Stepping outside your comfort zone is the only way to learn anything. But our comfort zones can also stop us from following our passion altogether, and it’s very hard to detect when this happens.
In this episode, I share how you can check if your comfort zone is not letting you do what you love, what is really going on when this happens, and what to do about it.
Listen to the episode below:
You’ve probably always known or at least heard that if you want to grow as a person, then the easiest way to do that is to step out of your comfort zone.
All growth happens outside that personal space, that circle of certainty that we have around us. We know this, and yet, we don’t do anything about it. We would rather sit comfortably in that zone instead of going out of our way to get things done that we know are going to help us in the long run.
Usually, nothing really happens if you stay in your comfort zone. After all, it is your personal bubble of peace and harmony, and you feel at ease inside it.
However, without us realizing it, our comfort zone is also eating away at our chances of ever being able to follow our passion and do what we love. In fact, it might be killing it altogether.
Following your passion and working on your art is hard as it is. And if you are balancing it with work and family, finding the time and place to actually work on what’s important to you is a tall order.
But we often try to use that as an excuse to not do what we love, simply saying that we’ll do it when we feel comfortable. Or, even when we know there’s a way that we could start doing it, we simply find it outside our comfort zone and then that becomes the excuse.
I think there are two comfort zones at work here.
The Comfort Zone of Skills
The first is the the comfort zone that builds skills — if there is something you want to learn, you can only learn that by putting yourself in uncomfortable situations over and over.
Let’s say, people skills: if you struggle with striking up and holding a conversation like me, you can only learn this by talking to more and more people.
If you want to be a better painter, you probably know you’ll benefit taking a few classes about the area you struggle with and so on.
But, we don’t do any of that because the other kind of comfort zone stops us. And this is the comfort zone of belief.
The Comfort Zone of Belief
We often know what we want, but we also have certain beliefs about how we want it. We know what we need to be doing, but we also have certain beliefs about how it should be done.
And these beliefs are what’s stopping you from following your passion.
Let me share an example of how my belief system got in the way.
My belief centers around just one thing: my Home-Office.
I have a lot of beliefs, but this is at the center of how I look at my work and life. I am a person who hates traveling to an office, loves to work from home, and who has fought hard to create this work-from-home-or-anywhere lifestyle.
On the surface, it’s supremely comfortable. This is obvious in how I tell people about it when they ask me where my office is.
“Oh, it’s just a minute away from my bedroom.”
“Wherever there is internet, there’s my office.”
I’ve sold this work-from-anywhere idea to a lot of people, and it’s something that I’m particularly proud of.
I save on travel time, I can have lunch at home, I can catch a quick power nap and even get things done around the house. But once I started to get back into music, doing what I love to do, I began to wonder about a couple of things:
If I don’t go to an office in the classical sense, why do I feel so tired by the end of the day (actually, by around 4pm).
If I don’t have to worry about my work hours (since work-anywhere or from home generally also means you work anytime), why wasn’t I getting more done?
If I had all the time in the world, why wasn’t I doing more of my music? Why did I have less time for it instead of more?
All of this started to shake my core belief about my life: I could get things done way better when I worked from home.
On the surface, it may look like I had a discipline problem. I thought that was the case too — I wasn’t able to work out a proper schedule so that I could balance time between my music, my work and other stuff.
As I dug deeper though, I found out that the reason this was happening was because my core belief was keeping me in my home-office all the time. And here’s how it played out:
Instead of starting work early, I would get up lazily and start up my Mac. I’d open Medium.com and Facebook, check on a few emails but not really get anything done until I actually sat down to work around 10-ish.
This would be followed by an early lunch. But, since I knew I could get lunch at anytime, I would make taking a shower and lunch a combined activity. This meant that I was losing about 2 hours of my most productive and creative time right at the beginning of the day.
Around 2pm, after just 2 hours of good, solid work, the mid-day fatigue would start to kick in. This is when having a bedroom next door is the worst thing ever. What should be a 20 or 30 minute power nap easily became a 3 hour ‘sleepathon’ over and over again.
You must be wondering how I got any work done at all!
It’s easy, I could always do it later.
That’s what I told myself — I can do it later. I could sit at night and when everything is quiet and calm, I can finish a lot of this up. When night came, I didn’t want to work. I’d be too tired of looking at the screen or keep watching Youtube videos and so on.
