It’s normal to fear change, but it’s also an essential part of life, and a necessary journey to enjoy true fulfilment. Too many of us, however, try to remain in our comfort zones, even when we desperately need to break out. In this exclusive article, self-help coaches Elaine Lo and Pet Sutton, AKA ‘Petlo’, set out the case for rejecting the comfort zone and committing, instead, to finding the happiness you deserve.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, as they say. Age is an excuse for many of us to be set in our own ways. It is easy to say, “I have lived life this way for a long time. It’s not worth it changing now,” or, “Why make an effort to deal with problems when I’ve probably already lived 80% of my life? “
Older people may see approaching death as an escape where all their problems end – thus they don’t need to face their problems right now, even if the problem is nothing less than living a meaningless life. They think that they can avoid the problems; curb them; numb them.
If we are truly happy, there is no reason to change. But if we are not, don’t we deserve to be happy? Of course so, so why don’t we want to change? Comfort is the culprit. Change means stepping outside our comfort zone and this is something that, as we grow older, most of us get worse at. The funny thing is – we think we will be unhappy stepping outside our comfort zone but actually we are unhappy being inside it. The only way out is to take a leap of faith. Change is often only scary in our minds but in reality it is mostly manageable.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T STAY IN THE COMFORT ZONE
So what happens if we remain inside our comfort zone? If there is a problem we need to face but have been avoiding or suppressing it, the problem will probably increase in size until it gets our attention.
Consider the example of a 70-year-old person who is over-sensitive, always over-analyzing and distorting situations to reach dead-end conclusions which make them extremely unhappy. This problem gets more and more serious and reflects physiologically as a serious allergy. The person applies ample steroid cream against advice, thinking that whatever the consequences are, they don’t have very long to live anyway. Steroids curb the allergy symptoms a bit but as the allergy gets more serious, so the steroids lose their effectiveness. To continue the analogy, the person goes to an allergy specialist, starts taking oral medication which quickly loses its effectiveness as well. They even try allergy injections but to no avail.
What if they just deal with the underlying problem on an emotional level? Obviously, they don’t want to – the core problem of over-sensitivity is something they don’t want to face. “I don’t have a problem,” they convince themselves. But until the real problem is identified and fixed, the allergic reaction will only continue to be aggravated. This is a comfort zone which is getting increasingly and alarmingly uncomfortable!
Maybe we don’t have serious problems like the person above; maybe we simply feel bored and unfulfilled with our lives where we experience less discomfort in our comfort zones than the aforementioned person. Yet life is meant to be more than just comfortable. Life likes to push us to grow. And there is no growth when we are confined by our comfort zone. So if we don’t take the initiative to step outside and/or expand our comfort zone, life will either prompt us out of it with an opportunity trigger or push us out of it with a threat trigger.
An ‘opportunity trigger’ presents itself as something positive that challenges our status quo. Our dream job may become available to us suddenly. Someone may surprisingly leave us money (maybe upon their death), allowing us to more easily do something different in our lives.
A ‘threat trigger’ presents itself as something inherently negative that challenges our status quo. It could be that we are fired from our job. It could be the breakdown of our marriage. It could be the loss of a loved one. These events may trigger us to make big changes in our lives.
REJECTING COMFORT TO FIND FULFILMENT
So how do we reject comfort? The answer is to honestly ask yourself how fulfilled you are. If we are fulfilled then we don’t even need to reject comfort. It is possible to be fulfilled and comfortable at the same time. But there is a problem when we focus on comfort; that is when a comfort zone comes into being, restricting us. When we are inside a comfort zone, our fulfilment depreciates.
So observe your fulfilment level. If you feel like there should be more to life than how you are currently living then be pro-active in making changes. Ask yourself, what else do you want to do in life? What can you do differently in your life?
If you don’t want to make changes pro-actively, because you have built up too much inertia within your comfort zone, at least make use of the opportunity or threat triggers that come along. Don’t re-create another comfort zone to slip back into. Take the chance to do something different and create meaning for your life.
We will only ever live from now to the moment we die. If we make changes now, we are changing the whole life we are yet to live.
So while it’s advisable that we don’t try to teach an old dog new tricks because, firstly, they are unlikely to be receptive, and secondly, life will do so if the old dog needs new tricks, we all want to be the dog with an open mind CAPABLE of learning new tricks.
Petlo have just published 8 Recipes for Life, a new self-help guide packed with practical wisdom for greater professional and personal life fulfilment. It is available now on Amazon UK, priced £11.11. For more information visit www.petlo.co.uk.