I love life.
But sometimes I feel like I am sitting at the edge of it. Looking in, observing. Yearning for the adventures I want to experience, gauging the mountains I want to climb, pondering about the goals I want to achieve.
But never moving.
I watch other people accomplish what is only real in my imagination. See them reach milestones I only ever meet in my careful plans. Witness them living the life I crave.
And I envy them.
I try to move forward. But it feels like I run on the spot, trapped on a giant foam roller. Exhausting myself turning the wheel underneath my feet without ever progressing towards my dreams.
And I beat myself up for my ineptitude. Curse my job for occupying too much of my time. Blame my family for all their needs, wants and demands that stop me from moving towards my goals.
I feel angry about my current circumstances that keep me trapped. Resent the people who hold me in place.
When the truth is that I am scared.
Terrified that I may fail and know once and for all that I am not good enough to reach my goals. Horrified of how my life may change if I succeed.
And petrified of the unknown. The unexplored blank space that lurks between my familiar existence and my goals and dreams. Full of threats, dangers and risks, but also possibilities I will never discover.
Because I am stuck. Caught in the unsurmountable pull of my comfort zone.
Watching life rather than living it. Making plans instead of executing them. My back aching under the pressure of unfulfilled desires, frustration and disappointment.
With one question burning on my mind.
How can I ever leave my comfort zone and finally get unstuck?
I can’t remember how many times I tried to escape my comfort zone.
From the safety of my comfort zone boundary wall, I focussed on my goals, pinpointed them in the far distance, on the other side of the vast, unknown territory. Gathered all my courage.
Only to be jerked backwards, as if I was attached to a permanent bungee cord. No matter how fast I ran, how much energy I invested, I would end up right where I had started.
Finding myself shattered, upset and even more convinced that I would never be able to get unstuck. Maybe I just wasn’t strong enough. Wasn’t competent, capable, good enough.
After a while, I started to wonder whether I wasn’t meant to ever leave my comfort zone. I worked hard, I was willing to change (despite the fear), I had tenacity and patience. Yet, I couldn't get unstuck.
So, what went wrong?
The liberating realisation why we can never leave our comfort zone
For years, I beat myself up for being stuck in my comfort zone. I thought I was weak, a loser and failure, incapable of achieving my goals and dreams. And maybe even undeserving of them.
But, nowadays, I know that I AM worth.
I recognise my potential, am proud of who I am. Appreciate what I can do.
Yet, I was still stuck. Forever sitting on that wall, just outside the boundaries of the life I desire. Still contemplating what could be wrong with me that it is so impossible to leave my comfort zone.
When, out of the blue, I realised that it isn’t me at all. It’s not my fault. It just simply can’t be done!
Nobody can ever leave their comfort zone. It’s impossible. Our mind won’t allow it. It’s responsible for our protection and programmed with a specific set of safety parameters it must have fulfilled.
We simply cannot leave our comfort zone. None of us. We can battle against our mind, dig escape tunnels, make a run for it. But, at the end of the day, we will end up where we started. Feeling more dispirited, worthless and defeated than ever.
So, the question now becomes: if we cannot leave our comfort zone, what can we do to get unstuck, to reach our goals and follow our dreams?
An alternative way to get unstuck (without leaving your comfort zone)
I know what you’re thinking.
What about all the people who already do what I am too scared to tackle? Who already achieve the goals that lie beneath my comfortable range?
Surely, they managed to leave their comfort zone.
But that’s the liberating truth about it. They didn’t! They are still inside their comfort zone, like I am in mine and you are in yours.
The only difference between them and us is that they constantly push their boundaries. So, their comfort zone is wider. It encompasses regions of life that ours does not include.
At least not yet.
Because here is the exciting part: we may not be able to leave our comfort zone, but we sure can widen it.
We don’t have to be stuck. We can expand it, stretch it to include new experiences, adventures, and eventually our ultimate goals and dreams.
But we need to do it slowly, step by step. To give the mind a chance to keep up. To adapt, adjust its safety parameters and move along with us.
So, this is how I will do it. Starting today.
My new widen-your-comfort-zone-to-get-unstuck strategy
I only ever considered two options: leave my comfort zone and reach my goals OR stay in my comfort zone and accept that I will never be able to fulfil my dreams.
But now, I have a completely new choice. It’s liberating, uplifting, life-changing.
I don’t need to leap and suffer the miserable consequences of my mind’s resistance to change. I can go at my own pace. I can remain in my comfort zone AND get what I want.
So, today, I hop off my boundary wall and take one step towards my goals. Stretching my comfort zone with me.
The step must be big enough to make me feel the unpleasant tension of a slightly over-expanded comfort zone. But not so big as to trigger my mind’s safety alarms and catapult me back to start.
And, once I found the right-sized step, I stay. I breathe deeply, in and out. It’s just one simple step.
I am safe here. I AM worth.
My mind will realise that small steps forward are harmless and my comfort zone will widen. And tomorrow, I can take the next step. And then the next.
The more my mind will experience that widening my comfort zone is no threat, the easier the steps will become. One day, I may be able to make two steps a day, or maybe three, or even ten. My comfort zone growing with me as I walk along.
And I will reach my goals.
Sure, the process is slower than I would like it to be. But I advance without overstretching my comfort zone. I move without fear and setbacks, I widen my horizon.
And I am no longer stuck.