How To Expand Your Comfort Zones

Most people are okay spending their lives thinking they are in the “Good Place” and staying in their comfort zones, and that’s fine for them. But a year from now, or five years from now, do you want to be in the same place you are now? If not, you’re going to have to get uncomfortable.

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Transcript

Pam: [00:01] You’re listening to Not Bad Advice where we discuss one good idea that you can use right away, no matter who you are or where you’re at in life.

[00:19] We cover topics all over the spectrum with the simple goal of offering you a new perspective. I’m Pamela Lund,

CK: [00:25] And I’m CK Chung.

Pam: [00:27] And we hope that after listening you’ll think, “Hey, that’s not bad advice!”

[00:37] So, today we’re talking about comfort zones. And, yeah, we’re going to talk about this while we’re dealing with a pandemic because this isn’t going to last forever. And while some things will be different on the other side, a lot won’t.

[00:50] Most of us are eventually going to return to essentially the same life we had before. We’re going to go back to the same or a similar job. We’ll go back to the same habits and the same routines. We’ll go back to what we know. To what’s familiar to our comfort zones.

[01:07] But the phrase comfort zone is kind of a misnomer. The word “comfort” in it makes it sound like a comfort zone is a place where you’re happy.

[01:15] But it’s not always. You can be in a comfort zone and be unhappy. You can be in a comfort zone and just being numb.

[01:24] Sometimes comfort zones are like that show The Good Place where you think you’re in the “good place,” but when you look deeper, you realize you’re actually in the “bad place.”

[01:34] And most people are okay spending their lives thinking that they’re in the good place and staying in their comfort zones. And that’s fine for them. But a year from now, or five years from now, do you want to be in the same place you are right now? If not, you’re going to have to get uncomfortable.

[01:54] In my experience, the best advice comes from people who’ve actually gone through what you’re going through, which is great news because starting this show and putting myself out there, and especially doing the on the fly card readings at the end has been super uncomfortable for me.

[02:09] And I know starting our other podcasts practice with CK was super uncomfortable for you to, CK. So we are very qualified to talk about getting uncomfortable. Don’t you think?

CK: [02:20] Yes, I do think.

Pam: [02:21] Okay.

CK: [02:22] I’ve been getting uncomfortable every weekend for the past nine to 10 weeks.

Pam: [02:28] And you’ve been getting better at being uncomfortable.

CK: [02:31] Exactly. I’ve been getting less and less uncomfortable and more and more uncomfortable.

Pam: [02:35] Perfect. But like in the “good” way, not in the comfort is “bad” way. In the comfort is good way.

CK: [02:40] Exactly… and the comfort is “learning and things are getting easier” way.

Pam: [02:45] There we go.

[02:47] So, everyone has comfort zones. We’ve all got the parts of our lives, where we need things to kind of be status quo most of the time. And that’s normal and it’s necessary, and we can’t push the limits everywhere all the time. That would just be exhausting.

[03:00] So today what we’re talking about, this isn’t like a call to blow up your entire life and make everything exciting. But on the other hand, like some of you might be thinking, well, my life is already super exciting. I’m not stuck in comfort zones. Like, I go skydiving or base jumping or whatever… but you can do scary things in your life and still be stagnant in important areas.

[03:22] And I want to make sure to say that there’s absolutely no judgment here. This is not a statement on anyone’s worth or value or quality of life. We all have to live our own lives and do what we have the capacity to do at the time. But we also have to realize that lives are cyclical. So maybe you are not in a place right now where you can push yourself, but you will be.

[03:46] So even if you’re listening and you’re thinking like I’m not ready to move out of a comfort zone, you will at some point. You will have the capacity.

[03:56] So we’re going to talk about how you can take small steps that lead to big changes. So I think there’s going to be something valuable here for everyone.

CK: [04:04] Sounds good.

Pam: [04:06] So, first let’s talk about what happens when we’re in these comfort zones that are actually making us uncomfortable, unhappy, unfulfilled… you know, many other words that start with “un-.”

