You must have come across the images of Venn diagrams depicting the intersection of comfort / discomfort as Magic Zone. I don’t quite agree and that’s where the problem begins. This is the area where the specter of Inner Critic lurks around with self-doubt ready to make you question your efforts and belittle everything you have achieved so far.
Frankly, the idea of growth visualisation through Venn diagrams is as ridiculous as sci-fi movies portraying how aliens look. Yet every so often, we encounter blogs, self help websites and almost everyone else pointing towards the zone with euphoria— “This is where the magic happens.”
A simple Google search will provide countless articles urging to step outside the safe zone, saying that it is time to take the plunge and grab the great rewards that are awaiting the braves outside the comfort zone.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am all about pushing yourself, trying new things and all of that. However, I don’t believe in the idea of comfort zone necessarily being a bad thing and the notion that we must do everything in our capacity to make our lives as uncomfortable as possible for growth! Does this not sound absurd? Have you seen anyone happy without being comfortable? I have not. But I have seen many who aren’t comfortable, aren’t happy but are successful. They tried to achieve success by taking the route of discomfort and lost their family and friends in the process and invited depression in their lives. Ask yourself, is this the kind of success you want for yourself?
Being Comfortable is the Magic
Call me a pessimist. Call me a stoic. But more than anything, I am a Realist. And realistically speaking, I’ve found that most people do their best work when they are in the comfort zone without having to worry about much else. You must have seen this interesting pyramid by a gentleman called Abraham Maslow —
You see, Maslow stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.
Going by the same logic, in our haste to reach the so called Magic Zone, we tend to jeopardise the lower layers of the pyramid and it is not a pretty picture. This comfort zone baloney might motivate some people but I don’t think that’s the way to visualise your growth. Getting outside your comfort zone is like running towards the enemy with your shield down and it’s not fancy at all. There is no magic involved. Just blood, sweat and tears.
Expand The Comfort Zone
It’s fair to say that if you are reading this, you are a go-getter who wants to achieve great things in life. Maybe you want to quit your job to start a business, become an artist, publish a book, whatever.
And you probably know that it is extremely hard so why make it even harder by going out in search of the magic zone? Instead, start from the very bottom and build a strong foundation and get comfortable with what you are about to do by preparing yourself. Remember what AB once said —
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe — Abraham Lincoln
How to expand the comfort zone?
When Abraham Maslow came along, he was one of the first psychologists to focus primarily on happiness. He studied the greatest minds of our generations, like Roosevelt, Einstein and was also the one to coin the phrase “Self-actualizing individual”
And he wasn’t just talking about lofty desires like jumping into the abyss and looking for the magic. According to him, you need to self-actualize to live upto your full potential.
Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. — Abraham Maslow
Ask yourself what makes you feel truly at peace with yourself, what gets you into the flow mode and where do you feel the most comfortable and then take consistent action towards realizing those things. But don’t fall for the BS that you need to make a huge change overnight.
Start small and take regular steps in the right direction to slowly expand your comfort zone and build the momentum to carry you towards your goals.
Stay close to yourself — there’s no point in pushing yourself so badly that your life becomes miserable. In the end, we all need comfort: It’s one of our basic needs as human beings. Try to keep moving forward every day: Even if it’s just a tiny step. No magic. Just effort.
“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson