You need to get out of your comfort zone.

How often have you heard that advice? Or given it?

It sounds good, as do most dangerous ideas that contain a bit of truth. 

Doing hard things can lead to physical, mental, and spiritual growth. But it can also break you. Children grow best when we give them plenty of opportunity to stretch their abilities—not by subjecting them to the rack. That goes for adults, too.

Here's the thing: For many people, living ordinary, daily life is out of their comfort zone, and they get all the growth opportunities they need just making it through the day. Let me say that again.

For many, daily life is out of their comfort zone.

I guarantee that you know people for whom that is true. It may very well be true for you; if not all the time, at least on occasion. The catch is, none of us knows where someone else is in this. We have no idea how hard someone may be working to make it seem as if his life is easy—or even bearable. And that's okay. Life is hard, and growth comes out of the struggle. As long as we remember that it's not our job to push someone else out of his own comfort zone. I know a woman who learned to swim by being thrown out of a boat in the middle of a lake. A lake with alligators. She lived, but I don't recommend the method.

In my experience, when someone tells another person, "You need to get out of your comfort zone," he's less interested in helping that person grow than in getting a particular job done. And hoping that a combination of guilt and the prospect of personal growth will push the reluctant victim to accept. Don't do that.

Push yourself? That's great. Reaching, stretching, working hard, and overcoming difficulties can be good for you and for the world—and it usually feels fantastic (in the end; not always in the middle). But when someone else insists you need to get out of your comfort zone, take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes pain can indeed lead to gain, but it is more likely to lead to injury. And for sure, don't say such a thing to others.

Comfort zone? Comfort zone? Where does that idea come from, anyway? I'll take a poll: Who here are feeling relaxed and comfortable with their lives? Raise your hands. I didn't think so.

There's work to be done in this world, and duty calls us all. Difficult tasks and decisions come to us every day, nolens volens. This is not a call to shirk our responsibilities, but to know ourselves and to respect the needs of our fellow-strugglers.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 at 10:44 am | Edit
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