Going out of our comfort zone

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

I always get fascinated with this topic.  I’ve read quite a number of articles, even an entire book talking about it.  One that stands out is a book by Bronnie Ware entitled “Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing”.  In the book, a survey was made of people aged 59 and above, around 235 of them who were asked what were their regrets in life and the common answers were: “I didn’t take enough risks.”, “I played it too safe.”, “I didn’t try enough”, or “I was crippled by fear.”

The opposite of the comfort zone is the courage zone.  And here’s what Bo Sanchez would say about it: “The ‘Comfort Zone’ refers to the boundaries that we set up to govern the activities we will or will not pursue.  If our courage zone is large, we will feel empowered to pursue a whole range of activities—public speaking, writing, athletic pursuits, piano playing, travelling, etc.  If it is small, we will feel stressed if we go outside of these boundaries—being subjected to fear and anxiety of trying out a new thing.”

The reason why many people don’t go out of their comfort zones is precisely the comfort it affords.  We don’t want to go out of it because we want things to be predictable.  We want to be sure of what time we wake up in the morning, the things we will do the rest of the day, even the restaurants we choose when we go for an eat out, we stick to the ones we have already tried.  The reason for sticking to routine is the fear of the uncertain and the unpredictable.  There is an upside to this daily routine though. It helps us develop good habits and aids us in doing things faster.  An efficient morning routine for example helps us arrive at the office or school on time.  But there are going to be instances in our lives of going out of our usual routine because it is crucial to our personal growth and happiness.

Growth and happiness go together.  When you know you are improving on something whether it’s knowledge, skill, relationships, or spiritual life it makes you feel satisfied with life.  A small seed is happy growing into a big tree.  That’s what a seed is meant to do, grow up and reach its potential, fulfill its purpose.  That’s what we are meant to do as well.  The reason why those old people in the survey regretted not trying enough because they felt they have not grown psychologically, academically, spiritually, relationally, health-wise, etc.  The only growth they have done is by getting old.

When you have an opportunity for example of knowing how to drive a car, go for it because it is one of the most important skills in life. Getting to go places on your own is the most liberating experiences in life.  It goes without saying of course that you should have the opportunity to own a car.  But nevertheless, you can always opt for a motorbike if you can’t afford a car.  Another essential courage zone decision you can do is acquiring a degree.  Studying for college or masters for example is a package adventure you will never regret.  Meeting new people, acquiring more knowledge, going back to school again, etc. these are all priceless experiences.  As Bo Sanchez would say, the magic happens in the courage zone not in the comfort zone.  And David Viscott would add, “If you cannot risk, you cannot grow. If you cannot grow, you cannot become your best. If you cannot become your best, you cannot be happy. And if you cannot be happy, what else matters?”

Movie actor Denzel Washington says, “The things you have not pursued in the courage zone will become your ghosts that will haunt you in your death bed.  These ghosts will tell you that they have been waiting for you to give them life but now they will just go with you in your grave.”  We only have one shot at life; we better make use of it.  “Regret over things done can be eased over time but regret over good things left unsaid and undone are inconsolable.”  (Anonymous)