All of this meant that I had less and less and less time for working on my music, or anything else for that matter.
This Isn’t Just Lack of Discipline
I know this still looks like a problem of discipline or routine, but it isn’t.
What I realized was that my home-office — my comfort zone — had blurred any idea of a boundary between work time and personal time. This meant that all time was work time and all time was personal time. I needed that boundary back and for that, I need to move out.
When you try to change a core belief, your mind fights back. You start to come up with reasons why it’s such a bad idea.
“Oh, but that’s not me at all. Can you imagine me going to an office?”
“Traveling for work is for losers. Look, if I simply fix my schedule, I can make this work.”
“Dude, working from home is so cool, and plus I can work on my music at any time. It’s just a matter of being in the creative mindset.”
When you have to defend your comfort zone, when you have to make excuses to protect it, that’s a sign that your core belief is being challenged and you don’t want to part with it.
Notice this, and try to look through the fog.
Getting Rid Of Beliefs That Aren’t Helping
If a core belief is not serving your needs, it is time to change that belief. No matter how hard you’ve fought for it, no matter how deep a part it may be of your identity in your group of friends, no matter how uncomfortable it would make you.
You know what I’ve done? I’ve got myself an office. It’s not swanky, and it doesn’t need to be. I would have to travel everyday and reach there by 9:45AM. To do that, I would have to wake up such that I can fit in a light breakfast, exercise and a shower in there.
The strange thing is that just getting that office has added a sense of routine: I am already adjusting my work and schedule around the 10 to 6 for my office, even though I haven’t moved in there yet!
You know how I talked about not being able to learn people skills because I don’t meet enough people? A key reason was that I didn’t go anywhere ever thanks to my home-office, and so there was no way I could get myself into uncomfortable situations where I was meeting people.
Now, since I have an office and it’s half-way around the city, I can go anywhere to meet anyone — no laziness.
Clear work-hours means all the time that I have when I get back home is personal: I could spend it with family, or on music!
Here’s another example of breaking out of the comfort zone that may help.
When I worked on my music, I was often worried about how to produce it — I can write and come up with ideas of songs easily. But when it comes to the actual music, I used to sit for hours at my computer to make it sound perfect, and I’ve never become better at it.
But, since one of my goals was to get more people skills, I got in touch with actual music producers who could help me bring that song to life, without any of the work involved.
Trust me, this is a huge amount of pressure off of my shoulders and that much more time to work on what I am actually good at, what I actually love: writing songs.
Think about this for some time:
Is your comfort zone stopping you from following your passion? Have friends and family come to you to change something and you’ve fought against it? Do you have a core belief that might be getting in the way?
There are a lot of ways to judge if something is challenging our core beliefs.
If you often say you don’t have the time for your art, it might be due to a belief that art requires all your time everyday. The world may glorify anyone who dedicates a lifetime to their passion or who leave a job to go after something they love.
But there’s more respect and to be honest, sheer relief, when you can pay your bills with your job and then do what you love in your spare time. People will be surprised how you can balance the two and get so much done.
If you often say you cannot do it alone, it might be due to a belief that you must do everything yourself. Just like I thought I had to work on a song from start to finish, including the music and recording, even though I didn’t really have to.
If you often say you don’t have a good place to work on your passion, it might be due to a belief that you need a “perfect setting” to do creative work. Just like writers often want to have a quiet place, cut off from everyone but this isn’t always needed.
Trust me, your brain can and will surprise you, if you only let it. Many writers write sitting at a coffee shop surrounded with people — think about that.
If you often say that you’d be following your passion but it would never pay the bills so you don’t, it might be due to a belief that working on your passion also means that your passion is your profession.
Believe me, that’s rare and it happens only with time. Your passion is something you do because it makes you feel a certain way, not because it may or may not pay the bills.
Identify these core beliefs, these core values and stop fighting for them. Step out of your comfort zone.
Every other comfort zone of skill will start to matter less and less the moment you step out of the comfort zone of belief.
If your beliefs aren’t serving you, begin changing them because the longer we delay following our passion, the more regret we will have when it’s time to say goodbye to the world.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, insights and questions! Please leave a comment…