Take tiny steps to expand your comfort zone till you feel confident in any situation.
In 1999, Julian Mantle, a successful lawyer, decided to do something different with his life. He cut his moorings, sold his Ferrari and sought enlightenment from a yogi in the Himalayas.
Julian was only a fictional character. He was The monk who sold his Ferrari. But this creation of Robin Sharma became a cult hero overnight, especially with young and idealistic readers. The title of this article is a quote from that book. There are many kinds of ‘intelligence’, and the ability to remain confident in the face of the unfamiliar and the unexpected is certainly one of them.
Doing things differently
There is always something inspiring about people who do things that are different and even about those who do familiar things differently. We admire their courage (which some of us may label as foolhardiness). But it’s one thing to admire and cheer the fire-eater at the circus and another to try it yourself.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not here urging everyone to go and do something dangerous to their lives or even to their livelihoods. But perhaps we can consider ‘stepping outside our comfort zone’.
Animals in the wild have their ‘comfort zones’. A bear will return to its lair to lick its wounds or sleep the winter away. But it cannot survive for long without stepping outside its comfort zone.
Unfortunately, most of us survive very well living entirely inside our cocoons. Our lives, our habits, our thinking get into a rut.
If you are doing things without even having to think about them, if you are on autopilot much of the time, if you are a creature of habit, then you are in your comfort zone. You are comfortable there, but that does not mean you cannot get comfortable in time if you step out of it once in a while. And you can take these tiny steps to keep expanding your comfort zone till you feel in harmony with all kinds of situations, events and geographical locations. We are conditioned by our environments in very strong ways, but we can ‘re-condition’ ourselves if we try.
It’s easy to see why this would be a useful life skill to learn. The Peace Corps system in the U.S. was a powerful way to draw young people from their comfort zones. College students would spend a semester or two working hands-on in faraway places such as Africa. This is the sort of education you can’t pick up in a classroom. The experience of living and working among people of an entirely different culture broadens the mind, thereby building tolerance and accepting differences. In a world which is insular, intolerant and full of people who are always suspicious of other people’s intentions, wouldn’t this be a valuable life skill to seek?
So, the next time you tell yourself or your friend, “I won’t do that because I am not comfortable with it,” ask yourself, does your discomfort have to do with your value system? In which case stay clear. But if the discomfort is because you have never done that before, it makes you nervous, then consider your decision again. Stepping outside one’s comfort zone can be a rewarding and liberating experience.
You don’t necessarily have to pack your bags to leave your comfort zone. You don’t have to sell your Ferrari and move to the mountains. You don’t have to abandon anything except some pre-conceived ideas. You can move out of your comfort zone in the way you respond to events. You could consider getting involved in a project or movement instead of staying clear because it doesn’t concern you. You could make friends outside your existing tight circle with whom you feel secure.
A little insecurity is not a bad thing for a young person trying to find his or her feet in the world. Overcoming that initial insecurity makes you more self-confident and therefore more ready to take another step out of your comfort zone. The ultimate aim should be to become a person who is not assailed by doubts and fears every time an unfamiliar situation arises. Think of how productive and energised you could become.
Malini Seshadri is a freelance writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org