[04:18] When we are not pursuing things that are fulfilling or challenging in a productive way, our attention and our priorities shift outwards. So when you don’t have something that’s internally fulfilling to focus on you start caring more about the opinions of others and getting their approval. Or you start meeting other people’s goals instead of your own.

[04:40] So some people will latch on to like other people’s drama – celebrity gossip, or Twitter feuds, or you know, wherever they can find excitement that they’re missing in their own lives.

[04:51] Or we see this a lot with people who, like their identity starts to become overly externally influenced. So this happens with people who over identify with a political party or any group, really. You can over identify with that group and you become less attuned to your own thoughts and opinions.

[05:10] You start spending your time achieving everyone else’s goals. You buy what advertisers tell you to buy. You watch on TV what everyone else is watching. You care about what you’re told to care about.

[05:22] So the less we exercise critical thinking and the less we check in with ourselves about what we really want and not what we’re really told to want by society or advertising or what other external influences we have in our lives, we become detached from our actual needs and feelings, which leads to over consumption of everything – TV, food, alcohol, everything.

[05:46] And I know I went through this in my life. I definitely had years where I was really disconnected from what I needed or wanted. And I would spend my weekends just like laying on the couch, watching hours and hours of shows that like, I can’t even remember now. Cause they didn’t matter.

CK: [06:01] I think we could all relate to that somehow.

Pam: [06:03] I think that’s what our twenties were for. Right?

[06:07] But when we’re doing that, when we’re bingeing, we’re actually out of touch with our actual needs or what we’re trying not to feel, but what we actually do need to feel. So at some point you need to look around and then you’re like, “Oh shit, like what happened in my life?” And at that point, you have a choice and you can keep doing what you’re doing, or you can realize that it’s more uncomfortable to stay where you are in that comfort zone.

[06:33] And honestly, most people choose to keep doing what they’re doing. There’s been many times in my life where I chose to stay in an unhappy comfort zone, or I made a half-assed attempt to change before giving up.

[06:44] I’ve stayed in jobs that were miserable for far too long. I don’t know, CK, if you can think of instances where you were stuck in a comfort zone and didn’t get out when you maybe should have?

CK: [06:54] Yeah. I mean, it’s easy to stay where you are. It kind of goes hand in hand with the first law of motion.

Pam: [07:03] What is that?

CK: [07:04] That an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to stay at rest. So it’s a concept of inertia, basically.

Pam: [07:13] Sure. So if you’re stuck, it’s easier to stay stuck.

CK: [07:16] Right.

Pam: [07:17] Yeah, and change is hard. It’s really scary. And fear is a really, really strong emotion. You have fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of judgment… I could list fears for days. The list of fears is unlimited.

[07:31] But fear limits your imagination. It limits your ability to see what’s possible.

[07:37] So you have to practice really being present and aware of how you’re feeling, rather than numbing out or focusing externally. And when you do that, it starts to become really uncomfortable to stay comfortable because you start to ask yourself, “Do I want mundane and ordinary? Do I just want to consume or do I want to create? Do I want to be above average, or maybe even great?”

[08:05] So, the way that I have found that is the easiest to start to find where you are in a comfort zone and to see where you can kind of test the water, see where you can find the edge, is to employ curiosity in your everyday life. Start asking yourself, “Can I do this?” Or “What if I tried that?”

[08:28] So an example of this was in December… CK mentioned that he thought that I could run a trail race, and I am not a runner. Like I’ve always made the joke that if you see me running, you should also start running because something bad is coming, but he kind of dropped that little seed that I could do this in my head.

[08:47] So we tried to go to the trails just for a hike one day and the trails were closed because of rain. So we were just going to walk around on the city streets, and I was like, “Well, do you think I can run a mile? Let’s see.”

[09:00] I had literally never run a mile in my life. Even in elementary school, when you’re supposed to go out and do a mile run fitness test, I wouldn’t run. I would walk the entire thing. I was a terribly lazy kid.

