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Is Your Comfort Zone Shrinking?

world being squeezed by handYou might have seen the TV commercial for a tooth-whitening product that says, “If you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing.”

That’s what happens with your comfort zone. When it’s not growing, it’s shrinking. It doesn’t just stay the same.

Personally, I’ve watched my comfort zone deflate as I’ve settled into a cozy life with my partner of 9 years, Mike; my family and friends; my fitness routine; and my heart’s work.

There are things I did when I was younger that give me pause today; they fall anywhere from an inch to 100 miles outside my comfort zone now.

Not that that’s entirely a bad thing; I don’t feel the need to recreate a lot of the goofier behavior I indulged in.

But some of the things I’m glad to have experienced, now seem … well … harder:

  • Moving to another city without a job, contacts or accommodation.
  • Ditto, to a different country
  • White-water rafting
  • Riding on the Big Sling during the Rose Festival (never again!)
  • Wearing certain kinds of clothing
  • Traveling alone

There’s no such thing as a static comfort zone. It’s always either growing or shrinking, and mine has shrunk.

Change Expands; Sameness Shrinks

If you’re interested in personal development, then you’re interested in growth and change.

Those things require us to step outside that zone of “I can do this in my sleep.”

Change comes only from expanding your comfort zone.

Whether it’s risking emotional intimacy in a relationship or taking on a more visible role at work, good things come to those who push their own boundaries.

As a therapist I sit with people all the time who sincerely want change in their lives, but are reluctant (like most of us) to do anything too different, lest they be uncomfortable.

Sometimes we avoid shaking it up because we don’t want others to be uncomfortable. But really it comes back to not wanting to feel uncomfortable ourselves.

We don’t want others to be uncomfortable because it’s uncomfortable for us.

Pushing the limits of personal comfort in a productive way becomes more important as we get older. The longer we exist without growing, the more we shrink.

This year and next I’m doing more traveling than I have in the last 10 years combined. I’m a nervous flyer, and I get a little anxious before trips (including road trips), so all the commotion will shake things up for me.

What about you? What limits do you want to push in a healthy way this year?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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