The modern world has made it far too easy for us to organise our entire life from our sofas. At our very fingertips we have the ability to realistically order anything we want, interact with anyone we want and ultimately overcome many of life’s inconveniences and instead revel in comfort. For example, why walk 5 minutes up the road to buy ingredients for dinner when you can wait 45 minutes and have a Nandos delivered to your door? Why walk to the pub when you can enjoy the warmth and comfort of an Uber? If you want to go on holiday, why figure the logistics out yourself when a company can just do it for you (I am guilty of this)? Why workout and feel better about yourself if you can just apply an Instagram filter?
Combine these advancing technologies, apps and services with the mass growth in contemporary media, particularly social media websites, Youtube videos and ‘influencers’ who all gain significant amounts of views selling us a lifestyle of comfort, which realistically none of us need (or can afford). We now live in a time where, more than ever, people view comfort as synonymous with a happy life. Thus, no matter how you define comfort, whether it is achieved through buying that brand new cinema-sized TV you saw advertised or other means, the excessive pursuit for this hot commodity should make you feel good… right?
Quite the opposite! While we may yearn for comfort, research suggests too much comfort can have negative effects and rather our psychological well-being and really our overall happiness actually enhances when we are able to tear ourselves away from the comforts in life. In fact, our core psychological needs are satisfied by breaking out of our mundane routines and experiencing novel and challenging situations, not by the endless pursuit for comfort.
“Man has achieved his present position by being the most aggressive and enterprising creature on earth. And now he has created a comfortable civilization, he faces an unexpected problem… the comfortable life lowers man’s resistance, so that he sinks into an unheroic sloth“Colin Wilson – English writer and philosopher
Remaining in your ‘comfort zone’ is inherently bad for your brain. Not much happens here. We tend to go by our daily life indulging in the same foods, doing the same tasks, speaking to the same people etc. and before we know it, a week has gone by? Does this sound familiar? Our brain quite literally stops noticing and processing this repetitive information which can leave us feeling confused and ‘blank’ when we look back in retrospect. Consequently, this zone of experience provides very limited opportunities for personal growth, knowledge often stagnates and the person we are today is the same person we were yesterday, a week ago, a year ago etc. If you want a memorable life, the research is very clear: You have to live a life worth remembering.
“The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk“The comfort zone
I am sure this is not a new phenomenon for you to hear. There are thousands of sources which have been screaming to “LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE” and while you may ignore this information, their voices certainly carry weight. Our brain significantly benefits from the volatility and uncertainty that comes with stepping out of the comfort zone. I am sure you can immediately recall a time you left your comfort zone and that is because they are meaningful experiences. We are able to gain a better sense of purpose; we can conquer fears and anxieties; we become intrinsically motivated; and ultimately the person we were today is wiser than the person we were yesterday.
Yes leaving your comfort zone sounds like the magical cure for life and research would echo this idea. BUT, leaving it is tough and we have a tendency to cling on to our ‘creature comforts’. We are very familiar with this place, it is where we feel safest and spend the majority of our life. Thus, it is no surprise that leaving this safe space may cause alarm bells. But like anything, the more you do it the easier it gets. The more we are able to become accustomed to the unpleasent physical sensations(‘butterflies’, adrenaline, increased HR etc.) and negative emotions (uncertainty, anxiety, stress etc.) which come with leaving your comfort zone, of course the easier the process becomes.
For me, physical challenges provide the perfect opportunity to escape my mundane routine and push myself both physically and psychologically. In fact my friends and I have just signed up for a 24 hour running relay race in the summer which should certainly push us into unknown territory. But it could be anything in life, changing up your daily routine, saying yes to situations that make you feel uncomfortable, learning a new skill or language, the list is quite simply endless.
To finish, the modern world has successfully accommodated our need for comfort. There are now endless opportunities for us to sail through life without really challenging ourselves or questioning that of which we are capable. Many people have simply become bystanders of their own life letting others tell them how to live their lives or even watching others lead a fulfilling and exciting life through various social media platforms. We are so much more than bystanders. I implore you to challenge yourself regularly, test your capabilities and lead a life worth remembering.
PhD powered by The Leadership High – https://theleadershiphigh.com/