Our comfort zone and the spider crab image

I watched a nature show one time (called Blue Planet) that showed giant spider crabs come out of their shells. There were thousands of them. It was really neat, and kind of disturbing all at the same time. The process was intriguing though, and one that we can learn from.

These crabs, and crabs in general, have to shed their shells every so often in order to grow.  While they are re-growing their shells, they are more vulnerable to predators. Scientists believe that this is one of the reasons that so many of them come to the same place to go through this process. There is safety in numbers.

In the same way, we have to move out of our comfort zone to grow. When we first do so, we are more vulnerable as well. We have to learn new things, find our way, and fend off those who are negative about the whole process. Once we go through all of this though, we come out the other side stronger, wiser, and at least one step closer to our happiest lives.

What exactly is our comfort zone?

Your comfort zone is just what it sounds like, it’s where your comfortable. You are in your comfort zone when you can do something without feeling the least bit of worry or stress over what you’re doing. You’re not worried that you’ll do it wrong, you’re not afraid to do it for any reason. Think about the most fluffy, warm, comfortable bed you’ve ever been in; or about the biggest, cushiest chair you have ever sat in; that’s the physical equivalent of your comfort zone.

In contrast, being outside of your comfort zone would mean doing something that terrifies you, something that you would worry or be anxious about, sometimes days before. The physical version of this would be the most uncomfortable bed you have ever slept in; or the most uncomfortable chair that you can possibly imagine.

Why can’t we just stay there? Why do we need to leave our comfort zone; it’s so comfortable?

A lot of people live in their comfort zone for the majority of their lives. It’s easier that way. They don’t want to have to do the inner work that comes along with stepping outside of their comfort zones. This inner work is necessary though, because it allows you to find out why you are scared of that thing that sits just outside of where you are comfortable. When you figure that out, it’s easier to make the move and seek what lies on the other side of that line.

People who consistently step outside of their comfort zone learn more about themselves and the world around them each time they do so. This constant learning helps to improve our brain health.

We have the opportunity to try new things whenever we choose.

Our confidence is boosted when we realize what we can accomplish. This confidence helps us to meet new people, take on new challenges, and try even more new things.

Because we have worked through our fears along the way, we are less fearful in general about the world around us. So, when an opportunity to better our lives or our situation pops up, we are more likely to take it.

Those who are constantly living outside of their comfort zone are often called thrill seekers. I’m not saying that you have to become a thrill seeker to be happy in life, but pushing those boundaries every now and again is healthy for us.   

What if I choose to stay in my comfort zone?

People who stay in their comfort zones can do so their entire lives and be happy. But, they are only as happy as the boundaries they set for themselves. Staying in your comfort zone limits what you can see and what you can experience in this great big world of ours.

Let’s say you were offered a promotion. Taking this promotion would mean having to speak in front of people at meetings and at conferences each month. You are terrified of public speaking. Because of this fear, you decide not to take the promotion. Several months later, you see the person who took the job when you turned it down and you ask how they are liking it. They proceed to tell you about all of the fun they are having, all of the free trips they have been able to take, and all of the people they have met in the process.

Now, you may be a perfectly happy person despite missing out on all of these things. It may not affect you in a major way. But, what more could you have accomplished if you had stepped outside of your comfort zone, what other opportunities may have presented themselves, and who might you have met that could have helped you move towards the life that you dream of living?

It takes work to move outside of our comfort zones, but that work is worth the payoff that you get. Sadly, a lot of people never realize this and they stay in one place their entire lives, spinning their wheels and wishing for more. Many would rather stay where they are uncomfortable, unhappy, and even down right miserable, than to do the inner work to move forward. They are more comfortable in their discomfort than if they stepped outside of that supposed comfort, braved the temporary vulnerability, and grew into a better version of themselves.

Why is this?

We are stubborn. We’re constantly being given bread crumbs by the universe to help us move out of our comfort zones and towards growth. Instead of following these bread crumbs we try to do things the hard way because we think it will be better for us. We think that we can hold onto our comfort zone and move forward at the same time. This can’t happen. Our comfort zone can grow, but it can’t stay the same and move with us. This growth is our equivalent of the crabs getting a new shell.

We don’t have confidence in ourselves and our abilities. If we don’t think that we’ll be good at whatever thing lies outside of our comfort zone, then we don’t even want to try it.

We’re afraid we’ll look stupid. We forget that, at some point in their lives, everyone was new at something. Learning is a part of life. Often when we’re learning something, we mess up and we look a little silly doing so. This doesn’t mean that we’re stupid, it means that we’re human.   

For some, if they can’t see that the path forward is guaranteed to benefit them, then they aren’t willing to risk it. The problem with this way of thinking is that, life doesn’t work this way. Even if someone gives a guarantee, anything can happen. Take the guarantee on a set of cookware, also known as the warranty: that warranty is only as good as the company who gave it. If that company suddenly goes out of business, no more guarantee.

I don’t say this to discourage you. I’m saying it to ENcourage you. Nothing in this life is guaranteed. If your gut is telling you that you need to make a move, then respect that feeling and make the move. You can do it one baby step at a time if you feel more comfortable. Any forward movement is progress. But don’t get stuck spinning your wheels, or worse, sitting still.

Learn from the (sometimes creepy) spider crabs. Take the risk of being vulnerable temporarily to grow and become a better version of yourself.

If you want to see the video of the spider crabs shedding their shells, click here.

To learn how to leave your comfort zone read the next post “Leaving the Comfort of Your Comfort Zone”.