Don’t Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. Expand It (The Right Way)

This is my comfort zone:

Your comfort zone

Nothing special about it. Kind of pitiful, really.

And this is my potential:

Your full potential

Clearly my potential’s much bigger and more impressive than my comfort zone. My goal in life, like that of every wannabe high-achiever, should be to expand my comfort zone into its full potential.

Today, my comfort zone is about here relative to my potential:

Overlap of comfort zone and potential

As you can see, I’ve tapped into some of my potential, but not much. That overlap is my Happy Place. Activities there include giving Kim her daily grateful, writing the odd winning blog post, and when I dunk a basketball. It feels fantastic to be in my Happy Place.

To have that feeling more often, I need to do two things:

  1. Shift my comfort zone toward my potential.
  2. Expand my comfort zone to fill my potential.

The problem, as you, me, and the bajillion dollar self help industry are well aware, is these two things are very difficult to do.

The obvious obstacles are fear and laziness. I don’t have any fresh ideas for you on how to overcome them, so I won’t waste your time repeating what you probably already know.

I’d like to share with you the not-so-obvious obstacles instead. They’re equally formidable at stopping us from expanding our comfort zones into our potential. Then I’ll share some strategies for overcoming them.

In This Guide

The Obstacles to Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Why your comfort zone is so pitifully puny because of delusion, the forces of reality and complacency, and The Danger Zone.

Delusion

This is your Delusion Bubble:

Delusion bubble diagram

Your Delusion Bubble is what you think your potential is.

It changes all the time. When I was in high school, my Delusion Bubble included me being an NBA player. Then pre-pretirement it was a CEO of the company I worked at, Procter and Gamble. And now it’s becoming some sort of taller, chiller Tim Ferriss.

Why Delusion Bubbles Are Dangerous

Delusion Bubbles are problematic because they aren’t in the same place as our Potential:

Delusion Bubble, Potential, and Comfort Zone diagram

So even when we muster up the courage and motivation to push our comfort zones in their direction, we make little to no progress. That’s because we’re aiming perpendicularly to our potential and the Force of Realty (which we’ll look at in a sec) repels us.

The Field of Dreams

Not all the Delusion Bubble is Fantasy Land. If you’re somewhat self-aware and realistic, your Delusion Bubble somewhat overlaps your Potential. This area of overlap is your Field of Dreams.

The Field of Dreams is a good place to focus on expanding your comfort zone toward because you can visualize it and use that as motivation.

But how to distinguish the Field of Dreams it from Fantasy Land?

Two suggestions:

1. The Place Where Dreams Come True

Sometimes you can find evidence in the sliver of overlap that’s already in your comfort zone, The Place Where Dreams Come True:

The special place where your comfort zone, potential, and delusions overlap.

When you’re in the Place Where Dreams Come True, you’re in your Comfort Zone and you’re getting the results you’ve dreamed of.

In my case, I’m in my Place Where Dreams Come True when I write blog posts that manage to catch people’s attention, hold it, and direct it in ways I hope will help them. If I keep pushing my Comfort Zone in that direction I feel confident that I’m aiming toward the Field of Dreams section of my Potential and not Fantasy Land.

2. Move Your Delusion

A second approach for increasing the odds I push my comfort zone toward my Field of Dreams rather than Fantasy Land is to move my Delusion Bubble over so it better overlaps your Potential:

Shifting your delusion bubble toward your potential.

We’ll cover how to do so below.

Before we get there, let’s look at another not-so-obvious obstacle to expanding our comfort zones into our potential, The Force of Reality.

Reality

The Force of Reality is like gravity. It exerts constant downward pressure on our comfort zone, shrinking and shriveling it up. Contributors to reality include age, genetics, and external influences.

Many of our Delusion Bubbles are directly opposed to reality:

The force of reality prevents you from ever achieving all your delusions.

Take my former dreams of becoming a basketball star, for example. I could try to jump as much as I want, but the reality of my genetics dragged me down. It was hopeless. And it didn’t help me much in expanding my comfort zone into my potential.

But at least I was doing something.

If you do nothing, reality will squeeze your comfort zone until it’s gone.

For instance, if I sit around blogging the same way about the same stuff all the time, the reality of changing interests, technology, and my growing senility would cause my audience and influence to disappear. This would make me feel uncomfortable.

Nobody can fight reality and win. But we can counter it by exerting offsetting pressure on the boundaries of our comfort zones.

Complacency

The Force of Complacency is the second negative pressure on our comfort zones:

The force of complacency pushes your comfort zone away from expanding into its potential.

On the bright side, complacency isn’t as powerful as reality. If we push the edges of our comfort zones directly into complacency, we can inch them into our potential.

The downside is that complacency doesn’t let up. It’s an incessant headwind that pushes our comfort zones away from our potential. And if we slack off on fighting it, our comfort zones slowly slide into the Danger Zone.

The Danger Zone

This is the Danger Zone:

The Danger Zone is where bad things happen to us. Sickness, pain, sadness, and stupidity are among the long-term consequences of too much time in the Danger Zone.

Beware Your Zone of Despair

For most of us, part of our comfort zone overlaps the Danger Zone:

The zone of despair, where your comfort zone overlaps your danger zone.

