There is a way to look at your Comfort Zone differently, that will help you to break out of it.
How do you define your Comfort Zone?
Is it a place that you call home? Does your partner give you that feeling?
A group of friends? Perhaps your job?
More than likely it’s a combination of all of the above. When you feel comfortable, life feels easier and more effortless. And that’s why the thought of changing any of the elements that make up your comfort zone can be anything from a little daunting to fear-inducing.
Having said that, I would like to invite you today, to re-evaluate how you look at your comfort zone and perhaps a new perspective will make it easier to break out of it.
About 2.5 years ago, I was working in my then dream job as the Head of the Marketing department at Edinburgh’s largest five star hotel. At that time I was in the job almost 2 years, long enough to have that level of knowledge that makes you comfortable in your work. When you know what needs to be done, how to do it and who you need to collaborate with. I had established friendly relationships with my colleagues and generally speaking, I enjoyed coming to work. I was in my comfort zone.
Then, one Friday night after my weekly yoga class, a question made me curious. My teacher asked me when I was planning to do my yoga teacher training. Frankly, until then, it hadn’t even occurred to me to ever teach yoga. I just really enjoyed attending classes. That was also part of my weekly routine, part of what made up my personal comfort zone.
And so were the friends I had made over many years of living in Scotland’s beautiful capital. We had our regular coffee catch ups, post-work drinks, weekend brunches and days spent on the beach (yes, Edinburgh has a beach). I was single at the time, but the freedom that came with it was also part of the life I was living happily and contently.
Change was on the horizon though.
A few months later I found myself on a week long yoga retreat in Indonesia. Daily practice of yoga and meditation, combined with the profound peace you can only find in nature, Ubud’s jungle sounds were whispering to me. Connecting with fellow travellers, yogis and our teacher, I could feel that Friday night question transform from a seed into a rooted dream that was starting to reach for the sky.
By definition, a dream is “a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal.” It doesn’t sound like something you will find within your comfort zone and that makes it scary too. That is the reason why many people dream of a different life, but aren’t able to take the first step.
Fast forward half a year and I am now unemployed and on a 2 week tour around India. Planning a quick stop in Nepal and then undergoing Yoga Teacher Training in Bali. One step closer to fulfilling that new dream of mine. Then I’ll volunteer for a while to get some teaching experience and then head back home and start my new career.
Well things turned out very differently from how I had them planned. And this is probably true for everyone in the last 2 years. 10 days into my trip around India, the fear of the coronavirus pandemic really started to take hold with first flights being cancelled and countries closing borders. For me, the first change of plan occurred when Nepal closed and then shortly after, the yoga teacher training in Bali got postponed. At that time, there was hope, that perhaps after 2-3 months things would calm down and I could get back on track with my original plan.
In that moment, mid March 2020, I had two options: go back to Edinburgh where I had no job and no ‘purpose’ or stay where I was while I had enough savings to keep me going for a little while. Wait it out and then keep pursuing my path. As my fellow explorers headed back home, I trusted that I was in the right place and so I stayed. There were a few things that helped me in my decision making process, but that’s another story.
So here I was: alone in India with no friends, no home and no job! In India! Can you believe it? Of all the countries, isn’t that a dangerous place to be for a woman on her own? If you had said to me a year ago, that ‘next year, you’ll get stuck in India’ I would have laughed out loud. You can’t get any further away from your comfort zone than this.
But here is the thing: I was not really alone. I was surrounded by people. People who became friends. People who became family! And a place that after just a couple of months felt like home.
My first stop: Phool Chatti Ashram, located just a few kilometres east of Rishikesh, on the shores of the Holy river Ganga. I booked in for 1 week to attend their yoga and meditation program that featured daily mantra chanting amongst other things. This was the main differentiator for me to chose this ashram over any of the others in the area - and there are plenty to choose from in Uttarakhand, one of India’s northern state on the foothills of the Himalayas.
3 days into the program, India went into a national lockdown and naturally, I had a moment of doubt. What would happen now? How long would this take? What am I going to do here? So I booked a flight to leave 2-3 days later, but woke up to a cancellation email the next morning. Then I just surrendered and gave up on the idea of returning home.
Instead, I shifted my focus on making the most out of my time at the ashram. Reminding myself that people travel from all over the world to experience ashram life just for a week or 2. And my stay there continued for almost 2 months. I focused on my daily yoga practice, read books to prepare me for my training, which I was still hoping would happen in a few months, took time to rest and made friends.
Meanwhile friends and family from back home kept checking in and work opportunities appeared. I helped out at the ashram with some website design and started working with Andrew Johnson, a dear friend and a meditation and mindfulness teacher by profession. What started as web design, developed into a long-term business partnership and together we launched the Relax Change Create Meditation app just months later.
I can tell you more about my time at the ashram, but for now let’s just say that when I got to a point where I was once again comfortable with my daily routine and the people around me, those people left and it was time for me to move on as well.
I was still unsure about what would happen with that training in Bali, which was all paid for with no refund in sight, when India introduced a traffic light system whereby movement between green zones was now allowed again. Ask anyone who was in the ashram with me at that time, the training was the one thing I would not stop talking about. Bali clearly wasn’t happening right then, but I was determined not to go home unless I accomplished the one thing that made me quit my job and leave Scotland. My asking around eventually led me to a local yoga school in Tapovan, Rishikesh and as soon as I was physically able to get there, I joined Raj and family at Yoga Padma for my first 200 hour Hatha yoga training. A lot of focus was on the alignment as our lead teacher had his background in Iyengar yoga and I now appreciate this as a solid foundation for my own teaching.
In the weeks that followed, the girls who completed the training with me, introduced me to lots of people who they spent the first 2 months of lockdown with and that is how Rishikesh became my home. That is how I made friends. And that is how months later I met my partner. And we travelled all over India together. Then Europe and the US and now he is in Bali with me and we are creating a life together.
None of that would have happened, if I had decided earlier to go back to Edinburgh, or even to not go on that India trip in the first place, because news of Corona were already circulating at that time.
When you stay in a place for a longer time and you find your way around it, you become comfortable. You find cafes you like, where to go for the best coffee, what to order for breakfast, where to buy the best fruit and veggies and any other supplies you need. When you keep going to the same places, you get to know their owners and other regulars. And you become friendly and comfortable. This applies no matter where you are in the world. Maybe you don’t go to cafes every day, but you might go to a gym, an office, use public transport etc. There will be places that you visit regularly and things you do daily or weekly. As soon as you figure out how something works best, you become confident and comfortable.
It takes a lot of courage to make changes in your life. Whether it is a change of job or whether you are planning to move or maybe you find yourself at the end of a romantic relationship.
Just remember that the comfort zone that you are in right now, wasn’t always your comfort zone. Before you became comfortable in it, it was a big Unknown.
It takes time and it takes effort, of course, but you can create a new Comfort Zone whenever and wherever you want. In any way, shape or form.
You are the Creator of your Life.
Whether you are the one implementing changes in your life, or you find yourself at a crossroads without your choosing, just remember that the end of one thing is the beginning of something new:
An opportunity to create a new Comfort Zone.