Soul Searching #34: the comfort zone is my friend

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Hi, thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Wow, it’s been a year since I wrote something in this series. Today, I think I’ll write something about The Comfort Zone. Yeah, I felt like capitalizing that. During a boring moment on a recent sunny day, I wondered if there are any tricks or techniques to stay *in* the comfort zone. So I searched the web, but found only tips to *expand* your comfort zone. ChatGPT was also not very helpful:

Hello! It’s completely natural to find comfort in your comfort zone, but it’s also important to balance that with personal growth and new experiences. Here are some tips to help you expand your comfort zone gradually:

ChatGPT (am I supposed to credit an AI?)

A second reason for writing about the comfort zone is a lady I met at the local supermarket. She was doing collections for charity, and I asked her (after donating) whether she felt awkward doing this in public. She told me this was the one and only time each year when she stepped out of her comfort zone. She is now a heroine in my mind.

Let me start at the beginning. I guess most people start looking for information about the comfort zone when they are in some way hitting the boundaries of it. That boundary sucks of course, so the tips can definitely help. But I get the impression that the comfort zone has a bad reputation, and I thinks that’s unfair.

See, the comfort zone is my friend. Imagine having no comfort zone: life must be terribly scary. No, my comfort zone keeps me happy and safe, and it’s where I prefer to be. That’s my default attitude towards the comfort zone.

Of course, I sometimes hit a boundary there and – like many people – I can struggle and use some of the tips as a reminder. Before continueing, please read/scan this page on Indeed with tips. Done? Alright, the article starts with this sentence

[You] may encounter situations when it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and take risks


A long list of tips follows. But that first sentence contains quite an important starting point that I seldomly see revisited in such lists: “it’s important”. Suppose you feel like you want to get out of your comfort zone, apply the tips for a while, and get very little success. Personally, my first question then is: do I *really* want this? I could just quit going out of my comfort zone. Continually fighting a boundary of my comfort zone is very tiring and stressful. Quitting may also have a cost, but that may be less bad then continuing to fight that boundary.

So if you’re reading this and the previous paragraph left an impression: please feel free to quit. Forget those lists. Never mind the pushback you may receive, and ignore your internal criticaster. In fact, I admire you. Celebrate your comfort zone – why not?

It bothers me that there is an emphasis on ‘perseverance’. This word has the opposite problem of ‘comfort zone’: it’s overappreciated. The Dutch people have a saying that a donkey does not bump against the same stone three times. I am a donkey. Wait, that is not the conclusion I was going for. Knowing when to quit is, in my opinion, a key life-skill. I haven’t mastered that at all, but there is a nice book on the topic called “Quitting: A Life Strategy: The Myth of Perseverance and How the New Science of Giving Up Can Set You Free.” by Julia Keller. There is an (audio) interview with her here.

So, are you one of those people who say ‘just hold on a little longer’ to a friend going out of the comfort zone? Stop saying that. He/she already thought of that, then went through all those lists on the internet, and tried again. You’re trying to be helpful, but you’re not. Try asking a question, that’s much more helpful.

Anway, I got side-tracked a bit. In my opinion, dealing with your comfort zone in a respectful way is a form of self-care. It’s an obligation that you have to yourself.

For me, I (try to) view the hitting of a boundary of my comfort zone as a test for the thing I think I want. It’s an experiment. I can try a few of these experiments, with varying approaches and intensities. Many fail, some succeed. And sometimes, I give up experimenting and conclude that – at this time – I seem to not want the thing. These experiments can be done in various aspects of my life: work, hobbies, ideas, chores, etc. The objective is always the same – discovering what I want.

Writing that down makes it seem easy, but it isn’t always so. Knowing when to quit really is a special skill. Dealing with failure without damaging self-worth is also a special skill. Retaining the drive to dream and to be curious is essential. Therefore, I guess it’s also important to celebrate the successes, and to internalize both the thing you achieved as well as your ability to get there.

So yeah, I hope this posts gives you some insights or perhaps a different perspective. I enjoyed writing it, after a long pause 🙂