The reality is that you have to get real.
You have to realise that you are the Knight in Shining Armour, that you are the Fairy Godmother who can miraculously change your life for the better. And you can only do that when you can see things in true perspective. You can see the lush green fields and mountains of the world that lie beyond your Comfort Zones only when you have broken down the high castle walls that imprison you. Yet most people find it more comfortable simply to remain where they are, to make excuses and compromises.
But why do you put up with a life of compromise? Why do you continue to suffer, escaping only in day-dreams? The truth is that although you may be unhappy and unfulfilled, this discomfort is relatively more comfortable than the alternative – like waking up one morning and walking into the boss’s office and handing in your resignation.
You are afraid of the void beyond – the unknown world. WHAT ELSE WILL YOU SO? Will you find another job? What will it pay? What will your friends/family think? That’s why, even if actually offered another job, most people still find it very disconcerting and disturbing to actually ‘take the leap’, to find the courage to leave behind their Comfort Zone and accept the risks and unknowns of a new job. And even when they’ve decided, they often have difficulty taking the step of actually doing the things necessary to implement the change: writing the letter of resignation, telling the boss, making a firm and final date for leaving.
Being stuck in a lousy job is only one example trapped in a Comfort Zone. There are many other examples: an unhappy or stagnant relationship, an unfulfilled marriage, restrictive religious or social norms, a smothering small town with no future, an inhibiting, aggressive, over-competitive city.
The fact is, unless things become completely intolerable, or until you are fired or retrenched or dumped and forced to do something about it, it’s more comfortable for you to stay where you are than to face it and risk change. And so you stay put. And become more and more trapped.
Perhaps your own particular Comfort Zone is mainly a psychological one or emotional one; perhaps you are inhibited from progressing in your life by some past, often long-forgotten incident or traumatic experience or parental reproach or religious rule or societal norm.
For example, you may have been brought up in time when premarital sex was considered taboo by society. Entrenched by what you heard in church. Made more real by someone you know becoming pregnant and being ostracized by family and friends. And twenty or thirty years later, even though the attitudes of society have changed dramatically, even though your parents and teachers and church ministers may all be dead, your attitude and behaviour is still governed by an amalgam of all your past lessons and entrenched beliefs. And this may be inhibiting your entire life, affecting your relationships with members of the opposite sex, preventing you from making a full and satisfying attachment…leaving you trapped in your Comfort Zone of loneliness.
Invariably, each Comfort Zone is unique to each individual and very complex in its uniqueness, being an amalgam of many factors interacting powerfully with one another. And even once you recognise your own particular Comfort Zones, and realise that you’re trapped, why don’t you simply escape? Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder and a lot more complex than it seems – and for these reasons you don’t simply walk out on your lousy job.
Although you may be lonely and unhappy and unfulfilled, the truth is that the discomfort that you feel is relatively more comfortable than the alternative – that is, asserting yourself against everything that you have based your past behaviour, changing your entrenched beliefs to fit the new changed you within a changed society. In short, simply being honest with yourself in what you really want and desire in life, and having the courage to go out and get it.
But Why This Obsession With Change and Growth? Why Can’t We Just Stay Where We Are, Secure In Our Comfort Zones?
Many people asked me this question when I first started working on this book and exposed them to my ideas. They asked me how I could be so arrogant as to expect everyone to think as I did – namely, that growth is the most important and worthwhile task we all have in life, and that stagnation is therefore the most worthless.
My answer is that these are not just my subjective thoughts and opinions – they are in fact universal truths. This is my reasoning:
Everything in the entire universe is in a constant process of movement, of process and growth. Decay and death are not only valid parts of this eternal and ubiquitous process – they are essential aspects of it….for only through decay and death can new birth begin.
And yet man, with his rational mind capable of contemplating his own destiny, seems to have the dubious talent and desire consciously to suspend or delay or manipulate this process in himself.
For example, medical science prolongs an often fatally diseased physical life; social mores and the institution of marriage often prolong fatally diseased relationships; psychological hang-ups and defence mechanisms such as rationalisation perpetuate and prolong fatally diseased emotional, material and spiritual wastelands – those most insidious of traps that I call Comfort Zones.
Unless we recognise the fortresses we have built around us, unless we confront our own honesty, unless we recognise that risk and pain and death of the familiar and the comfortable are essential companions to the inescapable process of growth and rebirth, and should therefore be welcomed and embraced, we cannot even begin to break down the restraining walls and lower the drawbridge to a new and fuller existence.
My research brought me to this book and I think you should also. You can find it on Ebay or Amazon.
I think Morris West expressed it perfectly in his book The Shoes of the Fisherman:
It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment or the courage to pay the price… one has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms.
One has to embrace life like a lover.
One has to accept pain as a condition of existence.
One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing.
One needs a will stubborn in conflict but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.
That’s what escaping Comfort Zones is all about – to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms.
If you’re not prepared to do that, if you’d prefer to keep your security bubble of rationalizations and illusions and self-deceptions intact rather than confront the truth and your own honesty, if you’re not prepared to take the risks and face the consequences, then burn this book now. Because once you’ve begun the journey, once you have taken the blinkers off your eyes and your mind and soul, you will never be able to fool yourself again. You will either have to continue the journey, or live forever with the knowledge that you are living a compromise.
And that is the most uncomfortable Comfort Zone of all.