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The Comfort Zone and Personal Growth

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Comfort: what a pleasant word that describes such a wonderful state of being. It is a universal human nature trait for us to seek comfort. You would assume that comfort would be a worthwhile goal for us to pursue but in reality it is one of humanity’s greatest built-in impediments of growth. If we weren’t wired with our affinity for comfort, our possibilities for a better life and world would be unfathomable. It may be that seeking too much comfort is what is holding us back from our goals and may inhibit the personal growth necessary to reach them.

The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears.
– Dan Stevens

When we are comfortable, life feels nice and easy.   Comfort is a place where we can regenerate ourselves after our work is complete. Comfort makes us want to stay and revel in the lack of stress that accompanies this beloved condition. We also seek comfort when life becomes too difficult and our bodies react with the release of chemicals that makes us feel anxious or fearful.

Where did our comfort zone come from?  Is there any choice in what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable?  How influential is your comfort zone to your daily activities? What would your life look like if you didn’t have boundaries that stopped you from moving beyond your preset comfort limitations? Our comfort zones may have more influence on our behaviours than anyone can imagine.

Your comfort zone is expressed with your body and mind sensations. Comfort is experienced by the presence of many perceived factors such as calmness, homeostasis, lack of stress and control. Feelings – good or bad – are caused by the release of chemicals stimulated by our thoughts or our surroundings. When you’re comfortable and life is behaving in ways that are preferable to you, your brain can release chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which lead to feelings and sensations that are perceived as good. When you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with a situation, you can experience negative feelings, such as anxiety, fear or stress.

These feelings are the opposing sensations from comfort and are caused by the release of chemicals from your brain like adrenaline and glutamate. Our body releases these chemicals as a preparation for dealing with a potentially harmful or undesired situation. They cause our negative feelings, our hearts to beat rapidly and our bodies to sweat. This chemical release varies in severity based on how far outside of our comfort zone we are.

Our comfort zone works like an internal governor that somehow has a mind of its own. It wants us to not do anything outside of its preset boundaries. We can all understand how some of our boundaries are there to protect us from harm and are necessary for our survival.

There are many boundaries when approached or overstepped stop us from doing the things we may need to do for a preferred future. Fear is one of the main creators of our boundaries. Fears are uniquely interpreted by all of us and help to create a part of our identities. We have a great tendency to avoid things that bring up our fears and to seek the things in life that bring us comfort.

Unfortunately, what brings us comfort can sometimes be in exact opposition to accomplishing our goals and what we really would like in this life.  Change is usually outside our comfort zone as it represents unfamiliar ground for us.  As we all know, everything in this life is in constant change.  The more we become entrenched in our comfort zones the more difficult a change event can become.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
– Neale Donald Walsch

Overcoming our fears and working through the emotions that are initiated by the chemicals created in our bodies is an effortful act that can only be done with an intention to do so. We are all capable of overcoming ourselves with this process. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you break through the comfort zone boundaries.  Once this is accomplished, your potential is limitless. 

Scott Trettenero’s recent book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves, others and how the world works because of our differences. Scott has maintained a solo dental practice in Southwest Florida since 1981. His research on quality service in dentistry and his interest in human temperaments formed the basis for his first book, Unlocking the T-Code. He is married and has two children. You can follow him on Twitter @ScottTrettenero

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