Here we are again on the cusp of a New Year!
I know that for many of us, this can be a time for reflection, so here’s mine to you… Could 2019 be the opportunity to challenge our “comfort zones”?
Before I set off on my “Rewilding” adventure, I was aware that I had a comfort zone. I had a job, a monthly income, a flat which I called home, a weekly routine, and friends and family close by. Yet I knew deep down that I needed to go and explore new horizons.
I was also aware that by travelling to the other side of the world, I’d lose my comfort zone. I was scared, but prepared and excited to feel the fear and take on the challenge anyway. It felt like a way for me to explore what new “shapes of me” could look like in different moulds.
What I wasn’t aware of was the true extent of our comfort zones and how deeply they can govern how we behave, what we do and who we are (or who we think we are!).
My experiences way from home started to reveal to me with greater clarity than ever before that, beyond the tangible external aspects of our comfort zones (home, job, friends etc), we hold onto ‘internal’ comfort zones which are defined by the stories we tell ourselves and each other about our lives. My travels have been an opportunity to shine the spotlight of awareness on these stories and see what happens when I loosen my grip on them a little and explore what’s beyond them. If I let go of the assumptions about who I should be, what role I should play, or what kind of person I think I am, what do I become?
I’m not going to lie, challenging our comfort zones isn’t easy. It is, by definition, uncomfortable. It requires honesty and compassion and can stir up a cocktail of thoughts and emotions, some beautiful and exhilarating and some painful. At times, it can challenge us to the heart of who we think we really are or have been.
But the thing is, it’s also the gateway to one of the most beautiful things: the freedom to be who we are, underneath the habitual stories we tell ourselves. It’s the doorway to living from a fresh, alive, embodied, authentic place, rather than from the often dry, habitual, fixed version of ourselves we can create in our minds. It’s the chance to re-invent ourselves in both small and bigger ways if needed. A chance to enhance our aliveness.
We can often trap ourselves in the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. If we’re honest, we even use these narratives as excuses to avoid taking steps towards making the changes we may be fearful of.
Have you ever experienced an “uncomfortable comfort zone”? A situation you feel unhappy in but addicted to because of its familiarity? Where the uncertainty of change feels so terrifying that you stick with the unhappy status quo? We’ve all been there and no doubt will return there. But we don’t have to stay there.
So here’s my invitation for the New Year: to explore and challenge our comfort zones.
This doesn’t need to require huge life changes, we can begin by challenging everday comfort zones. We can try new recipes, talk to someone new on the bus or give that presentation at work we’ve always been scared of. We can challenge our comfort zones in so many ways big and small… How?
- Start by noticing the stories your mind tells you through regular mindfulness meditation. In the words of Michael A. Singer, “There is nothing more important to true growth than realising that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.”
- Listen to your body and tune into your senses as often as possible
- Listen to your heart, your gut feeling. Notice where your mind’s narratives are taking you away from the silent pull of this intuition.
- Let go of the mind’s stories, feel the fear and do it anyway. This is the scary uncomfortable part. Trust that going beyond fear is another step towards freedom and well-being.
- Create new stories to support your new choices – encourage yourself with kind words and thoughts.
- Spend time in nature. The natural world is free from narratives, stories and judgements. It’s the best place to be ourselves.
Who knows where challenging your comfort zones may lead you? This is the wonderful mystery of aliveness. But with freedom, things you never dreamed you would do can become possible.
As Helen Keller said “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”.
A very Happy, Alive and Adventurous 2019 to you all!
PS: If you’re interested in exploring the power of storytelling in relation to ourselves, others and the world around us, you may be interested to join me in 2019 in a weekend retreat I’m co-leading with Environmental journalist Bethan John from Wildlands Creative on “Storytelling for a happier, more peaceful and sustainable world”.
PPS: In a similar vein, you may like to check out Alistair Humphrey’s website as a way to bring more adventure into everyday life.