Corralling Behavior

Via A Lesser Photographer, wise words by Louis C.K.:

Get rid of all your best weapons, and then you have to [improve], or else you’re dead.

Staying in a comfort zone – the “behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition”1 – is like staying in bed on a snowy Sunday morning: It’s cold outside and warm inside, so why leave? “Anxiety-neutral” is just another word for feeling “just well enough.”

But feeling, or working, just well enough is not what most of us are striving for: Once you learn that there’s life outside your part of the ocean, the instinct of exploring new territory takes over. You feel that leaving your comfort zones behind and facing the void could massively boost creativity, productivity, and life but, of course, it would be uncomfortable.

A comfort zone develops when mental constraints ossify. Bit by bit, often unconsciously, you’re building mental enclosures, corralling your behavior, and much like a coral reef that emerges from seemingly nowhere, your comfort zones emerge and shape your life and work. That’s why the idea of “leaving the comfort zone” is so daunting, and actually doing it is always painful.2

Constraints make and break comfort zones. So maybe, when looking closely, you find a new constraint that can help you get out of your CZ1 and enter a new CZ2 to start building a new reef there. After all, we need constraints to stay grounded.

So you stick out your toe from under the blankets and feel the cold air. And then you count to three and kick the blankets away.

  1. ↩︎

  2. If it wouldn’t be painful to leave a comfort zone, then, logically, it wouldn’t be a comfort zone. The pain is an indicator of how deeply ingrained the old behavior was. ↩︎