We have focused on our comfort zones in the last week or so and how it’s important to push beyond them.
This week we are going to look a little deeper into this and find out why it can be so difficult to push out beyond our comfort zones and how we can be more successful at it.
Our comfort zone is made up of three areas.
- The Habit Zone
- The Action Zone
- The Discomfort Zone
The Habit Zone
The habit zone is where we spend the majority of our time. Here, things are familiar and habitual. You have all the skills necessary to perform and live comfortably in this zone. Things like making a cup of tea or coffee, getting dressed, driving a car, doing your job. They are all easy.
You have mastered all the problems that exist in this world. You know how to switch the kettle on, get a cup out of the cupboard, put a tea bag in, etc. When things go wrong in this zone, you already know how to respond, because you have dealt with it a million times before. For example, if your favourite shirt isn’t ironed for work, when you are getting dressed, whilst this is disappointing, its OK, because you know you can just wear something else.
The habit zone forms as you develop certain habits, rituals, beliefs and psychological rules throughout your lifetime.
Think about your own habit zone now. Can you think of some habits that you have that aren’t perhaps that good for you when it comes to losing weight? I can almost guarantee that you will be thinking about food habits rather than habits around your activity.
I asked on our Facebook group what was everyone’s worst habits when it comes to food… I got so many answers within a really short space of time… the majority centred around picking absent-mindedly, snacking, perhaps even sometimes secretly, alcohol, bread, chocolate, cheese and wine.
You have formed these food habits throughout your lifetime, and they will have some sort of ritual, belief or psychological rule attached to them that means you fall back to them, kind of like a default setting.
These foods offer you some sort of comfort…. In fact, somebody even said ‘Wine, cheese and chocolate. All comforting loveliness’.
Ask yourself ‘Why do they offer you comfort?’ Do they offer you comfort in the long run? Or do you feel bad after you have eaten them? Or even worse when you get on the scales and know that the reason you haven’t lost what you were aiming for, or even anything at all, is because of that moment (or those moments) of ‘comfort’.
Believing that these foods bring you comfort, actually prevents you from moving out of your comfort zone. So maybe it’s time to change what you believe about these foods.
The Action Zone
The second part of the comfort zone is called the action zone. This is the zone that directly borders your habit zone. It’s a place where you feel somewhat comfortable, however you may need to tackle new things that you aren’t familiar with. An example of this might be driving your car, but in a new, unfamiliar place. You have to do it, because you need to get to your destination, but it’s not the easiest thing to do. You might need to use a map or a sat nav, or ask someone for directions. This action zone is a place where you may feel a little uncomfortable, but you have enough reasons to take these actions. It could also be called a necessity zone perhaps? You are compelled to do the things in this zone, to support yourself.
The Discomfort Zone
The final zone is the Discomfort Zone. It lies beyond your action zone and is right on the edge of your comfort zone – a place where you haven’t mastered the skills, gained all the knowledge, or developed the beliefs to exist comfortably. This is the place where things are uncomfortable for you.
Could this be the place where you don’t secretly eat chocolate bars in the car, so that no-one knows about it? Is this the place where you don’t go foraging in the fridge and the cupboards after 8pm, whilst your other half is out? Or the place where you leave the grab bag of minstrels on the shelf in the supermarket?
Learning to exist in this zone isn’t just about mastering those skills necessary, but it’s also about developing the right mindset. It’s difficult to spend long periods of time in the discomfort zone, because you have all the habits, beliefs and rules that keep you psychologically attached to your comfort zone. It’s like another world, and what works well in your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily transition well into this new world of the ‘discomfort zone’. It can create resistance and self-sabotage. And the reason you sabotage yourself is because, deep down, your belief system suggests that you don’t belong there. You don’t belong in a place that doesn’t comfort eat, doesn’t snack out of boredom, or because the food is there, or doesn’t stuff their face with whatever they can get their hands on, when you’re hungry to make sure you feel ‘satisfied’. But you can belong there – you just have to be prepared to be a little bit uncomfortable for a while. You have to be brave enough to make that decision, that you aren’t going to do that any more.
The life we want lies in this ‘discomfort zone’, but to get there we are going to have to do more than a few things, potentially, that make us uncomfortable, and we are going to have to keep doing them until they are no longer uncomfortable. Much like when we first started learning to drive and, in my case, you kangaroo up the street in front of your family on your first couple of lessons. But you carry on until the skills necessary to drive the car safely become a habit and the norm, till you can do it almost without thinking. But this means, you’re going to have to resist buying that bar of chocolate and eating it in the car, because calories don’t count if no-one sees it. And you will have to resist this until it no longer feels uncomfortable. Only then is it a new habit.
You are going to have to leave the cheese in the supermarket, don’t even buy it, so that you can’t be tempted, and whilst it might be the norm for you to always chuck it in your trolley, and it will feel strange to walk past it and not pick it up, eventually it will become part of your belief system that you don’t need to eat that cheese, and you don’t want to buy it.
Expanding your comfort zone
Your comfort zone only expands when you successfully overcome your discomfort. As you push into your discomfort zone, you will confront unfamiliar problems, that you haven’t confronted before. They are the problems standing between your present circumstances, and the goals you want to achieve. These problems are the tests you need to pass in order to deserve to achieve this goal. You can’t expect to summit a mountain from jumping from the base to the top, you have to climb it. The problems and tests that you have to face in your comfort zone force you to adapt, they force you to think differently and adopt new beliefs and maybe alter your deep held psychological rules. Much like when climbing the mountain, you need to adapt to the changing weather conditions, terrain and elevation, and keep going towards your goal of hitting the summit.
This is how we achieve success. If we don’t adapt, this is self-sabotage. Much like if climbing the mountain, we didn’t adapt to the terrain, weather and elevation, we would never reach the summit, if we don’t adapt, we just shrink back into our comfort zone, where everything is safe and familiar.
Whatever problems you face in life whether it is out of necessity or choice, they lead us to a place of growth and development, making us stronger and more able to cope with other challenges. They often have hidden opportunities to overcome self-limiting beliefs, fears and habits.
Ignoring our bad habits, and staying in our comfort zones, could store up problems for the future. Whilst you might be a bit overweight now, in a few years, that might manifest into type 2 diabetes, or joint problems. The root is still the same, your eating habits. So, in order to achieve your goals you will need to confront these problems sooner or later. If you don’t, you just keep repeating the cycle over and over again. This is evident with the number of times we join groups to lose weight, we haven’t properly faced our problems. We haven’t tackled those limiting beliefs about where comfortable is. When we neglect to face these problems we reinforce these limiting beliefs and make it more difficult to overcome our problems in the future. So, the trick is to never be discouraged by our problems or setbacks. Embrace them. Approach them with a curious nature. View them as a challenge that we need to learn from in order to grow and develop, to allow us to progress along our journey.
This week, we want you think about those habits that are causing you the most damage. Think about how uncomfortable it could make you feel to stop doing those things. Then think about how amazing it would make you feel if you actually succeeded in stopping doing those things. Put all your energy into stopping those things. All your will power, all your determination. Because we know that the more practice we put into doing these things, the more experienced we get at facing these problems, and living in this discomfort zone, the easier it will all become, until the discomfort zone becomes your new expanded comfort zone.
Much like now you can drive your car without thinking about it, you will soon be able to resist the bread bin, the cheese board, the urge to binge in secret, and with that will come the results that you are longing for.