Lately, you’ve been having difficulty progressing with your projects. You hit a point, where you’re not moving forward as much as you’d like to. Maybe not at all. Whether you’re overwhelmed to take action, or stuck in a rut and just want to give up, you probably tried a million ways to find a solution to your problem. A big portion of those million ways is possibly a variation on what I call “the challenge-mentality”. It’s all around us.
“Get out of your comfort zone!”
“No pain, no gain.”
It is seen as ‘The One and Only Way’ to move forward and create something worth creating.
I’m not saying that a challenge isn’t useful sometimes, but there’s definitely a time and place for choosing comfort. Not only for comfort’s sake, but because this will be the exact solution that moves you forward.
In our last family holiday, we were hiking a lot. We were building it up, starting with shorter and less challenging ones, to our last one, that was longer and more challenging than any we’ve done before. It turned out to be even more challenging than we thought.
We were literally on the edge for most of the hike, with deep drops on one side of the path and steep cliff walls on the other. It required a lot of attention and focus from us, to move forward safely and in a good pace. One of us might have been very anxious for a good portion of the hike. And it might not have been as bad as she thought… (it was me, if you were wondering…) nonetheless, it was necessary to pay attention.
It was like being in the thick of a project, where there’s a lot going on at the same time and it feels like you’re constantly putting out fires. After every corner, a near-emergency pops up out of seemingly nowhere and it needs your attention NOW. On top of that, we all have personal challenges in our life that add to the work-pressure.
So after several hours of hiking and lots of km’s behind us, we reached a road and we needed to make a decision. By that time, we’ve done most of the round and we arrived back to a slightly more populated area. The kids were tired, even though they were heroes in walking forward.
We knew that we only had 3.4 km more to go, but we still needed to climb a bit and than go downhill on a steep mountainside. A path that would require a lot of extra attention to stay safe.
We did exactly that and quickly analyzed the situation: It was getting dark, we were running out of snacks and water and we all felt more and more tired. We were way out of our comfort zone, pushing some limits already. There was the choice to either push forward, just go and challenge ourselves even more, or to stop at the road and hitchhike.
We were in the middle of nowhere. When we finally managed to stop a car, there was place for only one person. I quickly took the backpack from my husband and told him to go. He had the car keys and he’s a much more experienced driver, so there was no question about who should go.
I was left there in the half wilderness with two kids. It was nearly and hour wait, getting dark and cold quickly, but I felt relieved and happy, and easily kept the kids in a good mood as well. Choosing comfort, when we were really on the edge, made a hard day feel easy and fun. It was an experience that filled us up with confidence about our ability to hike in a smart way, instead of depleting us and taking away the desire to do it again.
Now, choosing comfort didn’t mean that we’d just sit around, waiting for the Messiah to show up. We did take action. But the action we took, was one that didn’t feel scary and didn’t require a huge leap.
The same way, when your life is already full of challenges, you most likely won’t need another challenge that will push you over the edge into overwhelm. When you need to move a house, to deal with an illness, care for a family member, or any other challenge, you don’t need to put another weight on your shoulders with your project.
Challenging yourself when you’re already stressed, puts you at risk of getting exhausted, and it will take you much longer to bounce back up. You loose not only energy, but time as well in the process. In challenging times, choose steps that are tiny, familiar and feel safe enough not to stress you out.
On the other hand, when your life is stable, you don’t have many fires to put out and you feel comfortable, a challenge can propel you forward without loosing momentum or feeling like you’re stuck in a rut. In those cases, the challenge can balance boredom and rigid routines. When your life is at a comfortable place, choose to leap, to take the scary road, to do the things you didn’t dare to do before.
In other words, when stressed, choose comfort, when comfortable, challenge yourself. But always take the next step, however tiny it is.
So where are you on this spectrum? Take this short quiz to get a quick overview.
Mark ‘true’ or ‘untrue’ for every statement, according to how you feel about your life right now.
- I am extremely busy. I often spread myself very thin and I use everything I have to get it all done.
- I have a lot of people in my life who depend on me.
- I am facing many challenges right now – emotional, financial or physical.
- I have very little support from friends and family in my life right now.
- My home or financial situation feel unstable. (In the last year I have moved or lost/changed jobs)
- I have trouble making time for self-care.
- I often feel very tired both when I wake up and throughout the day.
- My life feels very stable and steady without any extreme challenges, physical or emotional.
- I have a lot of family and friends who support me both in my personal and professional growth.
- Everyday I practice several self-care techniques.
- It’s important for me to regularly make time to tend to my emotional and physical well-being.
- I have a stable home and stable income.
- I regularly exercise and feel healthy.
- I have a very comfortable lifestyle full of love and laughter.