Your comfort zone is just that – comfortable. A place your brain has defined as known, measurable and safe.
The brain likes familiar. It likes to operate its autopilot mode and fulfil as many tasks as it can with as much ease as possible. But the autopilot can be a hindrance when we allow it too much control – especially when it comes to taking ourselves outside our comfort zone. (Read more about the autopilot on our blog Growing Metal Toughness).
Approaching the boundaries of our comfort zone will put the brain on alert. It will activate its alarm signals to tell us that we are entering a “no go zone”. Red lights flashing “you shall not pass!” will capture your attention. Fear and anxiety will raise their heads above the parapets, firing warning shot thoughts such as “this is scary”, “I don’t like this” and “let’s go back” and causing uncomfortable physiological changes such as shallow breathing, increased heart rate and sensations like butterflies or churning in the stomach or a lump in the throat. This is simply the brain trying to keep us on familiar territory – maintaining the status quo.
But here’s the thing –
The brain is flexible, movable and adaptive – a dynamic organ. It is constantly responding and changing to the information our minds feed it. So if we feed it new information, it will change to accommodate it. By stepping outside our comfort zone we find ourselves entering a new and larger space that holds potential for new opportunities, life and growth. When we embrace the uncomfortableness, we increase our mental toughness and grow.
So next time you take yourself into unfamiliar territory, take notice of how your mind, emotions and body are reacting. Acknowledge the presence of any unpleasant and uncomfortable feelings and recognise them for what they are – the brain’s attempt to keep you in the familiar. Then remind yourself of your choice – growth