A phenomenon we all experience is called ‘change’. Change allows the possibility for growth and development to enter our lives. We gain new knowledge with new experiences and we learn what we do and do not like. By placing our right foot in the comfort zone and our left in the unknown we have a taste of what could be. Depending on how much uncertainty you are willing to experience, it might be best to jump with both feet into the dark. Others might prefer to stay firm with both feet in the place they know to be ‘safe’.
I don’t think that it is key to find a balance in this. I think it is more important to be aware of your zone of comfort and safety and also about the place outside of that safety, the unknown. What does the comfort zone provide? And which potential gains could you encounter in the unknown? Your comfort zone might provide you peace and be a place for recovery, whereas the unknown you can develop yourself personally.
I think it to be important to be aware of what these two different zones, or states, mean to you. In what way do they benefit you? When do you decide to explore the dark? When might it be better for you to stay in your comfort?
Growth and development equals life. What does not grow in nature, dies. I think this to be true. Think about it, if a plant stops growing it slowly dies. If I choose to stay in my comfort zone forever, I miss out on so many gifts from life. In doing so I don’t even realize what I’m missing. All I know is what is ‘safe’ and comfortable. Life will stay the same and I will not have experienced the fruits and gifts that I can.
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
This does not mean that the comfort zone is a bad place to be in. This is not at all the point I’m trying to make. Recently I wrote a post about the three different zones, one of which being the comfort zone. If you would like to go into more depth about the advantages and disadvantages click here.
The comfort zone expands and you can see it as your base. From here you can walk and explore the unknown, that might seem frightening but usually isn’t as scary as we initially thought it would be. Everything you experience you bring back with you into your comfort zone in which you can learn to comprehend what you have experienced and learned. Just like when you exercise a muscle (stepping into the unknown) you need to let it rest and recover (comfort zone) in order for it to grow.
So let’s go back to the topic of change. We can witness change in ourselves as well. Are you still the same person as 10 years ago? Are you still the same person as last week? Every now and then we might have the sensation that we are standing still. Whenever I experience this I go threw everything I have learned and experienced the past week, or month, or year. In a playful way, whenever I look at my past self and think ‘wow, I was so naive back then!’, it is a sign that I have matured. This could also mean that I am always naïve. Who knows…
It can be challenging to change. Personally, I’ve experienced a lot of change and variety in my life. I started thinking about all these experiences and thought of (mental) tools that I used to help me deal with change more effectively. I created a toolbox for myself that I always carry with me mentally. Change is inevitable, so it can be a good thing to be able to create certainty in the uncertain world.
Whenever I experience a big change in my life, I make sure I have clarity, perspective, overview, an assertive/active attitude, and a good energetic state. This is what you can do:
Clarity (why is it happening): this helps me to create clarity and to understand why the change is happening. By understanding this I worry less about it. It is a way of gaining control or certainty.
Perspective (where is it happening): Am I changing? Is a friend changing? Does the change have something to do with the past or with something that must happen? The answer to these questions gives me perspective. It gives me a direction. Then I am able to decide how to deal with the change.
Overview (what is happening): When change occurs it has the tendency to be overwhelming. It can feel like being flooded by experiences that leave you clueless on how to deal with them. Where to start? Change can stir our emotions and thoughts and creating an overview helps me to remain calm.
Assertive/active attitude (take action): I have noticed that whenever there is a lot of change in my life and I take a passive attitude, I can feel overwhelmed. There is just too much coming at me and I feel defeated. I have learned to take an active attitude. Dive into the change. This allows me to react quick and effective and I leave little room for surprises. I have perceived that by taking an active attitude it even lets me enjoy the change process.
Energetic state (stay energized and fit to be resilient): Resilience is a beautiful word. It is defined as the ability to recover from setbacks and/or stress. Everyone is resilient in his/her way. I have noticed that whenever my body feels good and healthy, I am better at dealing with change. Whenever I feel that way, I improve in every area in my life. This might be the most important tool of them all.
Thinking about the above helps me to stay close to myself. It creates order while I am in chaos. It provides certainty in an uncertain environment. It helps to make optimal use of the situation. I can learn the lessons I need to learn, keep myself mentally and physically healthy, and I can develop myself further.