The Familiar Zone

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The Familiar Zone

People often talk about needing to get out of their comfort zone.

I think “familiar zone” is a much better term because a lot of the status quo that we embrace really isn’t all that comfortable. It isn’t comfortable to stress about money. It is not comfortable to feel like you aren’t living up to your potential. It is not comfortable to feel like you are underperforming. It is not comfortable to believe that you cannot get what you want. Etc.

Even though these sorts of things are not comfortable, they are very familiar. They are who we know ourselves to be.

There is a part of our brain whose job it is to keep us in our familiar zone. When we get outside the boundaries of our familiar zone, this part of our brain does its best to drive us back into the familiar zone because familiar is known and therefore safe.

An easy way to understand this is to think about the thermostat in your house. If it gets too cold, the furnace kicks on. If it gets too hot, the AC kicks on. There is a set range that is deemed acceptable and anything outside of that triggers a corrective response.

Our corrective responses include discomfort, stress, and anxiety – all which make us want to retreat into the familiar zone. (For example – Think about how you felt when you first started to make phone calls for your business.)

Another sneaky corrective strategy (after we have outperformed who we know ourselves to be, after we have achieved unprecedented success) is the feeling that we need to relax a little bit because we’ve been working so hard. We need to slow down and recover. We need to take it easy. We do this and pretty soon we have dropped right back into the familiar zone.

In order to not drop back into the familiar zone, we need to lean into the discomfort and take action anyway. When we do this for a little bit, the familiar zone recalibrates and then this new level of success becomes part of the familiar zone and no longer triggers that corrective response.

People often think there’s something wrong with them when they experience a corrective response. There is nothing wrong. It is a part of being human – everyone experiences it.

Successful people have just learned to lean into the discomfort and stay in action which means that they keep expanding what is possible for them (the thermostat range resets itself). If we keep retreating into the familiar zone, then nothing changes.

Lean into that discomfort! If you are not willing to experience discomfort, you will never have true comfort.

Much love,

Jonathan
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