arboretum for an hour.
- Walk around your neighborhood, whistling.
The path of least resistance says we will do the least amount of work for the most reward. This is, perhaps, our comfort zone. Our comfort zone is a great place to go back to when we have been out exploring new things in life. It gives us time to reflect and recharge. But, don’t get too comfortable. Life is here for us to live it, wholly, fully and as just we wish .¨ inspired, creative, amazed and better than before.