Thoughts on leaving your comfort zone

I was strolling the streets of Madison, Wisconsin tonight when I spotted a sign in a shop’s window which read “Life Doesn’t Begin Until You Leave Your Comfort Zone.”

How fitting, I thought, as a blast of frigid air howled down the street, assaulting my face with such brutal force.

On the surface, this statement is everything us adventure types need to justify our antics.

“Well, I can’t say I’m exactly comfortable with paddling my kayak over this 15-foot waterfall, but hey, this is living, man.”

But what this presumptuous conclusion conveniently ignores is the fact that for thousands of years, human beings have endlessly pursued their comfort zones.

So on one hand, we have the daredevil crowd living life to the fullest, and on the other, we have what amounts to a bunch of boring people waiting to die. This isn’t exactly a fair assessment.

Maybe paddling over a 15-foot waterfall is your comfort zone, yet you still feel alive and invigorated with each pass. Or maybe your comfort zone brings you nothing but joy and satisfaction.

According to our sagely sign, though, you are living a dull life.

What do you think? Is finding your comfort zone a positive or negative goal to achieve?

Personally, I enjoy leaving my comfort zone. It has taught me to experience the world outside of my own perspective. It has pushed me to go bigger and faster. It has almost killed me several times, something I will certainly never forget.

Why, then, are some of the most intelligent and thoughtful people I know perfectly fine with living a life in their comfort zone?

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18 comments

  1. There are a lot of people who never get exposed to much when they are kids. Families live nearby so there is no need to travel anywhere and if there is a vacation, it is to the same place every year. Things like that hohum to people like me, and I am no where as adventurous as you! But the fact is, they exist, and they are probably the majority. People are scared by the unknown…and exposure to it has to start early I think to be overcome. Go team go! Forward over the next hill! Leave the others behind. LOL

    1. You’re definitely on to something here. A crippling fear of the unknown is often a direct by-product of spending entirely too much time in your comfort zone. With that in mind, maybe it’s OK for people to appreciate their comfort zone, but at the very least, they should seek out new “uncomfortable” experiences from time to time. Instead of Florida again this year, how about Mississippi?

  2. I think your sign is wrong. It’s not whether or not it’s a comfort zone, it’s whether or not you are engaged to the utmost of your being.
    I can be moved beyond words by a great book or movie, just as much as by a great climb or dive.
    A runner doesn’t need to set a record on every run to be fully engaged and alive to the moment.

    I think the difference is jumping in actively and wholeheartedly, or just sitting back and being passively swept along.
    That’s what “comfort zone” is to me – staying at a level where whatever it is loses it’s meaning and just becomes routine…

    1. Excellent observation. The very simple act of participation, of just getting out there and going for it, is often enough to get out of your comfort zone. It’s fair to say we’ve all fallen into the trap of “just sitting back” while life passes us by. This, to me, is a dangerous comfort zone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a routine, but when that routine comes to define our very existence, it may be time to reevaluate our priorities.

  3. Hi,
    Well I like both worlds. 🙂
    I love being in my “comfort zone” but I also enjoy going to different places and exploring (I’m into ancient history). I’m not into climbing or anything like that, but I enjoy crawling through tombs etc. So I would say why can’t you have both?

  4. I do enjoy leaving my comfort zone, like the time I held a lion’s paw in Zambia. And I do have the travel bug…I love to go to new places all of the time. However, I also love my comfort zone, such as sitting on my couch under a warm blanket reading a good book. I think having a balance of the two makes a happier person.

    1. I think it depends on the person. I’m a little like you at times: ready for adventure, but equally happy reading a good book. I personally know people on both sides of the spectrum, those who can’t sit still and will pursue adventure nonstop, and those who are comfortable hanging out around the house. There’s nothing wrong with either approach. But you might be onto something when you suggest “having a balance of the two makes a happier person.”

  5. I think balance is key. Sometimes we need the comfort zone so we can relax and destress. And sometimes we need to experience new things in order to grow. But fear stops us. My dad always feared the world. When I told him I was backpacking through Central America 9 years ago his reply was “I’ll buy you a body bag for Christmas”. And when I got married in Cuba 5 years ago I really wasn’t sure he would come. At first he said he would fly in for the wedding and back out the same day. Then it was overnight Then my mom talked him into a week. Well, he loved it. But now they have been to the same resort in Cuba 7 times in 5 years. My dad has just found a new comfort zone in Cuba and now he’s once again stuck in it.

    1. I think you summed up this post perfectly. We all need to occasionally unwind from the action, and we all need to see what’s around the next corner. Living in fear is no way to go. It’s pretty amazing to witness people like your dad go through minor transformations. You have to give him at least some credit for finding a new comfort zone in Cuba, of all places.

      1. Good point. My brother and his girlfriend want a destination wedding so the goal is to get him somewhere new again. (Then he can go there for 5 years until someone else gets married..haha).

  6. I actually go back and forth on this a lot. It’s somewhat empowering when you finally figure out what your comfort zone is and get to grips with just accepting it and enjoying what you enjoy. But at the same time, it’s also invigorating when you do something out of the comfort zone. And by “you”, I mean “I” here! A few years ago I did some indoor climbing wall climbing. Doesn’t sound like much to most folk, but it was way out of my comfort zone – having to be hanging at a height for one, as well as giving complete control over your safety to your climbing mate, were not things I relish on an everyday basis! Thankfully I’d chosen to go with a friend who I’d trust my life with any day, and he’s a hardened climber, so that settled half of the issue for me. It was really cool afterwards, just being able to say I’d done it! But anyway, I’m rambling again……

    1. Even activities like indoor climbing can get the blood pumping! Especially if you’re not a climber, or if you’re afraid of heights. I absolutely love the feeling of going outside of my comfort zone, if only for a little bit. In your case, indoor climbing gave you that feeling, and it had to feel pretty awesome. The question now is, what’s next?

  7. Different people enjoy different things….which is good cause otherwise the road less traveled would become the only road traveled and that would not be cool at all. : ) I actually at one point in my life was terrified of traveling solo. I forced myself to go spend a year in a foreign country completely on my own. I chose a country where I would visibly stand out as being different. As the time approached I was brave towards my friends and family, yet inside I was scared and nervous. But waiting alone in the airport I noticed myself becoming less and less scared, and more and more excited …and beginning to feel more and more confident. Soon that nervousness, that fear, started to feel strange….it was becoming thrilling. It felt incredible. I could not stop grinning. I felt completely alive…and I knew at that moment that I was addicted…and that being out of my comfort zone was like a high. I’ve no intention of ever stopping.

    1. Awesome story, Alex! Thanks for sharing. You took leaving your comfort zone to the extreme. Not too many people would feel comfortable with not only traveling solo, but living in a foreign country as well. So big kudos to you! And I can totally relate to the feeling of being addicted to leaving your comfort zone. Keep on keepin’ on, right?

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