[09:13] But I said, you know, “Let’s find out. Can I run a mile?” And much to my surprise, I actually did it. It was awful, but I got through it. And then it was like, “Okay, so you were able to do that. Can you do it again? Can you do it again?” And it just became habit where once or twice a week, I would go out and say, “can I do this today?”

[09:36] And it wasn’t something where I felt like a lot of pressure because I was just. Being curious, “Can I do this today?” And now with practice and CK’s help on my runs, I’m up to two miles. So if you had told me a year ago that I was going to enjoy going out for a two mile run on Sundays, I’d have told you that you are absolutely crazy.

[09:56] And CK has witnessed this shift. I’m sure it’s been pretty eye-opening to see me go.

CK: [10:02] Yeah, absolutely.

Pam: [10:03] Yeah, so if you just employ this curiosity, just ask yourself, “can I do this?” Or, “what if I tried?” And, if you don’t. Do it, it doesn’t matter. There’s no risk. You’re just saying, “Can I do it? Yes. No. Okay. I’ll try again.”

[10:19] But we put a lot of fear and pressure onto making these kinds of changes because when we’re moving outside of our comfort zone, we’re actually changing who we are at our core. We have to become a person who writes a book and deal with all of the criticism and judgment and fear, if we’re going to write a book.

[10:41] Or if you want to become a singer or get in great shape, you have to become the person who learns to sing. You have to become the person who sings. You have to become the person who goes to the gym when they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing there.

[10:56] It doesn’t actually matter what the thing is that you’re trying to do, to do it, you’re changing who you are. You’re becoming a person who does that thing. So rather than having all of that pressure in your head of, like, “I have to become a person who writes the book,” employ that curiosity. Start out with something small on day one.

[11:17] You don’t have to become the person that runs a marathon. You start by running a mile. If you’re trying to write a book, you can start by being the person who writes for 30 minutes a day. Not trying to be the person who writes the book, be the person who writes for 30 minutes a day.

[11:32] And trust me that just writing for 30 minutes a day is uncomfortable enough to push you to your limits, if you don’t already have a daily writing practice. I use this strategy for our scripted show, Equanimity, that I’m working on. And I struggled for over a year to put the time into it because it felt like such a big overwhelming project that I didn’t know how to do.

[11:55] I didn’t know how to write a podcast about our relationship. So I was only working on it sporadically because it felt so hard. I wasn’t the person who could write a scripted podcast.

[12:07] But then I made a commitment to working on it for 30 minutes a day. That was it. Just 30 minutes a day. And I looked back and in February, I only spent two hours on it in March, I spent seven hours on it. And then in April with that 30 minute a day commitment, I spent it for 14 hours writing on it and just made crazy progress just with that little commitment.

[12:31] And now I can see being the person that has a finished, scripted, produced podcast. That was pretty cool.

CK: [12:40] That’s very cool. It seems like using curiosity as the portal into the process itself is a great strategy versus just thinking about the end goal and being so tied up in the end result. So I liked the aspect of using curiosity and asking yourself questions and using that as a conduit, into getting yourself into the process, rather than just straight up thinking about the hard and fast end goal, which may paralyze you from the process.

Pam: [13:23] And it also changes it from, “I have to do this…” to “Can I do this?” Which for me is a huge change. I hate doing things that I feel like I have to do, but I like being challenged.

CK: [13:37] Right.

Pam: [13:38] So yeah, that definitely is a good shift. If you’re trying to do something

CK: [13:43] Yeah, exactly. It’s like you’re kind of experimenting on yourself instead of having to accomplish something. I like it.

Pam: [13:53] Cool. So once you get comfortable doing that small chunk, whatever you’ve committed to as, you know, “can I do X…” then you need to make it a little bit more uncomfortable. So, “can I do Y?” So if you started writing for 30 minutes a day and you get used to that, and that feels like it’s going really easily, then you could start writing for an hour a day.

