Have you ever noticed how the thermostat works?
When you have set the desired thermal range and the temperature in the room approaches the edge of your desired thermal range, the thermostat sends an electrical signal to the air-conditioner to turn it on or off. As the temperature in the room begins to change, the electrical signals continue to respond to the changes and keep the temperature within the desired range.
Eventually, the room temperature always remains at the thermal range you have set.
Your comfort zone works the same way too.
But instead of electrical signals, your internal performance regulator uses discomfort signals to keep you within your comfort zone. In fact, you have an internal psychological thermostat that regulates your level of performance in the world—and governs everything you do, want and have.
Think of your comfort zone as a prison—a large, self-created prison.
It consists of the collection of can’ts, don’ts, musts, must nots and other disempowering and limiting beliefs formed from all the negative thoughts and decisions you have accumulated and reinforced during your lifetime.
As your behaviour or performance begins to approach the edge of that zone, you begin to feel uncomfortable. To avoid the discomfort, you unconsciously pull yourself back into your comfort zone.
- Some people are comfortable as long as they have $1,000 in their savings account. Some are uncomfortable unless they have 6 months’ income put aside (say, $24,000). Still, some are comfortable with no savings at all plus a credit card debt of $25,000!
- Some people are comfortable with staying in a budget inn when they go travelling. Some are only comfortable with a 3-star hotel or above. Some are only comfortable staying in a 5-star or above.
- Some people are comfortable with long hair. Some are comfortable with short hair. There are also some who are totally uncomfortable with no hair!
- Some people are uncomfortable with being late, but we all know there are some who are totally comfortable with being late.
When you are not comfortable with the way things are, you will do something about it. You will request for a better arrangement, demand for a replacement, negotiate, bargain… anything. You will do something about it.
The fact that you have never done something about it shows that you have already conditioned yourself to be OK with what is. For so many times, we have sold ourselves short, tolerated with mediocrity in life, accepted a lower standard than what we deserve… convincing ourselves that “it’s OK”.
Here’s an example:
A salesperson had a goal to present his services to at least 3 prospects a day. If he upheld his thermostat at that level, he would be comfortable as long as he had presented to 3 people on any given day. If he had not presented to 3 people by evening, he would probably go meet people at night just to be comfortable with his goal. Likewise, if he had met 3 people in the morning, he would probably slack off for the entire day.
Let’s say he had a colleague, who didn’t stand firm on his thermostat and accepted mediocrity as his standard. He also had a goal to present to 3 people a day. One day, he was only able to meet 2 people by the end of the day. He then told himself, “It’s OK. 2 is better than none. It’s still not bad.” That moment, he had allowed himself to accept something less than he wanted to achieve. Soon, he would be comfortable with just meeting 2, 1 or no prospects on any given day. When he had been accustomed to that new but low standard for himself, it then becomes harder for him to reset his standard back to meeting 3 people a day as that would become uncomfortable for him for it is outside of his comfort zone.
Therefore, we must always be aware of the comfort zone we have unconsciously set for ourselves for all areas of our life. If you’re not happy with the way things are in your life, do something about it. Don’t let fear pin you down to inaction. Start doing something… anything. Just get up and get going. Just take action!