The danger of living in your comfort zone

me at machu picchu
On the edge of my comfort zone, at the top of Machu Picchu

A few months ago, I decided to travel to Peru. It’s been a dream of mine to see Machu Picchu for over a decade, so when I found out my friend was leading a trip with a small group of entrepreneurs, I signed up.

As I sat on my boyfriend’s sun drenched livingroom floor that day, just one click away from purchasing my flight, I paused. “Babe, am I crazy for doing this?”, I asked with a nervous laugh. I wasn’t actually looking for his answer — I was really asking myself if I was ready to take this leap into the unknown…

I only knew one of the people taking the trip.
I knew I would be asked to share vulnerably with strangers.
I knew nothing about the safety of Peru.
It was a major investment.

What if I didn’t like it and was stuck?
What if my clients needed me and the wifi didn’t work?
What if I should be spending the money on something else?
What if I felt lonely?

It was a step outside of my comfort zone.
I had to say yes.

Today, sitting on my boyfriend’s sun drenched livingroom floor after having just landed back in the US, I couldn’t be happier that I did. I made new lifelong friends, I have beautiful memories that will stay with me always, I had an experience of awakening that enlivens and enriches the way I move through life, and I have integrated lessons that will improve the lives of others.

When so much good happens when we take the leap, why do we stay in our comfort zone?

Sure, we won’t have to face our fears. But mostly, we won’t have to face our greatness.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  – Marianne Williamson

Instead of taking the leap, we make reasons for staying in our comfort zones.
I’ve had many:
I wanted to grow my business, but didn’t want to invest in a coach.
I wanted to travel, but was waiting until I had the money or time.
I wanted to see my family more often, but was so busy with my business.
I wanted my marriage to improve, but wouldn’t spend the money on therapy.

Looking back on each of these, it wasn’t the lack of time or money that was in the way, it was my reasons.

I thought I was “going with the flow”, waiting for things to happen in a way that felt easy and with minimal effort, but I was actually being passive. Going with the flow is active — it means following the whispers of our desires with curiosity, honesty and creativity.

The truth was that I was afraid to swim outside of my comfort zone, but everything I wanted was just on the other side of the boundaries I had created for myself.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anaïs Nin

What’s at the edge of your comfort zone?

1. Travel alone: For years, I envied women who felt confident and secure enough to travel alone. It seemed so scary to me. What if I got lost or hurt? What if I can’t manage to learn the language?  Worse, what if I felt the bottomless despair of loneliness? At the same time, there was something that seemed so liberating about a woman taking a trip without the comforts of what’s familiar. I longed to be one of these women. A woman who would invest her time and money in herself in this way. A woman who had the courage to step into the world without the comfort of what she knows. I had no idea how profoundly nourishing traveling alone would be. As with this Peru trip, I often plan to meet people in the locations I’m traveling to, but it is a freeing experience to set off by myself. If this is at the edge of your comfort zone, take the leap, and choose a place that exhilarates you.

2. Make eye contact with strangers: My friend, who organized the Peru trip, shared the story of his friend: she realized that she had been subconsciously avoiding eye contact with strangers for years. In a gentle effort to be more willing to be seen, she committed to making eye contact and saying hello with everyone she passed on the sidewalk for one day. The exercise was so enriching and powerful for her, that she has continued it to this day, years later. Avoiding eye contact is so common, we almost never consider it. There’s something simply beautiful about allowing others to see us, and seeing them. We live amongst humans. I invite you to step out of your tiny experience to experience them.

3. Try a forbidden food: My friend and client, recently “came out” as no longer being vegan. For someone who co-produced the documentary Super Size Me and wrote 3 books on the virtues of veganism, this was definitely a leap off the edge of her comfort zone. She was afraid of the backlash she would face, but she was more afraid of hiding in the shadows and never expressing her truth, so she had to jump. All of this was precipitated by  her willingness to try “forbidden” foods, because her body was asking for them. Most of us have foods we’re afraid to try, either because of the taste or our fear of what effect they’ll have on us. Are you willing to expand your palette to experience more of life?

4. Share yourself authentically: One of the biggest fears we face is of being seen exactly as we are — for people to bear witness to our innermost insecurities. We slap on makeup, spray tan and a smile to show the world that we’re okay, and unconsciously create stock responses to common questions. “How’s married life?”… “Oh, you know. Relationships are hard, but we’re working on it every day!” What does that even mean? I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and tell someone what’s really going on in your heart. The key here is to watch out for the pitfalls of shaming, complaining and commiserating. Rather than making this about how someone or something else is bad or wrong, share how you feel and what you desire.  To do this authentically, make it about you.

Today, choose one of the above and stretch yourself to do it, even if you have reasons why you can’t.
You’re smart and creative — you can find a way. Do it in the name of expanding your comfort zone. Even if things don’t go how you want them to, see it as a success because you went for it.

When you stay within the cozy confines of your comfort zone, life becomes dull, uninspired, small.  Rather than evolve into possibility, you shrivel into predictability.

When you swim out of your comfort zone, you become the creator of your life in a world of possibility.

“With passion pray.
With passion work.
With passion make love.
With passion eat and drink and dance and play.
Why look like a dead fish in this ocean of Love?”
– Rumi

Join the discussion in the comments below, and share what you will do in the name of expanding your comfort zone.

Nisha Moodley is a women’s empowerment coach and the creator of FIERCE FABULOUS FREE. On a mission to champion sisterhood, Nisha leads communities of ambitious women to design adventurous lives, because she believes that the world will be set free by women who are free, and sisterhood is key. She is a regular contributor to DailyWorth, and has been featured on CNN, Health.com, and The Daily Love. Download her free Take Flight Action Guide at http://fiercefabulousfree.com

Nisha Moodley

Former foodaholic, shopaholic &workaholic turned freedom junkie, fiercely dedicated to women living their most fulfilled lives. Poet. Romantic. Adventurer.

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