According to research, once we’ve learnt and adjusted to the best way of doing something, and can comfortably repeat it, our brain’s learning centres essentially shut down. This allows us to go into “autopilot mode”, so that we no longer have to put as much effort into the things we do.
For instance, you might stop noticing your surroundings on the way home from work because you’ve walked that route hundreds of times before, or you might start finding your workouts easy because your body has become so used to a particular routine. Or, perhaps, you might find your mind drifting elsewhere while you perform the same regular tasks at work.
When this happens, we can be described as living within a “comfort zone”; a space where we feel comfortable, and can usually predict what’s going to happen next. Because we know this space well, we often don’t need to be as engaged there, and can essentially relax.
The issue with this state of being is that it makes personal growth and development very difficult to achieve. Growth happens when we challenge ourselves to “step outside of our comfort zone”, by exposing ourselves to new settings, people, and situations. Because in doing so, we open ourselves up to new knowledge, opportunities, and experiences.
When we decide not to try something new because it feels safer and easier not to, we’re usually trying to remove the element of risk from our lives. Predicting the outcome of a new scenario can be tricky; naturally, our minds run wild, and tend to assume the worst will happen. But what if we decided to turn things around, and start imagining the best case scenario of every new thing we try? Even if this new thing initially makes us feel uncomfortable.
The reason that the phrase “Life begins when you step outside of your comfort zone”, has become so popular is because when we stick within the limits of what we know, we can become bored and disengaged from life. If the reason that we stop trying new things is down to fear, then we might also become frustrated that we are letting fear hold us back from the life that we want.
It’s also possible to get so used to being within our comfort zone, that we even stop considering that there could be more outside of it. One day, we might take a step outside of it by chance, without really meaning to, and realise what we could be missing if we venture beyond the limits of our normal everyday routines and behaviours.