This is your Comfort Zone:
Nothing special about it. Kind of pitiful, really.
And this is your Potential:
Obviously, your Potential’s much bigger and more impressive than your Comfort Zone. And your goal, like mine and that of every wannabe winner at life, should be to expand your Comfort Zone into its full Potential.
In this post, I will use a bunch of colorful circles, arrows, and made-up names to suggest to you some uncomfortable but effective strategies for doing so.
Today, your Comfort Zone is roughly about here relative to your Potential:
You’ve tapped into some of your Potential, but not much. That overlap is called your Happy Place.
My Happy Place is about the same size as yours. Activities inside mine include giving Kim her daily grateful, writing the odd winning blog post, and when I dunk a basketball. Activities inside yours are undoubtedly different.
Being in your Happy Place feels fantastic, so we should all strive to spend as much time in it as possible.
By doing two things:
- Shifting our Comfort Zones into my Potential.
- Expanding our Comfort Zones to fill our Potential.
The problem, as you, me, and the bajillion dollar self-help industry are well aware, is these two things are not as easy as dragging one circle above another on Adobe Illustrator. It’s actually impossible. Nobody will ever 100 percent fill their Potential.
Watch this if reading blog posts is not inside your Comfort Zone.
The Obstacles to Expanding Your Comfort Zone
Obstacle #1: Delusion
This is your Delusion Bubble:
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 being CEO of the company I worked at, Procter and Gamble. And now it’s becoming some sort of taller, chiller Tim Ferriss.
What’s in yours?
Delusion Bubbles are dangerously distracting.
Your Delusion Bubble’s problematic because it isn’t in the same place as your Potential:
So even when you muster up the motivation to push your Comfort Zone in deluded directions, you make no progress. Two things make it impossible:
- You’re directing those efforts perpendicularly to our Potential.
- The unvanquishable Force of Realty.
Obstacle #2: Reality
The Force of Reality is composed of various mini-forces including age, genetics, and external influences. Like gravity, Reality exerts constant downward pressure on your Comfort Zone, shrinking and shriveling it up.
Reality makes Delusion impossible to achieve.
Most people’s Delusion Bubbles are directly opposed to Reality:
That’s a big problem because Reality is stronger than you. Whatever effort you muster, you will never make any progress against it.
Take my former dreams of becoming a basketball star as an example. I tried as hard as I could to jump high and shoot straighter, 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.
Reality will crush you if you let it.
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, so I’d abandon blogging, and huddle inside my ever-shrinking Comfort Zone.
Obstacle #3: Complacency
The Force of Complacency, like the Force of Reality, exerts negative pressure on your Comfort Zone:
On the bright side, Complacency isn’t as powerful as Reality. If you push the edges of your Comfort Zone directly into Complacency, you can inch into your Potential.
The downside is that Complacency never lets up. It’s an incessant headwind that pushes your Comfort Zone away from your Potential. If you slack off on fighting it, your Comfort Zones will slowly slide into the Danger Zone.
Obstacle #4: The Danger Zone
This is your Danger Zone:
The Danger Zone is where bad things happen to you, such as sickness, pain, sadness, and stupidity. The more time you spend in your Danger Zone, the worse they become.
The Zone of Despair isn’t a cool place to hang out.
For most of us, part of our Comfort Zone overlaps the Danger Zone:
This overlapping area is the Zone of Despair. Many everyday activities are within the Zone of Despair. They include:
- 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 pleasurable, and Complacency pushes us toward them, so we tend to spend more time than we should doing them.
Don’t push your Sanity Line.
The border between your Zone of Despair and the rest of your Danger Zone is your Sanity Line:
The Sanity Line protects you from doing uncomfortable and dangerous nonsense like smoking fentanyl, gambling your entire fortune on a single bet, stabbing yourself in the leg with a pencil, or trying to run across busy highways blindfolded.
Some idiots push their Sanity Line thinking they’re “getting out of their Comfort Zones,” so it’s a good thing to do. It’s not. It’s insane. Never push your Sanity Line. Doing so only pushes your Comfort Zone further away from its Potential.
The Strategies for Expanding Your Comfort Zone
Now that we know the obstacles that make expanding our Comfort Zones into our full Potential so challenging, let’s look at how to overcome them.
Strategy #1: Shift your Delusion toward your Potential.
The more you manage to shift your Delusion Bubble in the direction of your Potential, the less effort you waste fruitlessly fighting Reality, and the more you direct it toward overcoming Complacency.
How do you do so?
By shifting the border between your Potential and your Delusion Bubbles. This is called your False Fences of Identity:
The False Fence of Identity is formed by thinking you’re someone you’re not or by having limiting identities.
To give you a personal example of 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 as an excellent CEO of My Life and showing others how to be the same.
- Outside feedback. Find demotivational speakers who will tell you to “f*ck your dreams if they’re not yours,” as Charlamagne Tha God eloquently puts it. Also, listen carefully for when people tell you you’re doing something special so you know to look harder in that direction for your Potential. Thirdly, ask family and friends where they think your Potential lies.
Strategy #2: Push your Fulfillment Frontier.
When you have a good idea of where your Potential lies, it’s a matter of pushing the edges of your Comfort Zone to get it there. That border is your Fulfillment Frontier:
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 the Force of 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 favorite 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.
Strategy #3: Motivate yourself with perspective.
When fighting Complacency and pushing your Fulfillment Frontier feels overwhelming, these perspective exercises will motivate you to keep at it.
Compare your comfort zone to other people’s.
Not to brag, but a lot of what I find easy and enjoy doing is way out of other people’s Comfort Zones. Examples include fasting, outdoor workouts, blogging, traveling off the beaten path, and sleeping on the floor.
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 that’s BS. I’m not special. Anyone can do it.
The same goes for you. Some people will have a hard time believing what’s in your comfort zone could ever be in theirs, too. So take this perspective…
…and think of people whose Comfort Zones are way bigger than yours.
What do you think one of these mega-Comfort Zone folk would say if you told them you didn’t believe you could ever become as comfortable as they are at what they do?
As long as it doesn’t defy reality, they’d respond the same as you or I do to people who have smaller comfort zones than us. It’s not impossible. They’re not special. We’re not special. Anyone can do it.
Relative to Your Past and Future Selves
It’s also self-motivating to remind yourself how uncomfortable you used to be doing many of the things you now do comfortably.
For example, I can think back to Young Chris, who didn’t speak other languages and got nervous calling strangers on the phone. My Comfort Zone’s grown a lot since then. Not only does this make me feel proud of my efforts, but it also 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.
Consider trying the same. And consider reading my Ultimate Guide to Befriending Your Future Self for more on this.
Super Comfortable Conclusion
Let’s bring everything together now into one wild 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:
My Comfort Zone will have expanded significantly, it’ll have moved way away from my Danger Zone, and it will fill up a good chunk of my Potential.
It’ll take time and effort to get there. But that’s life. There’s truly nothing better to do, and I look forward to the challenge.
Hopefully you do too. And hopefully this post helped you understand how to make it happen.