Everything you want, that you do not already have, is outside your comfort zone.
How do I know? Because if it was comfortable, you would have it already.
- I want to lose weight
- I want better communication with my spouse
- I want to quit my job
- I want a raise
- I want to have a child
- I want to make more money
If you do not have it yet, and if you want it, then the chances are very good it involves a degree of discomfort. Let’s talk about discomfort. Your comfort zone is the place you spend most of your time. This is human nature. We drift toward what is comfortable. Often we more than drift – we reach, push, pull, and do everything in our effort to be comfortable. But this word – comfort – is misleading. Comfort in this context is what you are used to. It may not be comfortable to stay in a job you don’t like. But there is a degree of sameness, of the known that keeps you there. It would be uncomfortable to reach out and look for something better suited and fulfilling, that you would enjoy. So comfort does not necessarily equate to joy. It equates to what is known and therefore, not scary.
Outside your comfort zone is scary – even though it usually leads to fulfillment and more of what you want. So now here is how we are wired – if we get up the nerve to travel outside that comfort zone, there is a wonderful mechanism that is designed to push us back in. That is what I am calling “the voice.” Getting ready to stretch out there and quit that job? You will hear – in your head – “you are not smart enough, not aggressive enough, not _____ enough, to find another job.” “You will wind up homeless and not be able to feed your family.”
It has a job, this voice, to keep you safe. But this voice perceives danger where none exists. That is the problem. And so, how to work with it? I have a few clients who literally say to themselves, whenever they hear this voice, “Wow; I must be stretching. This is awesome! I must be doing something really great to get my voice to be this loud and aggressive with me.” Because that is what is happening.
There is a positive intention behind this voice in your head, but it is NOT you. It is an old habit. It is nothing that needs to be listened to and engaged with. If you have believed it over these years, you may have a hard time recognizing the voice as “not you.” Especially because for many of us, it sounds like us. Often very realistic and makes a lot of sense. “Now is not the time to look for a new job. Wait until your kids finish high school/you have been here for two years/the job market gets better/fill in the blank.” So step one is to begin to recognize the voice.
Some call it self-doubt or the saboteur. However you recognize it, learn its qualities, and what it sounds like – get familiar with it. Maybe enlist some help – “Please tell me if you hear me expressing doubt about myself and my abilities.” Others can hear it more than you can.
More next week on interrupting it. For now, this is the most important piece of homework. Hear it? That is not you. Listen and begin to say, “That’s the voice.”