Coping and contending with the “comfort zone”

August 2, 2012

Anger, Fear, Goals, Self-improvement

The comfort zone describes the activities we have repeated often enough to feel comfortable doing them. Anything new, different or untried lies outside our comfort zone.

by Kate Ellis — 

As we pursue our goals, trying on various new behaviors, methods and outcomes, we will feel and experience discomfort. Count on it. This is the inevitable process as we expand our personal boundaries. Knowing this, changes can be handled with relative ease. Knowledge is power, and its utilization your strength.

The comfort zone describes the activities we have repeated often enough to feel comfortable doing them. Anything new, different or untried lies outside our comfort zone. As we approach the edges of that zone, we are mostly at ease and experienced. However, uneasiness begins to creep in — showing up as fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings and anger. These are generally the feelings people experience when they say, “I am uncomfortable.”

For many people, the explanation “I am uncomfortable” is sufficient reason not to do anything new or challenging. It is little wonder, then, that these people seldom reach their dreams or change their lives. Simply put, they choose comfort over their goals. To reach our goals and live our dreams, we must choose, moment by moment, to take steps in the direction of our dreams, no matter how uncomfortable we may feel. Reaching one’s goals is not always comfortable. It is, however, satisfying.

The subtle ways in which the comfort zone keeps us from our dreams are remarkable. The comfort zone reacts with its “don’t do it” messages long before we take a physical action. When we merely consider doing something new and different, or perhaps something at which we’ve previously failed, the comfort zone will reappear. We have been programmed to do whatever it takes to avoid fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings and anger.

Our exaggerated physical reactions are often enough to cause us to completely avoid anything new or once attempted. The result is that our world becomes smaller and smaller, as our fears grow and burgeon into all areas of our lives, so much so that we find it difficult to trust ourselves. We simply turn our thoughts to something more comfortable. Two masks of the comfort zone are procrastination and lack of motivation.

At the very foundation of manifestation, at the level of thought, the comfort zone seems to attack. We often unquestioningly, unconsciously follow our programming by choosing to stay focused on what is familiar, what is comfortable. How do we shift this? Realizing we are in control, we can reprogram this process and change these reactions, empowering ourselves to offset the physical/emotional changes and challenges that occur.

The comfort zone is an important part of our built-in success mechanism; we have simply been misprogrammed about its proper use. We have learned to medicate or alleviate the discomfort, and then try to figure out what was wrong. Once we learn how, we can use these feelings to achieve our dreams and goals.

The misprogramming takes place in childhood, through environmental and parental examples, authority figures, and our personal beliefs that we are not in control of our feelings or thoughts. As children, we needed boundaries, such as not to cross the street because it was dangerous. Because our parents couldn’t keep their eyes on us constantly, they trained us not to trust anyone or anything that might be dangerous. The strong feelings from the comfort zone are meant to protect us from harm.

As we become old enough to know the difference between what is genuinely dangerous and what is merely new and exciting, no one draws us aside and says, “Oh, by the way, you know all those feelings of discomfort you were taught to avoid? You can now start using those as additional tools to get what you want.”

It takes a while to do this reprogramming. Fortunately, on our way toward achieving our dreams, we have lots of opportunities. Each time fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings or anger surface, we can either choose to run from them or use them to take yet another step toward our dreams, goals and aspirations.

We have natural, in-built resources to help us cope with our preprogrammed reactions: breathing properly, slowly inhaling and exhaling, or changing the direction of our thoughts. It is our beliefs that create and perpetuate our cycles of paralysis, of being in or out of control. As a result, we must remember that we are the masters of our minds, the captains of our souls. When old programming is triggered, we must ask whether we choose to continue to believe in our limits or to expand our awareness.

Our thought choices create our feelings; our feelings activate our emotions. It is thought and feeling combined that become the motion of our emotions. Successfully reprogramming the comfort zone is like learning to swim. We can study theory as much as we like, but the place of true learning is in the water. If, however, we pursue the swimming lessons, we learn to use the water as a way of getting what we want — fun, recreation and exercise — rather than seeing it as an entity waiting to do us in.

In order to use the comfort zone to get what we want, we must feel the very feeling we describe as uncomfortable. This is part of changing old limiting beliefs into new experiences and opportunities. Eventually, the things we now fear may automatically cause excitement. For now, however, it is fear — and it is uncomfortable. Be willing to feel the fear and do it anyway. Take the next step. Along the way, you will begin seeing the various emotions of the comfort zone as the friends they are.

One benefit of pursuing our dreams is learning to use the comfort zone as the support system it truly is. The primary benefit is realizing our dreams. A secondary benefit, which over time becomes the primary benefit, is learning that nothing is truly bad within us. We learn that the world is not out to get us, that we are not self-defeating, weak or self-indulgent. We were merely misinformed. With knowledge comes power — power to be ourselves, to self-actualize. We begin to recognize we are truly the ones who create our personal boundaries and feelings.


Kate Ellis, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, is certified with the Association of Counselors and Therapists. She teaches at Scottsdale Community College and is the author of Did You Know … A Message of Choice & Change. 480-695-1936.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 2, April/May 2008.

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