We all have unhelpful habits that we repeat over and over. It's uncomfortable and frustrating, but in some weird way, it feels good, or at least the familiarity of it feels good. It's a (dis)comfort zone – The crappy (but useful) behaviours and things we choose because, well, we are used to them and they do the job of helping us escape our problems for a time. So how do you see your (dis)comfort zones and get the hell outta there?
So, what are you (dis)comfort zones?
I'm yet to meet someone without something or someone they turn to when the going gets tough that actually makes them feel worse. Perhaps not with every tough time in life, but there'll be something that gets them. Some people much more than others!
In any case, in some weird way, it feels good, or at least the familiarity of it feels good and safe in some way.
I've been well aware of my (dis)comfort zones for ages – it was hard not to be! – but it's only been with self-awareness and learning thought tools through coach training and practice that they have started to shift.
My go to crappy things were mostly overeating and being online, but workaholism was definitely in there too.
What are yours? When you're feeling crappy, what do you do?
Do you overeat, drink too much or smoke (too much), watch hours of television, lose yourself online, work too much?
I've recently had a rude awakening with discomfort zones. As with anything, it's about the poor use of the thing, not the thing itself.
You turn almost anything into a discomfort zone with a bit of effort ;)
I realised that I can use endless learning as a discomfort zone when I'm avoiding dealing with something I find scary.
In fact, I've been learning myself to a standstill and cramming more learning in at every minute. Resenting time I wasn't spent learning of an evening or even when I'm home with my daughter. The red flag comes up... I see the signs... I get tired, distracted, less soft/loving and I don't relax.
I was avoiding acting on something that was scary to me.
Now, I'm not talking war zone scary, I'm talking making hard decision scary. You know the type I mean, decisions about where to focus your time (which means other things will have to go), decisions that may threaten how people see you, your income or how you turn up in the world.
So, hilariously, I avoided it by doing 50 thousand courses. It's a sneaky one, because it looks like a positive from the outside. So clever, but I caught it!
I wasn't overeating or living online, but the results were similar (minus the weight gain).
When do you go to your (dis)comfort zone?
So how do we go about changing these patterns? So much of it is in understanding the process.
The first thing for you to do, is to notice when you're in your discomfort zone and what it is.
Write it down, put it in a note on your phone. Tell someone. The next step, is to think about this...
What happened just before it?
Just before you jumped online, or ate the whole packet, drank the bottle of tequila, spent your rent money on clothes.
What happened before it?
Track it back to a circumstance. Was it something that happened e.g. losing a job, having an argument, trying on a dress that didn't fit or feeling called to something bigger/different that scared the pants off you?
What thoughts did you attach to it?
Once you have your discomfort zone identified and your circumstance, it's time to fill in the blanks. What did you say to yourself about the circumstance. What meaning did you assign to it?
Remember, our thoughts create our feelings, which lead to our actions = results (hiding/avoiding).
Write down those thoughts and check if they are true (spoiler alert: It's unlikely they are) and if they serve you.
Identify the main thought that is painful. It might be something like "Monique hates me now and will our relationship is ruined because of this fight".
Can you neutralise that sucker?
Ones that I love are, "Most relationships can be repaired with honesty, kindness and effort", 'I'm learning to care for myself more' or 'this is great information to help me heal'.
Once you realise the chain reaction that is leading to you retreating to your discomfort zone, you can start intervening earlier and earlier in the chain and making kinder choices that serve you really well in the long-run.
It's all just information to work with, so try not be judgemental about how you've coped in the past. It's done a great job looking after you, it's what you had at the time! Now you have new and different choices.
It takes time. There are always new layers to discover, but it's well worth the journey and the setbacks to get deeper into your true self and to make a rock solid relationship with yourself.
That's the basis of your good work in the world!
Hi, I'm Dr Lara Corr, life coach and researcher in work and wellbeing. I coach successful 30 and 40 somethings who want more fulfilling or bigger careers but doubt themselves and their options. I help them get out of their own way, find direction and go for what they really want.