Stretch … But Don’t Snap
I’m continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing. – Ashton Kutcher
Recently at a networking event, a woman shared her excitement at being in the place in life where she was consciously choosing to move away from her comfort zone and stretch herself to try new things. This included selling her house, relocating to a new area, and taking a long European vacation. Her inspiration came from a picture in a Facebook post – there is a small circle on the left that says “comfort zone” and a big circle to the right that says “where the magic happens.”
This conversation stuck with me. How often do we stay in our comfort zones because the bigger and bolder choice seems too scary? We get used to living in comfort, but there comes a time when comfortable starts to feel uncomfortable. Our wise voice begins to prompt us to think about shaking things up.
This may not be heeded right away, but the inner voice will get louder and louder, pointing out new directions and options to pursue. Finally, the tipping point is reached – it actually seems scarier to stay in the comfort zone than to move toward the magic. When you find yourself at this point, you might want to keep in mind three tips to help you stretch without pushing so hard that you end up crashing and burning.
Tip # 1 – Start in the Realm of Possibility
It can be tempting to reach for really big goals, because they are so exciting and appear to solve any problems in the comfort zone in a big way. Looking for quick-fix financial solutions, finding the perfect mate on the first date, or drastic short-cuts to healthy weight loss can lead to disappointment and retreating to your comfort zone.
When you decide to push yourself to stretch, keep the goal within the realm of possibilities. If your rational mind can imagine you going there, being there, or doing that new thing, it can happen. But, if your mind rejects the notion and you have to force it to be accepted, the seed of doubt will overtake your best intentions. As Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., reminds us, “before you do something you’ve never done before, you have to be able to imagine it’s possible.”
Look at how to modify the goal, at least for the first round. Find a way to make it feel more like a truth or a possibility. One great way is to say “I’m in the process of ____“ or “I’ve decided that ____.” Once you launch that desire, feed it and watch as you begin to believe it can happen.
Tip #2 – Uncover the Sabotaging Beliefs
Deciding to really move forward and stretch yourself will have consequences. Expect the nasty, critical, negative voices to surface and try to sabotage your adventure. This is normal. Everyone has a collection of limiting beliefs that chime in when the boat gets rocked. The trick is to be prepared for them. Know what they say, when they come, and what you can do to shut them up.
To root them out, notice when you use the words “but” and “because” as you talk about your dreams and desires. If you hear yourself saying “I want a better job, but I’m too old to look for something new,” the words after “but” reveal the belief you hold about yourself. Is it true? Does it have to be true? How would you act if it were not true? Challenge that belief so that it does not block your passage to the place where the magic happens.
Tip # 3 – Find the Sweet Spot
Deciding to stretch and go for it will put you in a new space. It won’t always feel secure and content, like it did in the comfort zone. Because it will feel different, it is important to have a new normal to center you. This involves finding your “sweet spot” – the place where you feel somewhat uncomfortable but also magical.
Get very clear on what the magic looks like for you – visualize the best possible outcome and let the joyful feelings seep into your bones. Then notice what needs to change and evolve. Allow in a little bit of discomfort to remind you the old life no longer fits. This is that new normal. You use the magic to inspire and excite you and the discomfort to keep you focused on opening up and moving forward!