Is Your Comfort Zone A Bit Too Comfortable?

An image of a person wrapped up in a comfy duvet

There’s no better feeling than being all cozy and comfortable, is there? But is your comfort zone a bit too comfortable?

I’ve been talking about challenge this month, as it’s an appropriate theme if you are looking for personal development. Because all of our growth comes through some form of challenge.

But sometimes we’re all good where we are.

Particularly if you’ve been through a rough time already. Maybe external events have taken the stuffing out of you. And goodness knows, we’ve all had our share of that.

In fact, we need some time to recalibrate and catch up with ourselves. Assimilate the learning, if you like.

And it can feel good to just relax and enjoy living for a while, without the stress of having to ‘do’ or ‘be’.

But it’s very tempting when we get into this state, to stay there. And the longer we do, the more difficult it can be to change.

If we’re not used to getting out of our comfort zone every now and then, we can become prone to not trying. We start to experience doubts about our ability. The fear kicks in. We may even actively avoid situations that we know will make us uncomfortable.

We might develop behaviours that we think are keeping us safe. But in fact, these may lead us to avoid taking any action. And because our fears aren’t being tested, we fuel the unhelpful thoughts that keep us stuck.

Have a think about the last time you took on a new challenge.

  • Was it by choice, or did it feel forced?
  • How did you feel before you started? Were you excited about the new opportunity, or did you feel some resistance?
  • How did you feel once you got going? Did it feel better or worse than you expected?
  • Are you more or less likely to take on another challenge now?

We will experience different challenges in different ways. And some will be more welcome than others.

The key is to find a balance between feeling comfortable, whilst still choosing to stretch ourselves.

Next time, I’ll be sharing some ideas of how we can introduce challenge in a more comfortable way, if you need a little nudge out of your comfort zone!

 

Photo credit: Tracey Hocking on Unsplash

When Does A Challenge Become A Problem?

A small child stands at the bottom of a staircase

We all know that in order to grow, we need to do things we haven’t done before, or that we’re not entirely comfortable with.  But when does a challenge become a problem? And what’s the difference between the two?

Often when we’re faced with a challenge, we see it as a barrier or a problem which is going to stop us moving forwards.  If we’re setting out to achieve a goal, then we’ve usually planned our route and have an idea of where we want to be to, and how we’re going to get there.

But things are rarely that straightforward.  Life happens, and other things get in the way. We might need to make a detour, or rethink our plans.

This much is fairly inevitable.  Think about some of the biggest achievements that you’ve experienced.  Would to say it was an easy and effortless journey?  Or did you need to make some adjustments?

And when you think about that achievement, would it have still felt as special if you hadn’t been tested, or overcome things that you encountered on the way?  I’m guessing not.

And if you have had an experience like this, then it may well have changed your opinion about how you feel about challenges.  Because the more challenges we experience and overcome, the more confident we feel about starting new things.

And we are far more likely to appreciate those things we had to work for, than those which didn’t take as much effort.

But what about problems?  A problem is also something that can cause a barrier or blockage in our progress.  But the real difference between a challenge and a problem is our mindset towards it.

Often when we’re faced with something we perceive to be a problem, we become far more despondent about it.  A problem can involve situations or issues which are outside of our control, as opposed to a challenge which might be calling on us to stretch our own abilities.

Or perhaps we have become so rigid in our thinking that we struggle to see a way around the problem, because we’re lacking in the creativity we need to change course.

When we are active participants in our self development, then challenges are vital in providing us with opportunities to develop new skills and build our inner strength.  It also helps us to be a more open thinker, and helps us to consider the various routes to meeting an outcome, rather than focusing on one sole possibility.

If you find that you get easily put off when things don’t go to plan, or you find it difficult to see how you can overcome issues, then taking some steps introduce challenges into your life can help you to work on growing your confidence.

The more we seek to actively welcome challenges, the more used to them we become.  And we become more aware of our limitations and our potential.

Be willing to take that first step and embrace challenge, and you’ll gain far more than you could by staying where you are.

Photo credit: Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

Energy zappers – and how to deal with them

Image of an overwhelmed person

Energy zappers.  We’ve all experienced them, but how can we deal with them?

Energy is expressed and felt through our emotions and our choices, and it is affected by how we fuel ourselves – physically and mentally.  And so, the way in which we fuel ourselves will affect the energy that we feel.

Fuel goes in, energy comes out.

If we don’t have enough fuel, or when don’t have the right kind of fuel – e.g., its toxic, unfulfilling, harmful even, then obviously our energy is going to be negatively affected by that.

There are a number of things which can influence our energy, and generally these can be broken down into internal and external factors.

We are probably all well aware of the effect that too much low-nutrient foods or alcohol or late nights have on us. We feel sluggish and dull afterwards.

But there are also some less obvious influences that we might not be giving a lot of thought to.