[14:15] But this also doesn’t have to just be for creative projects. This could be for anything that you want to change in your life. If there’s another job that you want, you don’t go quit your job, and then hope that you can get the new job, if you have no skills or training for it. You take a class, you ask someone who has the job that you have – if you can intern or be their mentee or whatever.

[14:36] You take incremental steps and make them a little bit harder, a little bit less comfortable on a consistent basis and before you know it, your comfort zone has expanded and you become the person that’s doing the thing that you wanted to do, and it’s going to be hard, but it’s also going to be rewarding.

[14:54] And there are two phrases that might performance coach and I came up with to help me stay okay with things being hard, because that’s something that I really struggle with – is when things get hard, I kind of want pull away and quit.

[15:08] So the two phrases – they’re very similar, but they have a little bit of different connotations. So the first one is, “Yes, this is hard, and I can do it.” So it’s more of like a positive affirmation, that I’m doing a hard thing, but I can. Like, I am capable of doing this hard thing.

[15:25] So I use that one sometimes, but my favorite one = and this one I use when we’re running, I use it when I’m writing and I’m kind of like stuck – and it’s just that “Hard things are hard.”

[15:35] And it sounds so simple, but every time I think of that, every time I think “Hard things are hard,” it takes me out of that kind of self pity of like, “Oh my God, I’m doing this, and it’s so hard.” And I’m like, “Oh yeah… of course. Hard things are hard. They have to be hard.”

[15:48] If they weren’t hard, there wouldn’t be the payoff. There wouldn’t be the amazing results that you’re going to get for it. And if it got easy, you would need to make it harder. So, “Hard things are hard.”

[16:00] The other thing is that we tend to look at people who are doing the things that we want to do, and we think, “Well, it’s easy for them.” But it’s not. Maybe some aspects have gotten easier because they put in the work to make it look easy, but it’s just as hard for them.

[16:16] Stephen King doesn’t sit down and like happily type out a new novel. It is a process and it’s a struggle. All writers talk about this. They have to sit down and birth this book or this project. It is hard for everyone. So you can’t look at someone else that you think is just floating through and say like, “It’s easy for them.”

[16:36] That’s just an excuse.

CK: [16:37] Right. We have to realize that what we’re seeing from them is the end product. We don’t see the process that they go through and all the work that they put in.

Pam: [16:45] Yeah. If we did, I don’t know if any of us would ever create anything.

CK: [16:49] Exactly.

Pam: [16:51] So, if you need help doing the hard things, one of my biggest tips is to pay someone like a performance coach. CK and I have both worked with performance coaches of different types. I’m working with one right now and just having a call with her every two weeks- just having like a sounding board, someone to talk through, the hard things that you’re doing is really beneficial for me.

[17:12] I think that you had the same experience with your coach.

CK: [17:15] Yeah, absolutely. I’m actually between performance coaches right now and kind of self-coaching… myself… in terms of performance. And a lot of coaching is stuff that you already know and you know, that you should be doing, but like you said, it’s good to have a sounding board and get feedback from someone else and have someone else help you get a different perspective on how you’re going about things basically.

Pam: [17:40] Yeah, I think that’s a good point because I have that experience with calls with my coach, with conversations that you and I have, and I bet people who are listening to this show are having that same experience = so they’re like, “I know this,” like, “I already know this,” = but you have to keep hearing it or hear it from a new person or have it put in a different perspective or you forget about it.

[18:02] Like constantly having the repetition of the message is really important.

CK: [18:05] Right, and different people have different ways or motivations going about things. And so things may stick differently with different people.

Pam: [18:15] Yeah. So yeah, pay somebody, get some help, have an accountability, buddy. If you can’t afford a performance coach, have a friend – CK definitely helps keep me accountable. You can just have a friend, a family member, whoever… you don’t have to do it alone.

[18:29] And the other thing that I want you to think is if you try this, if you get curious, if you say, “Can I do this?” And you don’t, like, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I want you to really, really think about the thing that you want to do. And then think about the worst possible scenario if you start taking steps towards it. The fears that are going to come up are failure or being judged or failing and being judged for that.

