Living in the Stretch Zone
“Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone” Robert Allen
The thing about hopes and dreams is they represent the possibility of victory over fear, insecurity, failure and all manner of dread. This is what makes them so compelling and worthy of our desire. To visualize our dreams becoming a reality is to imagine ourselves devoid of the unsuitable qualities and traits that would keep those dreams from us and to, instead, see ourselves as battle-tested and worthy of such dreams.
In truth, the space between our dreams and our current reality is a world totally outside of our comfort zone. At times that world can feel scary but the more we choose to engage in it the more we earn our stripes and our self-respect.
We must become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Our comfort zone is easy street. This is where everything feels easy and effortless. There’s no stress, no obstacles. We’ve mastered the behaviors, habituated the routines and can pretty much predict the outcomes. The problem with living in the comfort zone is that it’s a dead end. There’s no growth. A simple truth about life is what isn’t growing is dying. As the comfort zone presents no opportunity for growth, it’s filled with stagnation and boredom and a perpetual lack of fulfillment. Living in the comfort zone kills motivation and desire and forces us to live with a life we’ve settled for instead of the life we dreamed about.
Staying too comfortable is a bad idea, but so is going too far too fast.
The opposite of the comfort zone is the panic zone. This is like diving into the deep end of the pool before learning how to swim – not a good idea. Inside the panic zone, we feel out of our depth and possibly terrified. Our ability to learn and grow in this space is greatly hindered by the fear that overwhelms us. We may freeze up or get frustrated to the point where we abandon ship. And therein lies the real danger: staying in the panic zone for too long is a great way to get ourselves to shut down or give up. It also makes it harder to leave our comfort zone in the future.
The sweet spot is the stretch zone. This is the space between our comfort and panic zones. In this space, we’re not quite comfortable, but we can handle it. Things are new and unpredictable. Nervous energy fills the air. And still, we’re in control. This is the space where we grow and learn. Life feels fulfilling as we push past boundaries and test limits. Not only do we grow in skill, the faith we have in ourselves to overcome and breakthrough obstacles also grows.
Learning to live in the stretch zone can be as simple as committing to do something daily that makes us feel uncomfortable but excites us at the same time. Making this a habit in our life will bring many unexpected rewards as well the ones we hope and dream for. Just a small step outside the comfort zone and a little faith are all it takes.