Be Playful

Breaking the edges of comfort

Posted on: 2 June 2008

In which Nietzsche is quoted in a subheading.

When playing, children push at the boundaries of who they are, learn new skills, and develop their imagination. Becoming an adult, it is possible to lose sight of the need to try new things, to break out of one’s comfort zone once in a while.

island-hopping
Photo by quarxdmz.

To be playful, I think it is vital to keep pushing at the edges of your comfort zone.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

If you’ve ever done any fitness training you’ll know that it hurts. To increase your fitness, you have to push your muscles beyond what they are comfortable with. When you train properly, you actually tear your muscles slightly, allowing them to grow back bigger and stronger as they repair themselves.

Most people, exercising or not, manage to maintain a stable level of muscle. This is because the activity they do pushes their muscles to the max without actually breaking them, keeping the same amount of muscle. Of course, if you start being less active, your muscle level decreases.

Pushing at the edges

bubbles
Photo by bubble gum.

I think that life is like this. When we are healthy, pursuing our dreams, living on the edge of our comfort zone, pushing at the boundaries, then our dreams get bigger, the boundary line of our comfort zone moves further out, and we become more fully alive.

It is easy to stop this pushing, to escape the pain, to live in a state of gradual decline rather than straining forwards. This is when we forget our dreams, when we allow ourselves to be swept away on the ocean of life, drifting on a calm sea, maybe after being shook up and misdirected by a storm.

There are also times in my life when I have allowed my comfort zone to shrink. Ironically, this was by seeking comfort, by only allowing myself to do the things I was most comfortable doing, to live in the places I was most comfortable being. The more I pursued this comfort, the less comfortable I felt, within my being, and with the world outside.

This reminds me of a poem by William Blake:

He who binds himself to a joy
Doth the winged life destroy.
He who kisses the joy as it flies,
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

A health warning

Health warning: just like doing too much training can actually damage your muscles, pushing out of your comfort zone too far or too frequently is likely to leave you feeling drained and not wanting to challenge yourself again.

Expanding your comfort zone is a bit like fitness training – you need time to rest and recoup. Remember to have days off to relax!

Your Thoughts

Do you think that it is important to break out of your comfort zone?

What do you do to ensure that your comfort zone isn’t shrinking?

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20 Responses to "Breaking the edges of comfort"

This is a very inspiring post to me and an important one! It really is in the balance of pushing that comfort zone in just the right amount- not too much- not too little that is hard for me to figure out.
I suffer from a combination of fibromialgia and and abundance of enthusiasm! So whenever I get an idea to do something new I have to resist the idea of jumping in with two feet and doing too much or my body fights back…HARD! But…if I stay where it feels *good* I get out of shape FAST. It’s tricky to get it right. But I always have to keep working at it. Remembering to do it in the spirit of playing makes it more fun.
It’s a nice day here today. I think I’ll go ride my bike!

Excellent post!
I spent about ten years trapped inside Agoraphobia and that is all about being afraid to venture out of your comfort zone. I had to learn that a comfort zone has its place in life but it should actually be a very small place.
Thank you for the wisdom.

Hi David,

Great question. When I got into blogging I broke out of my comfort zone. As I visit more blogs, comment more and join/participate in social networking my comfort zone enlarges. It’s been a great experience and one that has taught me more about myself.

In my experience if you take small and easy steps you get there quicker and learn more.

Dealing with anxiety is a distraction from learning.

I know this goes against the prevailing wisdom – but it is my experience. Happy to dialogue about this: I think it is quite important.

That is like what i have done with my art, whenever I get to a point where i could ‘sell out’ and just coast along doing one style over and over I try to do something more challenging. 🙂

Darren,

I wish there were lots more artists like you in the world.

David,

Very thoughtful post. My comfort zone was a good pay and benefit with GE where I worked for so long. I had to gather courage to get our of that zone to embark a business path on my own. Im glad that I made that decision.

Shilpan

Really love the poem!

