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Stretching Your Comfort Zone

Posted Jan 07 2009 6:52pm



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.
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