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"Your comfort zone is a beautiful place. But nothing new grows there."
When I first came across that quote, I thought it sounded great and wise. I saved it in my "Inspirational Quotes" folder. I let it sit there along with many other great and wise sayings. And for a long time, I refused to admit that it had anything to do with my own life.
I was working hard, accepting challenges, travelling the world. All things that, in my eyes, had nothing to do with a comfort zone. After all, my life didn't feel very comfortable. It took me a while to realize I was wrong.
By definition, a comfort zone is "a situation in which you feel comfortable and you do not have to do anything new or difficult".
Now, "comfortable" as well as "new" and "difficult" are all terms with very subjective meanings to them. When I am used to heavy migraines, a light headache can be a rather comfortable state to me. When I usually get a coffee at the same coffee shop every morning, trying something new could mean going to a different coffee shop for a change, while for someone else, a different kind of beverage from that very same coffee shop already counts as "something new". And I think I don't even need to go into the very individual perceptions of easy or difficult.
And that is why my personal comfort zone can look very uncomfortable to someone else and still be a comfort zone. It's also why it can be hard to recognize our own comfort zones sometimes.
For years, I thought that working hard and stressing out would prevent me from getting trapped in a comfort zone. Well, it turned out that working hard and stressing out was my comfort zone. Because it kept me from addressing parts of my life and of myself that had the potential to cause way more discomfort than the lack of sleep and the exhaustion did.
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