From the moment I started sharing the idea behind this blog, I realized that there is unbelievably limited awareness of the concept of Comfort Zones and their importance in all our lives.
Let’s start from the beginning: defining the Comfort Zone.
I’m not talking about popular quotations, such as life begins at the end of the Comfort Zone; indeed, statements like these can be partially misleading. I mean to explore the answer to the following elementary questions:
What is the Comfort Zone?
Are you able to define it?
Do you have any clue how to?
If you do, please let me know, as, #1, I don’t have any satisfying, complete, and definitive answer; and, #2, this is the primary aim of this blog, and you are more than welcome to participate in the quest! I’m going to share my journey in trying to find a solid answer to the question: what does the Comfort Zone mean?
As a starting point, let me Google it.
Google’s definition: Comfort Zone is a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.
Wikipedia’s definition: The Comfort Zone is a psychological state in which a person feels familiar, at ease, in control and experiences low anxiety and stress. In the zone a steady level of performance is possible.
I can go on and point you toward articles with a focus on the how – how to step out of your Comfort Zone in three, five, or however many steps – or pieces centered on the why – why you need to step out of your Comfort Zone – but I don’t want to go there. It’s not that I don’t care about what is beyond the Comfort Zone, but…
I want the focus to be on inside the Comfort Zone.
I believe that life begins inside our Comfort Zone.
I’m thrilled by the idea of going deeper here. You will find out more about me and on how enchanted I am by exploring and learning. Stories, theories, unusual situations, compelling metaphors, advanced research, unexpected interviews, and various books combined with a touch of personal experience will help us understand the mechanisms underlying our beliefs, behaviors, habits, and ultimately our Comfort Zones.
And my mind goes back to the moment I discovered NPL.
I found out about Neuro-Linguistic Programming – an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California in the 1970s – back in 2011, when I was in Italy. And it was an unexpected, pleasant, and inspirational encounter.
Unexpected. I was browsing through my favorite bookseller, looking for an inspiring new book to read. Do you know the feeling, when you don’t have any particular book in mind, and you just want to be encouraged by an intriguing title, an eye-catching cover, or another imprecise mix to make the final decision and buy your next book? You can picture the situation. And I found an entire discipline instead of just my next book.
Pleasant, as not only did I read the book in less than a week, but also, within the month, I had attended the NLP Practitioner Training Program. If I close my eyes, I’m still able to picture myself there, and to remember the feeling of being so eager to know and understand more. In six months, I read all of the NLP books that had been translated into Italian. With daily practice of the different exercises, NLP shaped my ability to listen, to pay attention to the body language of people interacting with me, etc.
Inspirational. My quest went far beyond NLP, tapping into cognitive science – the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thoughts, experiences, and the senses – and it was my personal “eureka” moment that happened when I needed it the most.
I started a resilient, intimate, long process of change that I’m going to bring to life in this project. Comfort Zone Shake-up aims to be a tribute to what I consider central themes in our lives: diversity, curiosity, and change.
The Comfort Zone definition is only the tip of the iceberg.
I hope Freud doesn’t mind if I borrow his iceberg metaphor, an analogy he used to describe the three levels of the mind. I know it sounds ambitious, but it fits perfectly with the idea I want to convey. I’m going to quote Saul McLeod, a psychology (BSc) tutor at the University of Manchester. On his website SimplyPsychology, McLeod writes:
Freud (1915) described conscious mind, which consists of all the mental processes of which we are aware, and this is seen as the tip of the iceberg. For example, you may be feeling thirsty at this moment and decide to get a drink.
I like to think of this as the Comfort Zone definition, and the various quotations we tend to find that describe the Comfort Zone are all focused on this level.
The preconscious contains thoughts and feelings that a person is not currently aware of, but which can easily be brought to consciousness (1924). It exists just below the level of consciousness, before the unconscious mind. The preconscious is like a mental waiting room, in which thoughts remain until they ‘succeed in attracting the eye of the conscious’ (Freud, 1924, p. 306). This is what we mean in our everyday usage of the word available memory. For example, you are presently not thinking about your mobile telephone number, but now it is mentioned you can recall it with ease. Mild emotional experiences may be in the preconscious, but sometimes traumatic and powerful negative emotions are repressed and hence not available in the preconscious.
In our analogy, this is the area where I place all the How Tos, Whys, and Whats around the Comfort Zone. We are not constantly thinking about it, but as soon as we find a promise, a stimulus to take action, we can easily understand, and sometimes start to break out of it.
Finally, the unconscious mind comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness but that influence judgments, feelings, or behavior (Wilson, 2002). According to Freud (1915), the unconscious mind is the primary source of human behavior. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see. Our feelings, motives, and decisions are actually powerfully influenced by our past experiences and stored in the unconscious.
The last couple of sentences above encompass the essence of this blog. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind, the primary source of human behavior, is the part we cannot see. Our feelings, motives, and decisions – our Comfort Zones – are powerfully influenced by our past experiences and stored in the “unconscious.”
My point of view on Comfort Zones: one size doesn’t fit all.
Each of us has a personal, diverse, and different way of translating the Comfort Zone concept into his or her life based, on the lives we are living. Although these activities involve an adrenaline rush and can be inspiring, there is no need to climb a mountain, bike around the world, or run a marathon to begin to talk about Comfort Zones. Life happens every day, and every situation can be understood as it relates to Comfort Zones. We need to figure out how this concept applies individually.
The “iceberg principle” gets its name from the fact that only about 1/10 of an iceberg’s mass is seen outside, while about 9/10 of it is unseen, deep down in the water.
Defining the Comfort Zone is only the tip of the iceberg, above the water line. Below the water line sits what we will investigate.