This overlapping area is the Zone of Despair. Many everyday activities are within the Zone of Despair, including:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating junk food,
  • Watching TV and porn
  • Consuming social media
  • Frivolous spending
  • Saying yes to meetings you don’t need to attend.

These activities are alluring and complacency pushes us toward them, so we tend to spend more time than we should in our Zones of Despair.

Don’t Push Your Sanity Line

The border between the Zone of Despair and the rest of the Danger Zone is the Sanity Line:

Don't push at the sanity line!

The Sanity Line protects us from doing uncomfortable and dangerous shit like smoking fentanyl, gambling our entire fortunes on a single bet, stabbing ourselves in the legs with pencils, and trying to run across busy highways blindfolded.

Some idiots push their Sanity Line. They think they’re “getting out of their comfort zones,” so it’s a good thing to do. It’s not. It’s insane. Doing so only moves your comfort zone further away from its potential.

The Strategies for Expanding Your Comfort Zone

How to expand your comfort zone into your full potential with delusion shifting, boundary pushing, and perspective taking.

Now that we know the not-so-obvious obstacles that make expanding into our full potential a never-ending challenge, let’s look at some not-so-obvious ways to overcome them.

How to Move Your Delusion

As we already went over, we need to move our Delusion Bubbles over to better overlap our potential. In doing so, we waste less effort fruitlessly fighting reality and direct it toward overcoming complacency.

How do we do move our Delusion Bubbles?

By shifting the borders between our potential and our Delusion Bubbles, our False Fences of Identity:

Push at your false fence of identity.

The False Fence of Identity is formed by us thinking we’re someone we’re not or having limiting identities.

To give you an example on the latter, I used to self-identify as a “shy guy.” And I acted accordingly by keeping to myself and keeping my mouth shut. I didn’t think I could do anything about it, so I couldn’t see my true, full potential.

But then I read one of my favorite mind-changing books, Quiet. It changed my identity. Rather than identify as shy, I now identify as being introverted. Introversion doesn’t limit me from doing anything. And now that I understand this aspect of myself, I have a better idea of what my potential is.

Books are one way to push your identity fence. Others include:

  • Trial and error. For instance, my pretirement misadventures taught me I’m not caught up to be a big time startup CEO. I’m better suited being an excellent CEO of My Life and showing others how to be the same.
  • Outside feedback. Find demotivational speakers who will tell you to “fuck your dreams if they’re not yours,” as Charlamagne Tha God so eloquently puts it. Also, listen carefully for when people tell you you’re doing something special. And, thirdly, ask family and friends where they think your potential lies.

Push Your Fulfillment Frontier

When you have a good idea of where your potential lies, it’s a matter off pushing the edges of your comfort zone to get it there. That border is the Fulfillment Frontier:

Push your fulfillment frontier to nudge your comfort zone toward its potential.

You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve been pushing my Fulfillment Frontier with this post. I’ve never used diagrams to explain a concept before. It feels uncomfortable. But I know it’s in the direction of my potential, so I’m powering through complacency to try it.

There are endless strategies for pushing your fulfillment frontier. The better you know your potential, the better you’ll know what to do. This blog and my newsletter share a bunch of my best suggestions. Check those later, if you want.

For now, let’s stick to one not-so-obvious strategy for motivating yourself to expand your comfort zone into your potential, perspective.

Take Comfort and Motivation From Perspective

When fighting complacency and pushing my Fulfillment Frontier feels overwhelming, I look at where my comfort zone is relative to others’ and to my past and future selves. This perspective motivates me to keep at it.

Relative to Others

Not to brag, but a lot of what I find easy and enjoy doing is way out of other people’s comfort zones. Fasting, outdoor workouts, blogging, traveling off the beaten path, sleeping on the floor, etc.

Plenty of people don’t believe these activities are truly in my comfort zone. And they don’t think there’s any way they could be comfortable doing the same. But it’s true. I’m not special. Anyone can do it.

Then I take this perspective and think of people whose comfort zones are way bigger than mine. What if I told them I don’t believe I could ever become as comfortable as they are at self-promotion, speaking on stage, and networking? They’d respond the same as me. It’s not impossible. They’re not special. Anyone can do it.

Getting perspective from relative comfort zones.

Relative to Your Past and Future Selves

Reminding myself of how uncomfortable I used to be many of the things I now do comfortably is similarly motivating.

I think back to Young Chris who didn’t speak other languages and got nervous calling strangers on the phone and and am grateful for the progress he made.

And this encourages me to pass on the favor to my future self. I’m going to make sure that lucky guy has one helluva swanky comfort zone.

Uncomfortable Conclusion

Let’s bring everything together now into one wild comfort zone diagram:

Complete comfort zone diagram

It looks like something an astrologist on acid might come up with. But hopefully it makes sense to you now.

That diagram depicts where my comfort zone is at today.

Eventually, I hope it to look more like this:

Where my comfort zone will be one day in the future, away from the danger zone and filling my potential.

It’ll take time and effort to get there. But that’s life. There’s truly nothing better to do. I look forward to the challenge.

Hopefully you do too. And hopefully this post helped you understand how to make it happen.

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Chris and Kim

Kim and Chris started The Unconventional Route in 2018 to share their adventures fighting complacency to win at life. Today, over 150,000 people a month visit the site and thousands more explore a dose of uncomplacent ideas with them every 10 days in their free newsletter, Consider This.

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