Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stretching Your Comfort Zone

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience, tells us that individuals who push themselves out of their comfort zones, often report greater fulfillment and success in life. Instead of withdrawing to the safety of what is familiar when they don't get immediate results, they force themselves to move forward, through awkwardness, discomfort and anxiety until such feelings subside. And when that happens, a new experience is achieved.

Joe Gilliam, a professional motivator and writer of the audiobook The Winner In You, agrees and explains that there are barriers that keep us from making important life changes that could lead us to success. Here are his six:

BARRIER 1: The best I could do.
EXAMPLE: You tell yourself, "I never wanted to be in sales. I wanted to be a pilot, but this was the best I could do".

SOLUTION: Just because that was the best you could do at that given point in your life doesn't mean that's where you have to stay now. "You have the power to make changes that can alter your future," Gilliam notes. "Start making lists of things you want to do and be in your future - and dream big!"

BARRIER 2: The "talks a lot" barrier.
EXAMPLE: Millions of wannabe writers talk endlessly about the great book they're going to write. The problem is they do more talking than writing! Soon they've talked their book away and no longer have the desire to put it on paper.

SOLUTION: Make a commitment to talk about your dream no more than one hour a week, and only then to people who can actually help you achieve it. However, you can talk about what you've actually done toward your dream all you want.

BARRIER 3: Psychology of entitlement.
EXAMPLE: You believe, "I deserve it. They owe it to me. I'm entitled to it." Because you feel so entitled, it's likely that you're not putting in the work necessary to achieve whatever it is you want.

SOLUTION: Be aware that your feeling of entitlement will cripple your chances for success. "You have to have internal drive to reach your goal," Gilliam declares. "You can't wait for someone to hand it to you."

BARRIER 4: Afraid to fail.
EXAMPLE: You've hated your management job for years and long to own your own business, but you've never tried because you're afraid you won't be successful.

SOLUTION: First, realize that this is the No. 1 barrier that keeps people stuck inside their comfort zones. But studies of highly successful people show that they actually experience far more failures than those less successful! "The difference is, they refuse to be defeated by setbacks, disappointments or failures. They never stop pursuing their dreams," Gilliam notes. "Unsuccessful people give up early and settle for less."

BARRIER 5: "Can't decide" barrier.
EXAMPLE: You work at a job below your potential because you just can't decide what great career to go after - and you don't want to pick the wrong one and miss a fantastic opportunity.

SOLUTION: Understand that indecision is keeping you from taking action. Missed opportunities only limit you if you dwell upon those in the past instead of looking for the ones ahead. "Opportunities are not being rationed," Gilliam says.

BARRIER 6: Procrastination (a.k.a. Living in Somedayland)
EXAMPLE: You swear you're going to make a major career change someday, but first you've got to get all your credit cards paid off. Or lose 30 pounds. Or get your kids through school. There's always a "but first" or "if" or "Someday, I'll ..." in your statements about your goals.

SOLUTION: Stop putting off your dreams. Focus on what's really important to you -- and make that your first priority. "Don't end up as a person with a 'but first …' complex," Gilliam advises. "Many people live a steady diet of 'if' and 'but's. If 'if' and 'but's were candy and nuts, some people would have Christmas every day!"

My 2 Cents
I believe that perserverence is a great thing to include in your toolbelt of qualities. If you have that quality, use it. If it is an underdeveloped one, build it and bulk it up. I consider many of the successes and joys in my life to be a result of my stretching far from my comfort zone.

Editorial Note at 3:51pm: Being in crisis or trauma sometimes requires the need for a person to be and stay in a comfort zone. As such, "stretching out "of it would not be recommended. Resting and refueling would be the goal. Thanks to Traci and Dreaming Again for highlighting that point to me.


Anonymous said...

This is great and so true. I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone this week. I am terrified of public speaking and I'm speaking on restraint reduction and assessment in three different cities this week. A little powerpoint presentation turned into a big project through many of the solutions you listed. Thanks for this great blog.

Anonymous said...

Well what if you don't know what you wanna do? I sometimes think I push my comfort zone to it's limits sometimes just by going to work! : )

Heidi said...

Thankyou so much Deb for this entry. I'm the queen of procrastination. This info is a keeper and I'll be printing it out.

My problem is the " can't" and not believing which keeps me in that dreaded comfort zone.

Steps..whether big or small that's the answer and I have always known it. So why aren't I moving..ugh how frustraiting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post ...

... it pushed a lot of buttons.

I want to caution those who procrastinate - if you do it long enough, you could put yourself in a position that can't be ameliorated in any way. Looking back on a lifetime of wasted dreams is a bitter pill when entering the winter of your years.

Ian Lidster said...

Ah -- the safety of the comfort zone, as you say. Which, of course, leads to chronic procrastination because, well, it feels secure here, 'out there' doesn't wrap me in cotton. My bugbear throughout much of my life has been 'fear of failure'. If I don't take the chance, then I won't have to deal with whatever complications in my life might arise from success. But, you know, I 'did' write that book. Currently it's sitting in publisher neverland. Whatever happens with it is up to them and the gods, but damn it, I did write it. I also have two more manuscripts that I just might send out, once I detach from my current safety zone. Thank you again. I am so happy I found your blog.

