Our comfort zone is a cocoon of easefull-ness that the ego loves to nurture. It is triggered when something unexpected or dis-easeful comes along. At that point we can either take the opportunity to grow or we can retreat more deeply into the perceived safety, and often ignorance, of the zone.
The reality is, despite everything, life, including our carefully made goals and dreams, often doesn’t work out in accordance with even the most well laid of plans. This challenge to our ego will trigger our comfort zone often causing us to make decisions that align with comfort instead of stepping up to our biggest life. In this article I will share how to recognise when your particular comfort zone is triggered and offer tips you can use to step beyond it into all that is possible.
Poet and Spiritual Teacher Mark Nepo considers our plans kindling, that we need them to ignite our fire and that, while they are important, they are actually not our core purpose. Our core purpose is living a life of growth and expansion, a spiritually connected life.
I loved this metaphorical way of looking at a way to live gently in the world – how to connect the commitment of goal setting with the spiritual work of accepting what is. This has been such a huge part of my journey and is so much the journey of many of my clients.
Like many I didn’t really have a plan at school, I skated through and then fell into a job with ‘prospects’ when I graduated. Responding to that I made a plan, started to create a career and save for property but soon realised I hated my job so I took a year off to travel first.
That first summer away was so magical that I gave up all my plans and just started to flow instead. That year became 5 years and ended up bringing me to Australia, buying a house and having babies. I was basically saying yes to everything that was offered. Even my counselling and kinesiology training happened as a response to wanting to be a better parent rather than an intentional career move. My life had no goals and no plans, in fact I actively avoided making any. Everything just happened.
However, without realising it, without intentions I was also without the foundations to flow within the bigger plan of my life. All my learning and decisions were silo’d – solid within themselves but not connected.
When my partner and I decided that it had been great but we were done I realised that those gaps were now stopping me from living a life of choice. If I did not take the time to decide what I really wanted I was destined to be a wanderer – and perhaps end up at a destination I would not be happy in. I needed to take responsibility for my life and choices and become the master of my own destiny.
And so started my journey of intention setting. And then encountering the frustration when
things did not happen as I wanted. My inner control freak tried really hard but, while many goals fell perfectly into place, others (and they always seemed the most important) seemed impossible to achieve.
I wondered if I should go back to what I had assumed was going with the flow but I knew that wouldn’t work. I could now see how my inner control freak had conducted my life and how much I had limited it through confusing the fear of stepping outside my comfort zone with going with the flow.
I could also see that had I followed my original plans I may never have had any of the great adventures of my life. So I realised that I needed to set intentions and create plans within a bigger construct of letting go. Now while this may seem obvious to you, to me it was a revelation. Learning to play with these often conflicting energies, the energy of plans and the energies of flow, became my focus, in my work, on my business and in my life.
Perhaps you, too, may be at a crossroads and wondering how to gather your kindling and ignite your fire? The first step is always self reflection. If you use that time to find out if you are a ‘go with the flow’ type of person or a ‘I have a plan’ kind of person then you may well have uncovered a significant comfort zone – once identified you can use it to help you to step into the bigger part of your life.
The ‘Go with the Flow’ Comfort Zone
If your comfort zone (as opposed to choice) is to ‘go with the flow’ or ‘do what makes you happy’ then you will be happiest when others are happy and may be very uncomfortable charting your own course. You can challenge this by practicing making choices. Even when you are going along with another, make sure you take the time to say “I choose this” and always make sure you are taking action on your choices.
This comfort zone often prefers to avoid choices and follow others thereby avoiding discerning what is their personal Right choice. If this is you then take time to check in if you are taking personal responsibility for what emerges. Often, when we live in this camp, we flow but then can feel anger or regret when things don’t work out our way. We can become blameful that we weren’t supported. Remember that every step is a choice with a consequence – remembering that we are making choices even when we choose to follow others means that there is no one to blame. We choose – or not – and it is what it is. We can then make the choice to change what is.
In this camp we will often stop as soon as things get difficult. We have stories about things not feeling right. Remembering that just because it is difficult does not mean it is wrong, it just might be uncharted territory of growth being encountered. By acknowledging this we can continue to take action, listening to our deep wisdom and changing course as needed instead of ‘in reaction to’.
The ‘I have a plan’ Comfort Zone
If your comfort zone (as opposed to choice) is ‘I have a plan’ or ‘do what you should’ then you may like to examine your goals to see if they are actually what feels right for YOU deep inside. Not for those around you, not for society, but for you. Often when we live in this camp we make plans that align with what seems like a good idea. In doing so we take the risk of waking up one day having created everything we wanted but still feeling unfulfilled and possibly even desperately unhappy.
You can experiment with, instead of relentlessly following a grand plan to the end, taking action mindfully, checking in on how each step feels. Often, in this camp, we barge on determined to make things work despite any uncomfortableness. We can instead start to listen to our uncomfortable feelings. If it feels contracting then it may well be closing us in.
Learning to discern the comfortable uncomfortableness of growth from real pain is especially important for those who live in this camp. Many types of auto-immune illness arise from the overriding of this self knowledge. Learning to listen deeply and stop even though you may have a plan is often part of the life journey of those who live in “I have a plan’ camp.
Both of these journeys require space for inward reflection. A great way to do that is to find some stillness in your life i.e. turn off that phone! And then just sit or write. And see what emerges. Allow yourself to feel what is going on and be curious about what or why it is. Don’t assume you know. Curiosity is our biggest ally in pursuing our own truth. Not trying to solve anything, just being curious about what is. Learning to trust that actually it will be OK. No matter what. And then let go and relax.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this … how do you know you are being stopped by your comfort zone – or conversely when you are pushing on beyond what is right for you? And then how do you take action?
Copyright 2016 Gay Landeta This article has been written with the intent of helping you to create the life you want to live. All right reserved.
BTW, If you haven’t down loaded my free ebook you may like to do that. I also developed my on-line programs to help you figure this stuff out so you can feel more comfortable walking in both camps. To have a look click here.