Outside influences

One of the most important influences on our energy is the environment we spend our time in. 

This includes how we live, who we live with, where we spend most of our time and who we spend the most time with.  And if this is an environment that isn’t supporting our wellbeing and growth, then our energy will suffer.

And we might not feel as though we have a great deal of choice – especially if we’re in a job or a family situation which is causing an imbalance.  We may well know that we’re in an unhappy or unfulfilling situation that we know isn’t helping us, but it’s not always as easy to get out of them.

But we can try and be more conscious of the effect the situation is having, and try and minimise how much we are affected by it.  You might want to ask yourself:  Are there situations in my life now where I feel ‘less than’, not good enough, or on edge?  Do you notice that you’re changing how you present yourself so that you fit in?  Do you feel that you can’t be yourself around certain people?

Noticing how our energy shifts, for better or worse, when we’re in situations and around particular people can be really telling.

Of course, every relationship that we have with another person will involve give and take.  There will be times when another person needs our support and their needs will take priority, and vice versa.   The whole point of inviting people into your life is to share experiences and support each other.

But when a relationship or friendship feels as though it’s only ever one-way traffic, or the conversation is often negative, then we need to ask ourselves whether this is the right fit for us.  If the other person is blinkered to what is going on with you, how you are feeling, what you’re excited/worried/nervous about, and the focus is only ever about them, then that’s a good indicator of where the energy isn’t balanced.

I’m sure we can all recognise times when we’ve felt like that, whether we’re experiencing it now or not, but when this type of situation goes on for some time, it is so draining.

And it will have a big impact on our confidence, our motivation and it will become really challenging to change, the longer it goes on.

But there are also things that we can do ourselves to make sure that we fuel our body and mind with enough of the good stuff, to counteract what comes at us from outside.

Healthy inside

We all know what energy feels like within our own bodies.  We know when we feel happy, excited, raring to go.  And we also know when we feel depleted, tired and lethargic.

Our bodies are finely tuned machines – and they have an in-built alarm system to tell us when something is out of whack.   Listen to your body and what it is telling you…if it needs rest, better nutrition, hydration, it will let you know.   And it will keep letting you know until you listen to it, usually!

It is really difficult to give our best efforts with something, or even just go about our daily tasks if we have consistently low energy.

But it’s not just about our physical wellbeing. We also need to be aware of our mental fuel.

One of the biggest energy drains on our mental health these days is social media.  Love it or hate it, the messages and energy we consume by watching other people living their lives is immense.

And it can affect even the most grounded of people.

We all have insecurities and self-doubt, but these can become magnified when we flood our brain with images of other people. We imagine other lives we could be living, or worry about things we ‘should’ be doing.  The comparison trap is one of the most harmful things to fall into – we compare how we look or what our life looks like, with images that are carefully curated and filtered and well, fake. We trick ourselves into believing they are real, and it’s so easy to start comparing ourselves against impossible perceived benchmarks.

If social media and FOMO is something that triggers you, then try and limit the amount of time you expose yourself to.  Have allocated time for a digital detox – set an alarm or limit on your app. Or switch your phone off completely, and put it in a drawer for a while.  (If this idea brings you out in a cold sweat, then it’s a good indication you might just benefit from it!).

And there are a range of other negative emotions that, if left unchecked, will drain our energy. There are the obvious ones such as anger, resentment, or regret, that may have stemmed from a specific experience, but there are also the more subconscious ones like fear, uncertainty, or jealousy.

Listen to what your emotions are telling you.  Where are they holding you back?  What are you missing out on or avoiding?  We may feel triggered in certain situations, or by people, without knowing why.

In summary, our energy isn’t just something that we need to function and progress, we can also influence how much of it we have.  By identifying such energy zappers and being aware of what we are consuming, physically and mentally, and when we are feeling triggered, we can start to bring more balance.

And in next week’s post, I’ll be switching the focus to looking at how we can bring better energy to our interactions, so stay tuned for more.

Photo credit: Luis Villasmil on Unsplash.com

Do You Live Life On Purpose?

A man holding a compass indicating living with purpose

Often we float throughout days without ever asking ourselves this question – do you live life on purpose?

To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I asked myself that question.  I have certain goals and ambitions that I’m working towards, which gives me a framework of activity and tasks that I choose to do.

And then there’s the day to day mundane stuff that we ‘have to do’.

But what if we actively chose to live more purposefully.  Said yes to more of the things that we truly desire. And said no to the things that zap our energy.

Living with purpose is something you hear a lot about right now, and sometimes it can be framed as though having a ‘purpose’ is this elusive thing that we must strive for.  But what if it just meant living with a bit more clarity and direction?

To what extent can we really live with purpose?

And ultimately, how much freedom do we actually have in choosing how we spend our time, in reality.

Do we have total control over how we spend our time, or are there other factors, such as responsibility and duties, that other people rely on us for?

