Monday, August 21st, 2017

When to Go with the Flow, and When to Expand your Comfort Zone

Published on January 19, 2011 by   ·   No Comments

by Sonya Derian/TinyBuddha

Out of Your Comfort Zone

“Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold.” ~ Herbert Spencer

I’m actually much more of a proponent of “going with the flow” then going against it. And sometimes forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do can be considered going against the flow.

But I do that for a different reason, and not everyone would agree.

I have two schools of thought. On the one hand, expansion is inevitable. We’re always called to become more than we are in life. It’s the nature of being human.

On the other hand, there’s something called “homeostasis.” Like a thermostat that’s set to a certain temperature, it will always self-regulate. If it gets too hot, the air will kick in to bring it to a cooler temperature. If it gets too cold, it will start flowing hot air. Whatever the gauge is set to, the thermostat will regulate.

Similarly, there’s an unconscious process within us that self-regulates. We have relationship set points, money set points, and weight set points. We have comfort zones—sometimes ones that we’re completely unaware of.

That’s why people who win the lottery can go back to being at the same level of income or bankrupt in less than 6 years. Their unconscious financial set point didn’t change because they won a million dollars.

Like the thermostat programmed to monitor the gauge, their unconscious thermostat brought them back to where they were comfortable. They can win millions and within years, they are back to where they started.

I suspect that if you redistributed the wealth in the country and equalized it among all people, it would re-distribute exactly the same way within 3 years, according to people’s set points.

I say all of that to say this: Yes, expansion is our nature, but we also come up against our own homeostasis—our own comfort zone. We don’t want to move out of what we know.

So, when I force myself to try something new, or get out of my comfort zone, it’s my attempt at moving the gauge manually (if we are going with the thermostat analogy).

I want to be comfortable playing in a bigger sand box.

I may be uncomfortable placing myself there for the first time, but if that’s where I want to be, I want to know what it feels like there so I can make that my new comfort zone.

Recently I went to a business conference in Las Vegas. I didn’t know what to expect. It cost a bit of money but I wanted to step up my game, so I went.

Not only did I go, but I bought a whole new wardrobe to take with me just to play the part. I work from home so I don’t wear business attire. I live in clogs. But I’d be among a group of business owners so I bought a few new suits.

I donned a new hat—the CEO one—and stepped into a role. After the first day, I thought “Why am I here? I don’t know anyone. I don’t actually need any business.”

My first bit of resistance kicked in.

I thought it was a good idea, which is why I went. But I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to eat meal after meal with strangers and network. People there were raising capital, millions of dollars, forming advisory committees, structuring strategic alliances.

“Who am I?  What am I doing here?” I thought.

Next layer of resistance.

“I am out of my comfort zone. I’m out of my league.”

By about the 3rd day, I had a little breakdown in my room, called my neighbor to check on my cat, sniveled to him, and then got over it. I put on my big girl pants and went back down to schmooze some more.

“Who can I help?” I wondered. I needed to get out of myself.

By the fifth day, I wasn’t so uncomfortable anymore. I made a friend—a possible business alliance. I had dinner with people that do millions of dollars in revenue a year. I listened to executives pitch to investors to raise capital for their companies.

I was suddenly in a different league. But nothing changed. I changed.
And I ended up having a really good time. I step out and do things I’m uncomfortable doing because I only have to do it once.

Now that I’ve done it, I will never, in that setting, be uncomfortable again. I don’t have to play in that environment if I don’t want to, but I will no longer be intimidated by it either. The choice will be mine.

We have set points, comfort zones that most of us, for our whole lives don’t leave. And I’m not a proponent of doing stuff just to be uncomfortable.

If there is a flow that is already happening, I’m all for going with it.

But if you are here and you want to be there, you do have to wade through what keeps you stuck.

It’s going to tell you that you need to stay because it’s safe, and you’re comfortable, and why change? But at some point, if you want something more, or at the very least different, you’re going to need to step out to discover what’s on the other side.

If you want something different. Not everyone does. But freedom has always been my quest. Every fear I overcome is a freedom gained.

I liken life to living in a huge mansion with many rooms. Why occupy only two rooms when you have the whole house? The whole property? I want to be free to roam—to know that everywhere is home.

How do we know when to push out of our comfort zone and when to go with the flow? I say, go with the flow as it flows and then when you come up against your own resistance, take the leap.

A friend I met at the business conference sent me a copy of his book when he got home. I knew we’d do business together by the title of his opening chapter, which says it all:

Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold.

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