Isn't it great to have a relaxing weekend and take some time to chill? So the idea of us having spent some time in our "comfort zones" seems readily identifiable. We love our comfort zones. It is a great place to relax, let down our guard, just be ourself. Laze around all day, no stresses or strains. Eat and drink what we want, when we want. Surround ourselves with the pleasures of family and friends, or simply stay home alone. The Oxford Dictionary says it's "a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress". The Merriam-Webster Dictionary calls it: "a place, situation, or level where someone feels confident and comfortable." Personally, I like the Cambridge English Dictionary version which states that a comfort zone is a place in which "someone's ability or determination are not being tested." Supposedly it first came into use in our language back in 1923. Wonder why that was?
By these definitions, each of us have our own individual comfort zone, and these comfort zones apply to all areas of our lives. For instance, I know of someone very comfortable in front of 1000s people, yet in small group settings felt out of place. I love being on an airplane and flying, where for some people, they are terrified. Put me on a 10 meter diving board and ask me to dive in, and I'll panic, yet flying at supersonic speeds in a combat aircraft were normal places of work at one time.
So what is the problem with having different sizes and types of comfort zones? Well, there are two reasons I can think of right away. One problem with a limited and unchanging comfort zone is that they can become comfort traps -- we get stuck in them so that when asked or forced to do something where our abilities or determination are tested, we decline. There is a big "NO" communicated in our brain that causes us to freeze, make excuses or actually shrink back and form a buffer zone of protection around ourselves. We say, "I tried that once and it did not work," or, "That's just not me". Psychologists say this reaction is our natural way of protecting ourselves from perceived danger. We fear or are suspicious that going out of our comfort zone on this occasion will cause us harm, or feelings of inadequacy. Worst yet, it may get us to relive past experiences where going out of our comfort zones caused us mental or physically pain. Our imaginations can run wild as we recall past failures. Our confidence takes a big hit. No wonder we shrink back. This happened to me once years ago and I have never forgot it. I'll tell you about it in the next blog, Before you read it, please reflect for a moment on experiences in your past may have caused you to get stuck in a comfort trap. Talk it through with a friend or loved one.