Luan takes a look at comfort zones and how they can help or hinder us in life and sport.
We took a family holiday last week on the British South Coast. It is always a gamble holidaying in the UK thanks to the unpredictability of our island weather. This year we took a punt on taking our inflatable stand up paddle boards with us, hoping we may be able to catch a few calm hours out on the sea at some point. Although they are inflatable and fold down into rucksacks, they (together with the buoyancy aids and related garb) still take up almost all of the boot of our 4x4, so that gamble meant we were limited in space for everything else we could take. It was one holdall each for everything else for the week! However, we felt drawn to take them with us, and took a view that it would be worth it if we could get those few hours out around the coast one of the days.
Boy are we glad we packed light in all other respects!!! We somehow struck it lucky with the weather and had an entire week of warm, flat calm conditions, the likes of which I can never before remember. The paddleboarding was a delight and the views absolutely stunning. We spent long hours out there exploring hidden coves and drifting on the warm calm seas, loving life!
Sat at home a few days later reviewing the photographs I started to think how life is mirrored in that experience, or even in a trip out to sea by small craft or swimming... You never know how things will pan out but sometimes you just have to go with the idea, push on, take a punt.
I strongly believe that we all have an inner wisdom - a guiding hand that gives us our intuition to take the right path. But I also feel that we are often too afraid to listen to that inner voice, and that our fear comes from an inherent fear of change. Change is uncomfortable. It makes us let go of our perception of control and hand over the steering wheel of fate. It means the journey may get bumpy. We may get tossed around by the waves, and the swell may obscure our view of our destination. Our short term discomfort may lead us to give up on the long term joy of achievement.
As a health and fitness coach, I see it all of the time. I will always have the odd client on my books who is unwilling to forgo the short term pleasures in order to attain their goals - whether that be giving up or limiting fast food or alcohol, or putting in the extra couple of hours of training per week. For those I manage to persuade into the 'suffering', their joy in their ultimate achievements is one of the reasons I do my job!
Simply put, to attain your given potential in life, you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone and meet life and all its challenges with passion and fervour.
Life can toss you all sorts of sea conditions — rough and stormy ones as well as calm and beautiful. Sometimes it is going to feel like all you get is the former. The waves may feel that they are coming at you from every direction and you don't get a break between them. Or you may be sat in a small patch of slack water but the way ahead looks treacherous. You may feel sick and tired of being in that rut. You may be feeling uninspired or emotionally drained and lacking direction. Whenever you feel like this, don’t despair. Tap into that inner wisdom, and let your intuition guide you. You may simply be experiencing an internal shift. Though you can’t quite put your finger on it, something isn’t quite right — you know that part, at least. Life seems harder and requires more effort than usual. Everything is a chore. You feel emotional turbulence at the slightest episode when things don’t go according to plan.
Rest assured, though it may seem it, no one's life is always smooth sailing. We all have to face our own waves. Seeking refuge in that knowledge liberates us from having to push against the forces of life.
The intention to reach one’s destination is typically heralded by a goal or a plan - be it a career change, a house move, a change of partner or other major decision. Though you can make the plan, you cannot always predict or control the roughness or otherwise of the waters ahead. But what is almost invariably true is that, if your goal is truly heartfelt, guided by that inner voice, you will face any challenges presented in your path, and overcome them, and the true joy of achievement will await you.
In Paulo Coelho’s acclaimed book The Alchemist, the young shepherd boy Santiago undertakes a quest to traverse the world in order to find treasure. Ultimately as he draws to the end of his journey, he discovers his treasure was right where he started. He recognises his trek across the world filled him with wisdom and a great deal of knowledge owing to the people he met along the way. His journey had not been a waste of time, for he gained much from his experience in search of his treasure.
It is worth remembering that every effort, every step, and every apparent failure draws you closer to your treasure — your true life goal/s. Nothing is wasted. No effort has been in vain.
There is a rhythm and timing to the universe that we must abide with if we wish to realise our potential. Stepping out of the comfort zone may feel paralysing, since there is a level of anxiety associated with uncertainty. Typically the bigger the change, and the stronger the desire for change, the more discomfort you feel, as you move toward the unknown.
Lao Tzu reminds us to allow the process of life to unfold without adding our drama to it:
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Remember, it is your response to life which is paramount to the level of personal growth you experience. Most people feel like they thrive in ideal situations, although this does not test their character. Your response to life’s uncertainties determines both your enjoyment of the here and now, and your level of inner growth. Resist the changes, fight against them begrudgingly, and life will continually get you down, and always feel a struggle. Accept the challenges, rise to them with a zest for life and a smile on your face, and you will thrive.
“As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” — Robin S. Sharma
Familiarity keeps you safe and oftentimes stuck and stagnant. Many people feel content to sail through life impervious to their potential. They would rather not take risks in case life does not turn out as they hope for. Subsequently, their self-esteem takes a hit and they perceive themselves as under-achievers or even failures. Yet failure and self-esteem are not inextricably linked.
You are not a failure because your goals fail to materialise the way you hoped for. You may not yet have reached your goal, but you may be unknowingly drawing closer to success each time.
Stepping out of your comfort zone requires you to extend your personal boundaries in order to create a fulfilling life. Finding and heeding that inner voice will provide you with the guidance required to set your goals, and following the correct path will give you the strength required to weather the rougher seas.
Whichever stage in life you are at - seeking that inner guidance, braving the rougher seas, trying to see your way through the slack water or beginning to thrive - know that you are not alone. There are others out there who will be there for you if you need them - to provide you with specific help, to guide you along your route, and maybe even to take some of the journey with you. Reach out to them, enjoy their company and assistance, and most of all, be gracious and joyful. This is your journey, and your journey alone - make it a splendid and memorable one!
Much love and peace 💙