You know how they say that growth happens outside your comfort zone?
I think that’s only kinda true. Let’s break it down.

I think there are three zones.

  1. Comfort Zone
  2. Uncomfortable Zone
  3. Discomfort Zone

The comfort zone is nice and safe.
It’s familiar and warm in there. Nothing ever changes in this cozy little existence. Including you.

Then there is the uncomfortable zone.
This is when you step outside what feels safe and now it feels unfamiliar and a little disorienting. You don’t know all the answers. You can’t predict what’s going to happen. You’re not certain of the outcomes. But you’re not in pain.

When it hurts, you are in the discomfort zone.
Whether you’ve put yourself there or you’ve been dropped to your knees there by some outside force, you’re not just uncomfortable. You are in pain.

Of the three zones, the uncomfortable situations are a brilliant place for growth. Personal growth can’t happen in a stagnant environment like the comfort zone. But if you are mindful and self-aware, growth is almost a guarantee in the uncomfortable zone. But not so much in the discomfort zone. Will you eventually grow once you’ve survived the pain? Maybe, but there is no guarantee. Hurt can derail the strongest person.

It’s kind of like working out.
When you’ve pushed your body too far and you have that next day soreness, that’s happy pain, right? It hurts so good. It’s a little physical reminder that you are stretching yourself and making gains. But then there are the times when you push yourself too far or are not careful enough and you actually injure yourself. That pain sucks. It knocks you right off your path, because now you have to stop everything to heal first. You might still learn from it but skipping it altogether would have been the preferred option. That’s the discomfort zone.

So how do we end up there?
Sometimes a major loss or huge life change throws us there through no control of our own.
Other times, we’ve ignored the small signs of stress and we end up with something like a stress fracture, a break that comes from too much repeated strain. Maybe we’ve stepped into the uncomfortable zone but we’ve done it in too many different places in our life.

The uncomfortable zone is a little scary but still has some excitement and motivation to it. It’s like going into a haunted house. Frightening but also fun and definitely worth doing. When you are in the uncomfortable zone, you are confident that you’ll grow in a positive way from the experiences. When you are in the discomfort zone, you are just hoping you will survive it and still be okay. One of the side effects of a trip to the discomfort zone is that it usually sends you running back to the comfort zone and discourages you from leaving that safe place.

The trick is to find the sweet spot, isn’t it?
You’ve got to be really careful to monitor your emotions and energy so that you know when you’ve taken one step too far…knowing that line between excitement and anxiety or busy and overwhelmed. But you also have to know if you haven’t taken a step far enough which might show up as boredom, distraction, or monotony.

I’ll leave you with this visual…
Comfort zone = eyes glazed over
Uncomfortable zone = eyes wide open
Discomfort zone = eyes squeezed shut

There is nothing quite as delicious as living a life with your eyes wide open. Make sure you figure out the sweet spot for you and how to make that happen, my friend.

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