Let’s talk about your comfort zone. That space you know intimately; that zone where you’re comfortable, safe, and there are absolutely no risks involved. You know it, right?
That space you reside in that’s comfortable; where you’re living in a place that’s ‘okay’; that space where you’re not really developing, you’re not moving forward, you’re not learning to face challenges, you’re not growing in strength and resilience or determination. That’s the space you know.
Outside that space is your stretch zone. That space that will be slightly uncomfortable, but it’s a wonder for exploration and adventure. It’s a place where you can grow and develop and expand in heart, mind, spirituality, and your physical being. That place stretches you, unlike your comfort zone which can actually shrink you a little (or a lot!).
The reason we’re talking about the comfort zone today is because I want you to recognise that Allah has created us for us to work towards excellence, in every realm of our lives. He wants for us to be more than ‘okay’ and ‘not bad’. When we’re in that place where we’re simply ‘okay’ and ‘not bad’, we’re not really growing; we’re not moving forward.
In order to attain that space of excellence that you seek and want for yourself, it requires you to step out from simply being ‘okay’ or ‘not bad’. Allah wants better for you. So the question is: How much do you want better for yourself?
The things you most desire are outside your comfort zone; they’re in your stretch zone. There’s a difference between your stretch zone and your ‘oh my God, I think I’m going to pass out and panic!’ zone. Often, when people think of stepping outside of their comfort zone, they think that they immediately have to go into a state of panic. No. Your stretch zone is that beautiful place that stretched you a little bit, but not too far; and this is the space that I invite you to explore stepping into.
It’s really important that in the process of stepping out of your comfort zone, you listen to yourself so you avoid stretching yourself to the point where you are freaking out. You know, where you are panicking and then simply just shrink.
Neil Walch said,
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,”
and truly the goodness, the spark, and the sparkle are all at the edge of your comfort zone. And it’s important to note that could be different things for different people, and can be in different realms of your life, so you can think of your spiritual self, your physical realm, your relationships, your career, or your hobbies. It applies to different areas of your life. Your comfort zone can be expanded upon in different areas of your life; and in order to do so, I’ve got five ways for you to take those steps.
#1 Recognise what your comfort zone is
If you’re not even sure what you’re comfortable with, then how are you going to move out of that space of comfort? Remember, your comfort zone is almost like a bubble that encompasses you; and outside of that, you’ve got your stretch zone; and then further out, you’ve got a space which could be called the panic zone, the scream zone, or the ‘oh my goodness, get me out of here!’ zone — that’s the place we want to avoid.
The place you do want to go into is one that stretches you that little bit, it a little uncomfortable, but not painful. So you want to recognise what your comfort zone is and what lies outside of it. The things that lie just outside the comfort zone, those are the things you want to recognise as they’re the things that’ll help you grow, help you develop, and help you learn so much about yourself and the world and life.
#2 Know what you want to do in your stretch zone
So, you recognise what your comfort zone is and what lies outside of it in your stretch zone, and so now it’s kind of like, okay… what do I want to do? What do I want to achieve? What do I want to get by stretching myself a little bit more? Where do I wanna be? Where do I wanna go?
The beauty of this is that you give yourself a point of direction and a sense of forward movement rather than just mindlessly saying, “Okay, I’m going into my stretch zone and outside of my comfort zone,” and then you enter a space where you freak out and then you just shrink back into your comfort zone and tell yourself you’re never going to do that again!
Know exactly what you want to do. I’m all about intentional purpose, and this is part of the process of being intentional in your actions.
#3 Develop a purpose and mission for your stepping out
You know what you want and you know the outcome; so, what is the real purpose of you stepping out of your comfort zone?
Let’s imagine I want to be able to bungee jump — really I don’t, but let’s roll with this example — and the purpose of doing that is to face my fear of heights. I’d have the outcome and the action I want to take (the ‘what’) and now I know the purpose behind doing the action (the ‘why’). Rather than just mindlessly telling yourself, ‘Oh, I’m going to do some public speaking,’ without knowing what you’re going to get out of it, you want to have a purpose so you know you’re working towards something very specific.
A specific outcome with an intentional purpose behind it — beautiful!
#4 Seek Allah’s guidance and counsel
This is through the istikhara prayer and really placing it before Him. So you’ve aligned with what you want — you know the outcome and you know the intention, the purpose, and the mission — now you place it before the One Who knows you better than you know yourself; Who created and fashioned you; Who can give you all the blessings, guidance, and support you need in order to make it happen and make it easy for you.
If it’s truly not the best thing for you or the place you need to be, you’ll move away from that and He’ll place you where you need to be. That’s the beauty of salatul-istikhara.
#5 Decide on your first action
What’s the first action you’re going to take that will allow you to dip your toe ever so slightly out of that comfort zone in a way that will diminish any kind of panic or resistance you may have? A small action that will allow you to actually realise how it’s so much easier than you thought. That’s where you want to be, and it starts by taking that very small first step.
So if, for you, it’s public speaking that you want to get into, but it seems daunting to stand in front of a crowd of people, you could organise a tea party at your house with very close friends you trust and love, and decide to do a 5-minute presentation with them; or maybe you could all bring something to present to each other, and that would be your very first step into your stretch zone and out of your comfort zone. You’ll find such a small step to be highly rewarding and will leave you feeling great and eager to go forward, and that’s exactly what you want.
Remember, it’s not about going into panic mode and being scared stiff; it’s really about taking those little steps that will make massive differences for you. And, you can, and I’m pretty sure you will.