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Written from just outside my comfort zone, this is a lesson in progress about understanding my comfort zone and how I may expand it.

I am inspired by Carol Kirkpatrick, a coach and mentor in the world of classical singing and whose article “Expanding Your Comfort Zone” I was fortunate enough to stumble across quite by accident. This post necessarily reflects where I am right now in making sense of this topic so expect updates but don’t hold your breath unless you have a large lung capacity.

The notion of a comfort zone is the biggest excuse for not pursuing our purpose in life and thus reduce our purpose to just a dream. We make up all sorts of “reasons” that we can’t break out of our comfort zone and all these “reasons” are due to something outside ourselves, outside the comfort zone over which we have no control. Someone or something else has fenced us in.

To even think about doing something that we haven’t done before makes us uncomfortable, like a fish out of water – afraid. Something new is change and we all have to face change from time to time whether that change is elected or unelected. Whichever, we have a choice as to how we deal with it, either go after what we want or stay comfortable and hide behind “yes but”, “maybe”, “I’ll try”, “If only”.

Why do we hide? Typically because of Fear, Guilt, Anger, Unworthiness or Hurt Feelings or a combination of them.

Some find that if we look at them differently, re-labelling these limiting emotions will turn them into tools with which we can expand our comfort zone. I have not been able to see it as simply as that. I don’t see the emotions themselves as tools but rather it is the energy that they generate that is the tool. We are responsible for how we use that energy.

The root of these limiting emotions lies in our thoughts and beliefs. Beliefs   are thoughts charged with emotional energy and that may be a positive or negative charge depending on the emotion. We can attach whatever feeling we like to a thought; we have that choice. Some negative emotions are good thing. A fear of a charging lion initiating a flight response I would say is a good thing.

So, how to deal with unwanted negative energy arising out of these emotions?    First, take responsibility for ourselves and recognise that the answer lies within us, recognise that we do have choices; we do have control. Having accepted that, let’s examine each of these limiting emotions from within:

Fear has to be faced and to do this we need to look within at the pattern of thoughts and beliefs that we’ve accumulated since childhood, We’ll often find it is just an old memory that has no relevance to what we want to do today. Once we realise that what we want to do is not going to kill us, we can “just do it”.

Guilt is felt when we think we are wrong, when we’ve failed. Just doing something different from the crowd (even succeeding) can produce guilt. We need to ask ourselves: “wrong or failed according to whom?” There is no such thing as failure, only feedback and learning.

Anger is often a reaction to perceived (not real) danger and is the “fight” half of our in built flight or fight response. It generates tremendous energy and mental focus. We can choose what we focus on and how to deploy that energy.

Unworthiness, inadequacy and similar feelings of deficiency can arise from anything, whether good or bad, when our internal voice says, “you just don’t deserve it”. As for fear, revisit the out of date pattern of thoughts and beliefs and reframe the negative story that lurks there.

Hurt feelings encompass sadness, loss, and grief and can often be covered up with anger. They occur when someone says something hurtful, when we are let down in some way or when we let ourselves down. There’s a well-known saying “What you think of me is none of my business!” Other people are entitled to their opinion, how it affects us is our choice. Only we can hurt our feelings so when we feel blame, redirect the energy to change.

The perceived limitation of any emotion is not in the emotion itself. The emotion is a signal; an alert to something requires attention. It is our response, how we use the energy generated, that can be limiting or not. We can choose how we respond.

All emotions are charged with energy and it is that focused energy that is the tool, which we can choose, if we wish, to employ to expand our comfort zone.

Carol Kirkpatrick’s article can be found at:

John Parker

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