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COMFORTABLY UNCOMFORTABLE
(Published: 2013-10-29)

We had our first snow flurries of the season here in Minnesota this week, and I made my annual meatloaf and mashed potato dinner. The two events go hand in hand. This got me thinking about the meaning of comfort, settling in, and comfort zones. As humans, we’re programmed to relax into the assurance of familiar patterns, become complacent, and stop taking risks. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. Or is there?

Looking back over the course of history, you’ll see that some of the best innovations occurred because someone was uncomfortable, literally or figuratively, with the status quo. In other words, discomfort is often a precursor to progress.

I think that the magic of life usually happens outside of our comfort zones. That’s because there’s very little room for adventure and excitement in that comfortable and familiar place. Ruts are easy to fall into, habits are hard to change, and a comfort zone is very, well….comforting. A famous French writer once observed: “there are people whose clocks stop at a certain point in their lives.”

Is your clock still ticking, or could you use a rewind? One way to tell is if you haven’t felt uncomfortable lately. When was the last time you found yourself stalled at the intersection of the known and the unknown? That’s where the uncomfortable moments in life tend to arise. When that happens, do you always set your sights on the known?

The writer designer Debbie Millman has some great advice for when we get to that intersection: “Look both ways.” Sounds simple, but that advice is sublime. You may ultimately choose to avoid the unknown, but at least you will be making a choice. That’s better than just barreling through on cruise control.

Here are a few suggestions to help you step out of your comfort zone:

1. Give yourself a break. Forget trying to be perfect, put yourself out there, be a little silly. Learn to laugh a little at yourself when things go unexpectedly.

2. Practice non-attachment. When you decide to do something, do it for its own sake, not just for a particular result. Worry a little less about what others think. Focus on the joy of doing what you’re doing, and live in the moment.

3. Learn to accept the inevitable with a little grace. Things won’t always go the way you expect. When they don’t, shrug it off. The world is not meant to be a safe, predictable place. That would be SO boring.

4. Face the fear and embrace the unknown. When is the last time you felt excited about not knowing what was going to happen next? The mixture of anticipation and anxiety that makes your heart flutter and stomach turn at the same time is a good kind of discomfort.

5. Write a letter yourself to be opened 1 year from now. Commit to doing 5 things that you would not normally do…things that feel different, unnerving, challenging, or uncomfortable. In the letter tell yourself what a wonderful year you had and how it enriched your life. Then go do them.

It’s never too late to rewind. Tick tock. Tick tock.



Where the magic happens


Tick tock. Tick tock.



Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at www.rwtrend.com. All Rights Reserved.


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