I’ve had a Bodyline week, except with none of Bradman’s finesse: challenges and opportunities have been hurtling towards me at 150kph and all I’ve been able to do is swing wildly at them, hoping they didn’t conk me on the head. But still: I swung, all the while wondering what was happening to my comfort zone.
One of the things I have learned in my work with the iWAM and the LAB profile, which are psycholinguistic tools, is that yes, we invented language, but the kicker is that language also invents us. Either one of those things is, when you stop to think about it, remarkable; that both exist is mind-boggling.
Steven Pinker tells us that “language is not so much a creator or shaper of human nature, so much as a window onto human nature.” I’m not about to argue with Steven Pinker, but words have tremendous impact on us. We have a kind of symbiotic relationship with language. We inform it, and it informs us. Even the simplest words can affect us profoundly. They can even change us.
So back to my Bodyline week.
What does the term “comfort zone” mean to you? A quick experiment with Google tells us that most people want to get out of it:
As does my stock photo provider when I type in “comfort zone” in the search bar:
Nothing good, it seems, is to be found in our comfort zones.
Except that it is. You know it is, deep down. And this is the reason why, as soon as someone says, “I’ve gotta get out of my comfort zone!” they have just shot themselves in the foot. Their nonconscious (or subconscious, or unconscious if that’s more your bent) is going to make sure they stay put – or at least come back to that comfort zone eventually.
Our nonconscious intimately knows all the good stuff that’s in our comfort zone. Loved ones. Hobbies and interests. Places. Traditions. Mashed potato and gravy on Sundays. Stuff too good to leave behind.
So if you decide that you’re going to leave it behind, you’d better believe that a part of you is going to put up a fight.
And how do you fight your nonconscious? You don’t. You work with it, because ultimately, your nonconscious mind is 100% busy serving what it thinks is in your best interest. The key in getting it to work with your conscious self is in the language you use. If you need to make a change, to take a risk, to try new – possibly scary – things, instead of saying that you’ve gotta get out of your comfort zone, try saying something like this: “I’m going to expand my comfort zone!”
Expanding instead of exiting. Immediately you have exchanged language of exclusion and abandonment for language of inclusion, stability, and plenty. And if you don’t believe that such a small change can make a big difference, try saying both out loud. Which one feels better? Which one do you think you can actually, truly, work with?
Maybe there are things in your comfort zone that you could really do without. Should you talk about leaving your comfort zone then? Well, let me ask you this: if you had a really crappy boarder staying at your house, would you abandon your home? I mean really: is this your best or only choice? Unless you’re some sort of patsy, I say an eviction is well and truly in order, and instead propose something like, “I’m going to get smoking/procrastinating/dead end jobs out of my comfort zone”. Sorted. It’s your comfort zone, dammit, and there’s no reason why you should have anything there that makes you feel as though you should get away.
And that’s it. Subtle language changes, huge impact.
Next time you need to take a few swings at life, choose the words that work with you rather than against you. Then swing wide. There’s plenty of room.