[18:57] So are those fears that you come up with really enough to hold you back from getting what you want out of your one shot at an amazing life? Are you going to let fear of failure or fear of judgment hold you back from doing the thing that makes you feel the most alive? I hope not, but , who cares if you fail?

[19:17] If you fail the first time… you fail a fifth time… every failure teaches you something. I know CK, you’ve got an acronym for fail that really puts that in perspective.

CK: [19:25] Yeah, I came across this somewhat recently and I really like it. So FAIL can stand for first attempt in learning.

Pam: [19:34] Perfect. Yeah. So keep failing, keep learning.

CK: [19:38] There you go.

Pam: [19:39] So try again the next day and the next, and eventually you’re going to be doing the thing that you want to do. Or along the way you’ll find out maybe that thing isn’t what you want to do, but you’ll discover what you actually want to do. That incremental effort will add up and you’ll consistently be doing more than you could when you start it. You’ll become the person that is doing the thing you want it to do.

[20:02] That’s actually what manifesting is – it’s thinking about achieving something and then putting in the effort to get the outcome. You can’t just think about it. You have to be active.

[20:14] So speaking of manifesting, let’s transition to the part of the show where we get a little more intuitive with our advice.

[20:47] I’m going to shuffle a deck of Oracle cards and I’m going to pull a card. See what perspective we get. Maybe it’ll easily relate to what we discussed today. And maybe it won’t, none of this is planned. None of it’s scripted. So we’ll see how it goes today. Even if you’re not into the idea of intuition or wisdom from the universe, stick around, you don’t have to believe in any of it for the perspective to have value for you.

[21:09] Like any of the advice we give here, all you have to do to benefit from it is listen. See what resonates for you and apply it to your life and like with anything in life, you have to be discerning and critical of the information you’re offered, but you also have to be open to hearing something new and ready to show up for yourself.

CK: [21:30] Sounds good.

Pam: [21:32] As usual, I’m using the gorgeous nocturnal Oracle deck designed by Megan at the creeping moon. Okay. So I pulled one of my favorite cards. It is the cactus.

[22:07] And the cactus for me, brings up that we have defense mechanisms that we build based on the environment that we’re in. So if you think of a cactus, the spines are actually just leaves, but they have evolved to be spiny little defense mechanisms. They also have evolved to cool the cactus. It doesn’t seem like it because they’re tiny little spines, but there’s like thousands of them on the cactus. And in aggregate, they do, they shade the cactus.

[22:40] So, with this card. I want you to think about what defense mechanisms you have developed because of your environment, because of criticism that you’ve gotten from other people. When you try to move out of your comfort zones in the past, maybe you had an unsupportive partner or a terrible boss, or any of the many, many things that we go through in our lives, and we build defense mechanisms around those.

[23:10] But at some point, those defense mechanisms don’t serve us any longer. When we’re not in that situation anymore, when we don’t need them, we need to be able to shed our spines = not our actual spines, our cactus spines. We need to be able to reevaluate whether the defenses that we have put up are still serving us, or if we need to let them go so that we can do the really great things that we want to do in life.

[23:40] So we can have the relationships that we want to have. So that we can create the magic that we want to create in our lives. So think about what defense mechanisms you have built and whether they’re serving you anymore, and how you can maybe start to let them go a little bit so that you can try something new and get out of your comfort zones.

CK: [24:04] Perfect. Love that.

Pam: [24:07] Yeah, definitely one of my favorite cards. It always makes me smile and I get it.

[24:12] So, if you found yourself thinking, “Hey, that’s not bad advice” while listening today, we’d love it. If you shared the episode with your friends or on social media. You can tag us on Twitter where I’m @Pamela_Lund and CK is @cKdisco.

[24:29] To find us on other platforms, visit ForcesOfEqual.com/Advice. There you can also contact us if there’s something you need advice about. We’d love to hear from you.

Practical life advice delivered with a sense of humor and a side of intuition. Is it good? It’s definitely not bad!

Pamela Lund

Pamela Lund

The Linchpin

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