But there are lots of ways in which we can bring purpose, both in what we do and how we choose to do it.

Free resources

I’ll be exploring the theme of purpose this month, so stay tuned to the blog and podcast for more.

And for this month’s newsletter, I’ve created a free mini guide on ‘How To Live Life With Purpose’, if this is an area you’d like to explore more.  Sign up to the newsletter here to receive your copy by email.

 

Photo credit:  Jamie Street on Unsplash

Can we benefit from having a neutral mindset?

So far in this month of March Mindset Matters, we’ve looked at the most commonly known traits of the fixed or growth mindset.  Maybe you have recognised where you tend to naturally sit within these.   But are there any other alternatives? And can we benefit from having a neutral mindset?

When it comes to our personal growth, we know that our mindset can have a huge effect on how we approach life.   And we know that having a growth mindset, and actively seeking out new experiences can help us to keep learning.

We’ve also seen how having a fixed mindset can be detrimental to our personal development, and how it can hold us back.  But if we are ‘go go go’ all the time in a growth mindset phase, we may be missing out on the most important bit.  And that is ‘learning’.

I would suggest that sometimes it can be helpful to slip into neutral and do nothing.  To wait and see. Or at least assimilate what we have learned.  Can we really benefit from having a neutral mindset?

In order for us to grow and develop, we need to try new things, or take on new experiences or challenges.  Sometimes we’ll be successful and sometimes we won’t, but either way the experience will have taught us some key things.  What went well, what didn’t go so well, what would I repeat next time, what would I do differently next time.   And in order to assimilate and understand, we need a period of rest and reflection, so that learning can then ‘bed in’.

Likewise, if we are full steam ahead on a particular goal or target, we need to pause along the way and check in with our progress.  This helps us recognise how far we’ve come (along with ‘what’s working/what isn’t’) but also to check that where we are heading is still in the right direction.

We need to assess whether what we are doing is going to get us to where we want to be.  Or maybe where we want to be has changed.

A motivational quote about personal growth

How can a neutral mindset help me?

A journey of personal growth might just open up new goals that we hadn’t previously thought possible.  And as we prove to ourselves what we are capable of, and we develop new skills, we build the confidence to think bigger.

Time for self reflection is crucial to allowing this process to happen.  And of course, we need rest to recharge our batteries.

But what if I feel guilty for taking a rest

The idea of rest is a tricky one for some people. If you’re used to being on the go, slowing down or coming to a halt, can feel as though you’re missing out. Or worse, being lazy. But this is far from it.

Our bodies, and especially our minds, need rest to make sense of what’s going on and to regenerate, so if you’re finding it difficult to allow yourself permission, try reframing it as a period of review or reflection instead, to consolidate your learning!

So if you’re on a journey of growth and you’re feeling a little jaded or foggy about where you’re going next, try slipping into neutral for a while.

For more discussion on monthly themes of personal growth, follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/startalittlefire  or check out my podcast, Sunday Night Motivation.

 

Photo credit:   Alok Sharma on Unsplash

Is procrastination really the thief of time?

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I happened to notice that today is “Fight Procrastination Day”.  That’s a great topic for a post I thought…if only I could get round to writing something.  I jest of course!

But it did get me thinking – has procrastination become a bad word?  The idea of nominating a day in which we all dress up as superheroes to wrestle with our wandering minds and distractions left me a bit confused.  It’s like when you were a child at school and were told to stop staring out of the window and daydreaming (that’s a whole other blog post!).

Procrastination is often seen as coping mechanism which we use to avoid (consciously or unconsciously) events or actions which we perceive to be challenging.  We’ve all experienced it – knowing we need to make an important phone call but we keep putting it off, or needing to meet a deadline but we can’t get started.  Often it is because we are focussing on the possible outcomes and we start to project our fears onto how it may play out…what if I give my opinion and they don’t like it, what if I submit this work and it’s not good enough.  It can become problematic when we repeatedly avoid or delay situations by giving in to those fears.  It can affect how other people view us, and it also leads to greater frustration and doubt within ourselves.

But I also think that procrastination can be helpful. It’s like having an inner alarm that sounds when we are about to do something new, and makes us that little bit more cautious.  When we have something that is really important to us, taking that pause to think about what we are going to do, and considering it’s possible implications can be a good thing.  Listening to those fears can highlight where we need to do a little more preparation or learning, which can in turn increase our confidence.  It can stop us going gung-ho into situations and not giving it our best attention or efforts.  And it can also help flag up when we are getting into something that we might not be entirely on board with.  Often in these fast paced times, we do things on autopilot, and have little time to sit and reflect and think, actually is this job/relationship/whatever making me happy?

Whoever said ‘procrastination is the thief of time’ may well have been on to something…but spending time on something which isn’t truly meant for you, can be equally as wasted.

Photo credit:  TK Hammonds via Unsplash