Dreaming again said...

This is like my least favorite subject in the world!(grin) but that's because I've been yanked out of my comfort zone for the last couple of years ...out of my box and my box has been smashed!

It's amazing how much you grow when you do get out of your comfort zone.

How little you grow when you stay in your zone.
It FEELS the opposite ..the fear is that you have to stay in the comfort zone to grow, and that you're falling apart if you step out. Not realizing that the stepping out of the comfort zone is actually growing pains.

Dreaming again said...

Dr. Deb, goofy poem about this subject for you on my blog.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Tiesha,
Wow, this is so great to hear. I am betting you will do so well, and gain more self confidence as a result. Come back and let us know how you did!

Dear Traci,
I think when you are in crisis or in trauma this comfort zone stretching does not apply. Many need the comfort zone because like you said, you are pushing yourself to your own limits by just doing ordinary things. Give yourself as much time in the comfort zone as you need. You are in recovery from so much.

Dear Heidi,
Sometimes I ask people I work with if there is a symbolic reason or a wish they have that can account for being so stuck. Could this apply with you?

Dear Anonymous,
Very true words, and poignantly stated by you. Regret is often a consequence of procrastination, among other things. I hope you can still get out there and change your future. It is NEVER too late.

Dear Ian,
Love the, "wrap me in cotton" phrase. Fear of failure and fear of success *are* two experiences that keep people from following dreams and living a full life. So funny that the manuscript example is in this post and you have one in publishing pergatory. I hope it emerges from that state...and that your other writings get born too!

Dear Dreaming,
You and Traci above make a good point. "Needing" a comfort zone is different! Crisis, trauma and hectic life requires us to nest, and to be soothed in such places.


Jackie said...

I am just lucky if I can get dressed.......jammies are my comfort zone!!!!!

Have a super week,

Dr. Deborah Serani said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Jackie,
I hear ya!


alan said...

Wish I'd had this list given me in high school as guideposts for life!


Ian Lidster said...

BTW, I love your new photo, but I liked the old one, too.

Reiki said...

I think in the past I continually pushed myself outside my comfort zone with great results. However, right now with all that has surfaced, I am definintely in the rest & refueling stage and that's ok with me (for now). good info, though.

Joel said...

>If 'if' and 'but's were candy and nuts, some people would have Christmas every day!"

Or they'd have a Type 2 Diabetes.

healthpsych said...

Interesting information and the 6 points are very valid. Some of those thoughts I can easily identify with.

Again, I think it's about balance. It is important to challenge your own personal boundaries but it's equally important to recognise when it's healthier not to do so and be able to accept that that's okay too.

Angel Chasse said...

Hey Dr Deb :)

I *feel* this post... it hits on about every hot button I have... seems to me that a good therapist I had once taught me about "self-fulfilling prophecy" -- if you think you will fail, you can make yourself fail, if you think you can succeed, you can make that happen as well. Thanks for posting these barriers. Sometimes, it seems to be good to take an inventory of what you do well, and what you need to build up/work on. Thanks for posting :)

Angel Chasse (again)

PS... makes me think of the train from our youth...
"I think I can, I think I can..." ;)

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Alan,
I posting these things when I come across ones that are easy to read and easy to understand. When something is well written, it can have a long reach. I wish I had these when I was younger too!

Dear Ian,
Though both pictures were taken in this year, but this current picture shows me more authentically, age wise.

Dear Jane,
It *is* important to know when to fly and when to stay and nest.

Dear Joel,
LOL. I laughed when I read that too...the writer caught me by surprise with it.

Dear Healthpsych,
Balance is really the key to everything. I agree.

Dear Angel,
I know you can!
I know you can!
Makes me think of that little train story too. Now all you have to do is borrow that phrase and make it yours. :)


jumpinginpuddles said...

i pushed myself out of the comfort zone just to continue to read the rest of your blog and gulp at a few things. I think thats all the out of the comfort zone ill be doing for today ;)

CrackerLilo said...

I had to learn that about my writing. I have to hold the books I'm working on fairly close to me and not let them out of the house very often, like extremely small and delicate babies, while I nurture them.

I think it's that writing is a mode of expression, and there's only so much expressing most of us can do in a day! :-)

Sher said...

Barrier 6~ hmmm...that's me.

Although these days the weight is coming off.

Fallen Angels said...

What if you are so far out of your comfort zone that you can't even find it again? Blah...that's rhetorical. :|


Sunnie Dee said...

Posts like this alway set me thinking but I always struggle with leaving my comfort zone. I am getting better with taking risks but still prefer the comfortable

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear JIP,
Okay, you stretched it, now you'll nest in it.

Dear Crackerlilo,
I agree.

Dear Sher,
I can often do a barrier 6 myself!

Dear Fallen,
If you know that rest or a cup of tea or being alone is part of your comfort zone, try to make those happen anywhere if you can. I just spent a 1/2 hour in my car resting. I refueled in that way from a crazy, busy day.

Dear Sonnie,
If you want to stretch your zone, then stretch it. But if you don't, there's no pressure to do so. I hope that comes across in the post.


Darni said...

Mine is fear of failure. I put off promoting my book through booksignings for many many reasons, fear of failing was one of them. In fact after reading the blog of a favorite author of mine, who is quite successful and pretty mainstream, I really decided not to do any booksignings. He wrote about the low turnouts in places like California (but in places like Iowa he was well recieved). I guess I took his experience and made it my own. But still . . . I guess it just added to my fears.

Miranda said...

Hmmm I should send this blog to my ex. lol...wait, then he'd get my link...so no. He falls under all of those.

Me, I'd say Im a procrastinator...mainly because I seem to wait and worry about the domino effect of my actions, there fore saying well lets just wait until we get there. Prime example is me telling the girls that Im going to visit my g/f or vise versa, because I'm avoiding confrontation. I cant handle that well.

dragonflyfilly said...

thank you thank you thank you for this!!!!! It's true, i have been talking a lot about the book i want to write, mostly to myself mind you....but still...time to shush the chatter....

cheers for now,

mysti said...

This post really hit a nerve with me. My first reaction was instant groan. I have had to push my comfort zone a lot of late. Some of it is good, while other times I think i pushed to hard. Just this morning right before reading this post I was not wanting to push my comfort zone. I was struggling. I agree that at times it is very good to do this. At other times though I think one can push to hard before they are ready. Not sure.... hmmmm

Thank you for making me think, and for bring up a topic that although may be hard to hear, is well worth hearing.


Rose said...

This is great information because it is true. When you listen to folks talk about what if....they use these same excuses. I say push yourself to your limit and don't stop even if you fail. You have to keep going. This is the way to accomplish your dreams.

Leesa said...

I have talked for years about writing the "great American novel." Well, it has changed from genre to genre over time. Well, I never wrote that book.

My sites this year are to write one book - and I have given me the permission that it doesn't have to be any good. So when I succeed, I know I can at least write one book. Then I will work on making it good.

Raine said...

I dont know if you could consider this a "state of crisis" but I am an unstabilized bi-polar. Consequently it is crucial to me to stay IN my comfort zone to maintain what stability I have . Being outside it stresses me and triggers episodes and until I find the miracle cocktail of meds that actually works it is vital to maintain a safe enviroment with safe people only in it. Its the only way I manage to maintain the little functioning that I have.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Darni,
I often tell people that by not "doing" the fear of failing is accomplished. The advice the author suggested may have made sense, but you are right, it may have justified your fear. Learning from things like this always helps, even if we are afraid. I believe knowledge IS power. Good luck and continued SUCCESS to you ;)

Dear Miranda,
The domino effect CAN feel so powerful when we are afraid or apprehensive!!

Dear Dragonflyfilly,
Shush that chatter and get to typing!!!

Dear Mysti,
YOu are right to make the point that finding a balance in this regard is so important!

Dear Rose,
I get fearful when I try new things, but when I see the gain it makes me feel better....which outweights the anxiety. I love your spirit!

Dear Leesa,
I know you will write that book!!!One step at a time, like you said. Writing it and then making it good. I love your plan.

Dear Raine,
I would consider your situation one where nesting in the comfort zone is imperative. Until you can experience a levelling out, it would be unwise to stress yourself or push yourself too far beyond the comfort zone. I hope that you will soon find the right balance of medication and therapy. It is so hard when you can't find an evenness.


Deb S. said...

Excellent post!

Todd and in Charge said...

Great advice, clearly explained. It's so true -- we all need to move beyond our self-imposed limitations, with motivation we can make something happen.

A Flowered Purse said...

i always feel a sense of accomplishment when i push myself. I have to take it day by day cause some days if i push myself, i will have a set back anxiety wise. Even if i do have a set back i find the biggest leaps come after one.
Have a wonderful weekend Dr. Deb

Meow said...

I believe in "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got". So, we need to step out of our comfort zones and try something new, or we will just stagnate.
Thanks for the interesting information, I am really enjoying learning more about all sorts of topics I would not normally take time to read about.
Take care, Meow

dragonflyfilly said...

Dr. Deb.: no worries, i'm ok, just poking a bit of fun at myself...and getting ready for some serious posts! - thanks for stopping by...and don't be alarmed at this "old" photo of me with Chi Chi (she belonged to an ex-roomate of mine!)

cheers for now,

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear DCS,

Dear Todd,
Being motivated and staying in that zone are hard to do, but these are good tips.

Dear Dianna,
I have to be careful how much I push also. Anything that is too much for our systems can cause an overload. Balance is always best.

Dear Meow,
"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got". OMG, that is SUCH a great quote.

Dear Dragonfillyfly,
OK, good to know.


fb said...

I got pointed to your post by another blog who thought I might find ir both relevant and interesting to me after my recent post, I have to say they were right.

I need to keep the six to mind at the moment.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear FB,
So glad you came to visit. Even happier that you found the post helpful.

I will visit you now.