Wendi,
Thanks for the comment and for teaching me a new word! I find it easy to leap into new projects too, then find myself exhausted and needing to give up some things. I’m learning to say no these days, but it’s always tempting to jump at every opportunity.

Traveler,
It really is new-vocablary-arama here today, another new word! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’d be interested to know more about how having a small comfort zone can be good. If your comfort zone is always small, then you are always pushing boundaries and heading out on an adventure. That can be no bad thing.

Barbara,
Blogging has helped me push out of another comfort zone too. At the moment, I have to sit myself down to write every blog post. Once I start writing, I really enjoy it. I hope there comes a time when I just have the desire to sit down and start writing, and don’t have to force myself to do it.

Evan,
Thanks for visiting and commenting. I completely agree with you on the small steps – see my Change Your Life With Kaizen blog post.

In my life I’ve had to deal with my anxiety in order to learn, and that has been part of the learning process. I’d love to hear more about your experiences. Thank you for your affirmation of Darren, he really is a great artist isn’t he?

Darren,
When you write about your art it almost always reminds me of my writing, and life in general. Selling out is such an easy thing to do, each day I must remind myself of my dreams, my values and my purpose.

Shilpan,
I’m really glad that you made that decision too, and that you are sharing the wisdom you found in that decision with everyone on your blog.

Hiranya,
Me too! I’m glad you like it. If you haven’t before, you should check out William Blake sometime, he writes a lot about childhood and being childlike.

David, I think this is perhaps one of your best blog posts yet, and it is extremely relevant to me just now. I found it really helpful and inspiring, thankyou.

I haven’t lost that urge to stick my neck out and try new things. In fact, I just finished recovering from crashing my blog at Transforming Stress earlier today. It’s back to normal,now, and I learned a few more things in the process. I can’t imagine living any other way.

Thanks for the great post. 🙂

Siona,
I’m glad that you found this post inspiring and helpful 🙂

Jean,
I love the new look on your blog, I wish I had your courage to experiment with CSS! I can’t imagine not living playfully either, yet so often I forget to.

I started to post something, but it felt like I was leaving my comfort zone and I didn’t! Since that is the topic, I decided to leave a note saying this struck home and it has stuck with me enough to make me come back and post.

Excellent post and comments!

I used to be afraid to step out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t simply a change it but also my fear of failure .
Thank goodness, I stopped being afraid. I don’t generally like to put a link in a comment…seems sort of intrusive to me. Yet, I think you will like a previous post of mine on this very subject. I will warn you I have an abbreviated curse word in it…not sure how you feel about that. :O ‘Tis very much about a connection we share “MAGIC!” So here’s the link if you wish to take a peek sometime:

http://island11.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/seeking-magic-beyond-the-door/

Thank you for your positive inspiring words!

Kat,
I’m glad it struck home, and thank you for coming back to post and let me know. How is expanding your comfort zone going?

Gypsy-Heart,
I’m often afraid of failure too – which is why I get scared to start projects, and sometimes scared to finish them. It makes my blog interesting, because it is never finished, always a work in progress.

Thank you for the link, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

I love this post. I will be homeschooling my children next year and I think it is important to see life on their level and that includes letting go of self consciousness and perhaps pushing the comfort zone a little further in order to see the world as a child does.
One thing I am really looking forward to doing is playing like a kid again with them. I can’t wait.
thanks for a great site,
Lune.

Beautifully said. Do you mind if I link to it from my blog?

Lune,
Thanks for stopping by to comment. I’m glad you found this post helpful, and wish you all the best homeschooling your children.

I’m blessed with sisters who are a lot younger than myself, so I’ve not yet found a time to stop playing.

Elaine,
Thank you. I would be honoured if you linked from your blog.

I have to break out of several bouts with stagnation in my life. Life is always is always throwing things at you, that were never expected anyway. If you are not growing and learning life can get really boring and then that can lead to depression and all kinds of other things that go along with that

[…] make me feel comfortable and what spaces make me feel awkward or scared because it means I can push the boundaries of comfort out a little further, expanding the space that energises […]

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