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When to Go with the Flow & When to Expand Your Comfort Zone

Out of Your Comfort Zone

“Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold.” ~ Herbert Spencer

I’m actually much more of a proponent of “going with the flow” then going against it. And sometimes forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do can be considered going against the flow.

But I do that for a different reason, and not everyone would agree.

I have two schools of thought. On the one hand, expansion is inevitable. We’re always called to become more than we are in life. It’s the nature of being human.

On the other hand, there’s something called “homeostasis.” Like a thermostat that’s set to a certain temperature, it will always self-regulate. If it gets too hot, the air will kick in to bring it to a cooler temperature. If it gets too cold, it will start flowing hot air. Whatever the gauge is set to, the thermostat will regulate.

Similarly, there’s an unconscious process within us that self-regulates. We have relationship set points, money set points, and weight set points. We have comfort zones—sometimes ones that we’re completely unaware of.

That’s why people who win the lottery can go back to being at the same level of income or bankrupt in less than 6 years. Their unconscious financial set point didn’t change because they won a million dollars.

Like the thermostat programmed to monitor the gauge, their unconscious thermostat brought them back to where they were comfortable. They can win millions and within years, they are back to where they started.

I suspect that if you redistributed the wealth in the country and equalized it among all people, it would re-distribute exactly the same way within 3 years, according to people’s set points.

I say all of that to say this: Yes, expansion is our nature, but we also come up against our own homeostasis—our own comfort zone. We don’t want to move out of what we know.

So, when I force myself to try something new, or get out of my comfort zone, it’s my attempt at moving the gauge manually (if we are going with the thermostat analogy).

I want to be comfortable playing in a bigger sand box.

I may be uncomfortable placing myself there for the first time, but if that’s where I want to be, I want to know what it feels like there so I can make that my new comfort zone.

Recently I went to a business conference in Las Vegas. I didn’t know what to expect. It cost a bit of money but I wanted to step up my game, so I went.

Not only did I go, but I bought a whole new wardrobe to take with me just to play the part. I work from home so I don’t wear business attire. I live in clogs. But I’d be among a group of business owners so I bought a few new suits.

I donned a new hat—the CEO one—and stepped into a role. After the first day, I thought “Why am I here? I don’t know anyone. I don’t actually need any business.”

My first bit of resistance kicked in.

I thought it was a good idea, which is why I went. But I was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to eat meal after meal with strangers and network. People there were raising capital, millions of dollars, forming advisory committees, structuring strategic alliances.

“Who am I?  What am I doing here?” I thought.

Next layer of resistance.

“I am out of my comfort zone. I’m out of my league.”

By about the 3rd day, I had a little breakdown in my room, called my neighbor to check on my cat, sniveled to him, and then got over it. I put on my big girl pants and went back down to schmooze some more.

“Who can I help?” I wondered. I needed to get out of myself.

By the fifth day, I wasn’t so uncomfortable anymore. I made a friend—a possible business alliance. I had dinner with people that do millions of dollars in revenue a year. I listened to executives pitch to investors to raise capital for their companies.

I was suddenly in a different league. But nothing changed. I changed.
And I ended up having a really good time. I step out and do things I’m uncomfortable doing because I only have to do it once.

Now that I’ve done it, I will never, in that setting, be uncomfortable again. I don’t have to play in that environment if I don’t want to, but I will no longer be intimidated by it either. The choice will be mine.

We have set points, comfort zones that most of us, for our whole lives don’t leave. And I’m not a proponent of doing stuff just to be uncomfortable.

If there is a flow that is already happening, I’m all for going with it.

But if you are here and you want to be there, you do have to wade through what keeps you stuck.

It’s going to tell you that you need to stay because it’s safe, and you’re comfortable, and why change? But at some point, if you want something more, or at the very least different, you’re going to need to step out to discover what’s on the other side.

If you want something different. Not everyone does. But freedom has always been my quest. Every fear I overcome is a freedom gained.

I liken life to living in a huge mansion with many rooms. Why occupy only two rooms when you have the whole house? The whole property? I want to be free to roam—to know that everywhere is home.

How do we know when to push out of our comfort zone and when to go with the flow? I say, go with the flow as it flows and then when you come up against your own resistance, take the leap.

A friend I met at the business conference sent me a copy of his book when he got home. I knew we’d do business together by the title of his opening chapter, which says it all:

Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold.

Photo by Presleyjesus

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About Sonya Derian

Sonya Derian is the owner and founder of Om Freely, a company dedicated to helping people live out loud, tap into their power, and transform their lives. To pick up your free ebook: Om Freely: 30 Ways to Live Out Loud, please visit http://omfreely.com . Or check out her online store at: http://cafepress.com/omfreely.

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  • Anonymous

    I’m so encouraged by this post. I’ve found myself in the same position – intimidated and uncomfortable in a new environment. But you’ve so perfectly described how to get over that initial fear. Thanks for this post. Love it!

  • lovleemom

    Loved the anaylogy!

  • Anonymous

    wow, I really liked this! thank you. I’ve been going back to things I’ve loved in the past but got away from – journal writing, art…its funny I don’t think I’m a very good artist and I know lots of people – including family – that are much more talented than I but you know what? they don’t do it. too little time, too many other committments, too …whatever… I decided that I want to be an artist, I like that title and even if my art sucks to everyone but me…I’m still an artist and that’s stepping out of my “have a title that people approve even if it doesn’t make YOU happy” set point. thank you I’m going to be reading this over and over again as I move forward in my life as an artist.

  • Michele

    I like this one a lot! I would have dug in my closet for my wardrobe and felt equally disillusioned when I got there. Here’s the catch… to be dis-illusioned is actually a good thing. Meanwhile, I wonder if you decided to wear your clogs? I’m sure I would have slipped back into my own along the way. :)

  • http://twitter.com/TimBrownson Tim Brownson

    I really like this post and it makes excellent points even if the lottery analogy is somewhat inaccurate. Most lottery winners don’t return from whence they came. I researched this for How To Be Rich and Happy because I wanted to use it in the book to make a similar point.

    I was disappointed to find it was an urban myth. A lot have blown their money and there was one person that won the lottery twice and lost the lot! Unfortunately the papers love to highlight the people that squander it and it seems like they abound, but there are literally hundreds of people that have won 7 figure lottery sums and not blown it all.

    I’m being picky though because it was a good post!

  • http://twitter.com/TimBrownson Tim Brownson

    Ok so I didn’t read it properly and you said *can* go back.

    Sorry.

    (Walks away sheepishly)

  • Flexprogress

    Through these posts i continue 2 learn thank u

  • http://twitter.com/nishihm mario nishi

    LOVED it. absolutely true and well written!
    Made my day, completely.
    I am truly grateful for this website and technology to allow me to read this all the way in Cambodia :)

    Please do tell us what the title of this interesting book you mentioned at the bottom of the article! Thank you for YOU!

  • Sonya Derian

    Hi Mario!
    It was called Lead or Fail: The Essential Principles for Peak Performance Through Leading and Influencing Others, by Pete Mitchell.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Post!
    Sonya

  • Sonya Derian

    Hi Mario!
    It was called Lead or Fail: The Essential Principles for Peak Performance Through Leading and Influencing Others, by Pete Mitchell.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Post!
    Sonya

  • Sonya Derian

    Read your subsequent post, but THANK you for pointing this out. I hadn’t actually done a ton of research on it, just knew that it happened and was a good illustration of “homeostatis”. I’m sure many people have created new lives out of winning the lottery and thriving.
    I want to read your book! Sounds great!

  • Sonya Derian

    No, I didn’t bring my clogs but the funny thing was, when I had a breakdown in my room and called my neighbor, he said to me “Well, did you at least bring your clogs with you?” because he knew how much they were a power totem for me. And then he offered to FEDEX them to me. LOL!! But I had my big girl pants on, so I handled a whole week without them :-) (won’t do it again though!)

  • Sonya Derian

    I’m so glad to know how we are all in this together! I’m glad it inspired you.

    Just remember that every fear overcome is a freedom gained. And go with baby steps :-)

  • http://twitter.com/TimBrownson Tim Brownson

    Sonya, if you shoot me an e-mail to tim at a daring adventure dot com, I’d be happy to send you a copy.

  • Starndardpro

    This came to me at an awesome time….I’ve just been perplexed about this very topic lately. Thank you so much.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/christian.steiauf Christian Steiauf

    Wonderful post – love it, thank you so much! Room to move – GO and discover! Widen your view and listen to the inner self.

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  • Cris

    Hi Sonya,

    wonderful post! I just received an email about an hour ago asking me to be a speaker. I spent a few minutes thinking if I really wanted to do it. I decided to do it and just sent a confirmation email. Then I saw this in my inbox. Talk about timing! Reading this article just made me feel good about my decision to go ahead with the talk.

    I especially liked this part and it made me nod while reading :)

    Now that I’ve done it, I will never, in that setting, be uncomfortable again. I don’t have to play in that environment if I don’t want to, but I will no longer be intimidated by it either. The choice will be mine.

    Thanks and much blessings to you :)

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