How many of us experience new situations every day and, as a result, feel like crap? How many then try to avoid such situations so they wont experience these feelings ever again?
Let me be more explicit.
Whenever you do something you never did before (like exploring a new social circle, learning coding, having sex for the first time, getting a new job, giving a speech, relocating to a new city, getting on a diet for the first time, quitting smoking, etc) you’ll have a great (if not immense) feeling of discomfort.
The Curse of the Comfort Zone
This is a change process and it makes you wanna crawl back into your comfort zone. What does this infernal comfort zone have that it makes us feel so safe inside it?
It’s got protection; that kind of protecting from new feelings (either good or bad). You feel so great in your comfort zone because you’re familiar with almost all possible scenarios that can take place inside it.
Why should I try expanding my social circle and meet new people and possibly feel awkward when I can just be plain ol’ me and stick with my old circle of friends and acquaintances?
It’s probably because the same new people that you meet and can make you feel awkward can also unravel new opportunities within your life. It’s a game of chance.
Why should I invest my time and money in a new business that I can fail at and feel so miserable because of the humility it will bring with it?
Because besides failing you can hit a sweet spot and make it big. However, this also implies perseverance and intelligent input. Again, it’s a game of chance.
Most likely you will stick to your comfort zone because it tends to be more powerful than your desires and your will power.
Here’s the interesting part. Hope I haven’t lost you so far.
Your Net Worth
Your brain is made of approximately 100 billion neurons, among other things. It’s this big -> 100,000,000,000 neurons.
Some of these neurons group together (connect with each other) to make up for the behavior you have in a certain situation. Some others group together to create a certain skill of yours, such as: fast typing at the computer, being a good chef, or being an excellent car driver.
Say that neurons A,B,C,D,E,K and P are grouped together to create your driving skill.
I assume that in reality you know that the actual number of neurons and regions of the brain connected to each other for this purpose are much greater.
But to make things simpler and easier to grasp, let’s just focus on the particular situation from above. Let’s assume you have obtained your driver’s license 8 years ago. Throughout this whole time you’ve built and constantly reinforced the connections between these neurons (A,B,C,D,E,K and P).
Now let’s assume you’d want to become an F1 Race Driver. Hence, you take your car keys and drive to the F1 Pilot’s Training Center. It’s your first day of training. You feel completely disoriented because many things and concepts that you know about driving just don’t apply here, while some of them do.
The speed you have to drive is several times bigger, your F1 pilot panel is totally different from your 10 years old Toyota, the racing track has a lot of curves, and so on.
According to Dr. Joe Dispenza this is when your brain gets overwhelmed by new input and so many different sensations. Your whole body chemistry is disturbed. Hence the general feeling of discomfort.
You may try to desperately apply the concepts you know about driving (as much as they can be applied) but you find yourself in a situation where you feel helpless. There’s too much going on.
Inside your brain new connections are created between neurons. Some of the neurons may connect to your “driver skill” network of neurons (A,B,C,D,E,K and P) because some of the concepts of F1 racing are valid in the general context of driving (which you already master).
If you’re too overwhelmed by the first experience and if your comfort zone is more powerful than you, you’ll never want to do this again. You’ll even create connections between neurons that will give you a negative sensation (feeling) about the whole F1 thing, which will reinforce on your decision of not doing it ever again.
At this point I would validate Porter Gale’s saying: “Your network is your net worth.” (ClicktoTweet).
Reinforce on the Pathway
In case you hold yourself together and try to bypass the feelings of discomfort, you need to be aware that it will take some time until the new connections between neurons are “stable”. You’ll have to constantly reinforce on these connection (through repeated practice) to make them stronger.
If you give it enough time, these connections will be powerful enough that the feeling of discomfort will go away. This way you’ve basically extended your comfort zone. And you’ve not only added the F1 Driving Skill to it, but also other related and unrelated concept, feelings, and experiences that you’ve been through in the process of mastering this skill. Here’s an illustration:
I’ve been passing through such experiences quite often in the recent years. For example, I’ve been trying to learn web development by programming a tool that I can use for myself. Since I never coded in PHP before, I got overwhelmed by the load of new information that flooded my brain.
Yet I pushed through and got started. I wrote a few lines of code and then I got stuck. It literally took me more than a week to get to the next line of code, as I tried dozens of versions of code that none of them worked.
When I figured it out after a week, I realized that I knew much more than that single line of code because during the whole process I’ve read here and there about all possible solutions and about different concepts which all made me be more familiar with this PHP programming language.
Several weeks later I got the first draft version of the tool and I can say that it works to its desired purpose. It’s basically a simple tool that keeps me in touch with all the people I’m following by reading their blogs. It displays (on a single page) whether or not all the blogs that I’m following (~12 blogs) have new content. It saves me a lot of time because I don’t have to manually go to each blog and check whether or not something new is posted.
Bottom line is that I wanted to emphasize on the fact that it’s normal (both psychologically and physiologically) to feel discomfort and freak out when facing new and unfamiliar stimuli (situations).
Your brain requires time to create new connections. Then, it’s up to you to reinforce on these connections (through practice) to make them become your powerful new skill, habit, or trait of behavior.
You need to find the power to overwrite on the immediate need to return and isolate yourself into the comfort zone.
My suggestion is to push yourself into trying and learning new things every day. Dive into the unfamiliar and move away from the routine. You’ll deeply enrich your life with new skills, experiences, and wonderful people. It’s something so amazing and rewarding that it’s a pity not trying it.
Can you identify with what I’ve been discussing above? Are you able to bypass the boundaries of the comfort zone and its endless attempts to drive you back in as soon as you’re able to move out of it? Tell me a particular situation that you’ve struggled or you’re currently struggling with and I’ll do my best to help you.
Talk to me in either of the comment sections below.
1. Dr. Joe Dispenza – Evolve your Brain: The Science of Changing your Mind
2. Dr. Daniel Amen – Change your Brain, Change your Life – The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness