We all yearn for success. Nobody wants to be ‘labeled’ as being mediocre…or even worse… a loser. And in our quest for success we often get the advice to step out of our comfort zone. Yet, for many of us, stepping outside of our comfort zone can be stressful and make us anxious.
This brings us to another point; fighting stress and anxiety. We always hear how stress is bad for us. We try our best to eliminate stress as far as possible from our daily lives. I mean….it is common knowledge that stress is one of the main contributors to serious health issues. Now we should get out of our comfort zone….and cause our own anxiety….cause our own stress?
Stress and Anxiety
Using the Thesaurus Dictionary, you will find words with a similar meaning as “stress”. You will find words such as “anxiety” and “worry” to appear there.
So, let’s dig a little deeper to get the real meaning of what we are talking about.
Philippians 4:6 (NIV) says; “6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” This text is often quoted by people and we tend to think that we are never supposed to feel challenged in any way. We assume that we should never become anxious about anything and just roll our cares on the Lord. I sometimes get the feeling as if this is being interpreted as if we need to just be comfortable and laid-back all the time. Just present your requests to the Lord, then sit back, relax and God will do the rest.
Get the Whole Picture
Let’s read that text in context and see what happens. When you read Philippians 4:5-7 (NIV), it says: “5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We need to be gentle. We shouldn’t kick up a storm around us in our own attempts to achieve success. Don’t become rude, aggressive and impatient towards other people, just because your stress levels are going through the roof when everything doesn’t just fall into place.
In the King James Version of verse 6, it says “Be careful for nothing…”
Let’s see what the study notes say in The Life Application Bible (KJV). About Philippians 4:6-7 it says: “be careful for nothing” means don’t worry about anything! It seems like an impossibility….we all have worries, on the job, in our homes, at school. But Paul’s advice is to turn your worries into prayers. Do you want to worry less? Then pray more! Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray.
The study note on verse 7 says: God’s peace is different from the world’s peace (see John 14:24). It is not found in positive thinking, in absence of conflict or in good feelings. Real peace comes from knowing that God is in control, our citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom is sure, our destiny is set, and our victory over sin is certain.
It becomes clear now; we should not be concerned, or worried about anything. That doesn’t mean we should become passive and start hiding in our little comfort zone…never willing to face some challenges.
Positive Stress versus Negative Stress
“What? What do you mean ‘positive’ stress? What can be good or positive about stress?” you ask. Yes, stress can be positive – if you can control it.
It is natural for us to try and avoid stress and anxiety by staying within our comfort zone. This article about breaking out of your comfort zone over at lifehacker.com gives a good explanation of your comfort zone. It says “your comfort zone is a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk. It provides a state of mental security. You benefit in obvious ways: regular happiness, low anxiety, and reduced stress.”
It goes further to say that in order to maximize your performance; you need to get to a state of relative anxiety – a space where stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This space is just outside of your comfort zone and it is called “Optimal Anxiety”. Yet, the warning is that too much anxiety will cause us to become too stressed to be productive and our performance will drop off sharply.
The secret is to move out of your comfort zone just far enough to make it uncomfortable for yourself. You need to stretch yourself. Challenge yourself. You will eventually become accustomed to that state of “Optimal Anxiety”.
This will enable you to constantly enlarge your comfort zone. Every time you will be able to push yourself further before your stress levels reach a point where it becomes counter-productive.
It is a well-known fact that nobody has ever really achieved any major breakthroughs or successes without going outside of their comfort zone.
Your Comfort Zone Remains a Safe-Haven
We always get encouraged to move out of our comfort zone. We get told about all the benefits and the growth that we will enjoy when we leave our comfort zone. But then many of the people giving this advice then seem to leave us there.
Thus it was so refreshing to me when I came across this article written by Danielle Bernock, where she explains how one of three things you need when leaving your comfort zone, is a return ticket.
She explains how you expend energy that you need to replenish when doing things outside of your comfort zone. She agrees that it is beneficial to venture outside of your comfort zone for a safe amount of time. But she further explains that you need to return to your comfort zone to process your new experience and refresh.
She learned this from experience when she recently got carried away with a new project. She kept pushing for too long and ended up with a panic attack, nausea and other symptoms. She is the first to admit that she over did it, but in my opinion, it is always good to get such advice from someone who has been there, did it and got the T-shirt.
Over to You
Do you like to stay within your comfort zone or are you adventurous and enjoy leaving your comfort zone? If so, how often do you dare to go outside of your comfort zone and how do you manage and cope with it? Do you remain in control – just stretching yourself – or do you sometimes overdo it?
What benefits do you see from leaving your comfort zone? Let us know in the comment section.