The Comfort Zone vs the Power Zone
I was happy, relaxed, and feeling free as I sped along the highway, heading home at the end of a road trip. Michelle Shocked was playing, and I was singing along, when I saw tail-lights flashing ahead — not everywhere, just a sprinkling. I slowed down and scanned the road ahead, but there was no time — the problem suddenly appeared smack in front of me. Something resembling a twin mattress blocked the right half of my lane. I reacted reflexively — steering the car to the left, I crossed into the left lane a bit to avoid hitting whatever it was, then ducked back into my lane. My heart wasn’t in my throat because it had happened so fast I hadn’t had time for anxiety. But now, as I continued driving, I realized I hadn’t looked to see if anyone was next to me, or behind me on the left, I’d just instinctively moved to avoid the blockage.
Shit! Now I WAS freaked because I realized I could’ve had an accident, I could be dead, I could have caused a 10-car pile-up! All the blood rushed to my head, my face flushed, and I had that odd feeling of “dodging a bullet.” I’d had that feeling twice before in my life, and all I could do was raise an arm toward the sky and say, “thank you!” I turned off the music, told myself to “slow down and pay attention” and sat up tall in my seat. A few minutes later, I noticed construction signs and realized I needed to change lanes to continue on I55N to Chicago. There were several more traffic re-directions in rapid succession — lanes disappearing, reappearing, and becoming dangerously narrow. The Mack truck roaring on my right seemed to be almost inside my car. I gripped the steering wheel, pressed down heavily on the gas, and maneuvered past it, exhaling heavily as I checked it in my rear-view mirror.
After another 10 minutes of zigzagging through road work, I looked up again and thanked God and the Universe for getting my attention with the roadblock so that I was ready for the haphazard construction routing. It occurred to me that the next time I was road-tripping and heading out of a new city, I would focus on being more alert. But, at that moment I was also peripherally aware that when this happened again I wouldn’t be as nervous, because I’d had the experience before. The courage to try new things — like this road-trip — would have propelled me past something that used to cause anxiety. I thought of the “courage work” I’d just been through at a weekend retreat and realized that each time I took a road trip it increased my courage to explore new places. I still had tears in my eyes from that feeling of dodging a bullet, and I felt grateful and blessed.
I spied a sign for “Route 111” just as I was beginning to catch my breath… then the clock caught my eye — it read 11:11. I have a thing about “1s” and “11s;” I was instantly flooded with the feeling of synchronicity and right-timing. It kept coming; I had a feeling of being transported, like I was watching a movie of what was happening, instead of being there. I was hyper-aware of myself at the moment, highly sensitized to every emotion. I had the undeniable feeling that if I knew I could do something, knew it with every ounce of my being, felt it in my heart as well as my mind, that no matter what it was, I could truly do it. My faith in myself, the knowing, the trust, the belief, could make ANYTHING happen. My body felt electric, tingly, and numb at the same time, and I was certain that this epiphany was ultimate truth… the essence of life.
I wished I had a way to record this onslaught of words, thoughts, and feelings as they coursed through me, but much as I wanted to capture exactly what was happening, I did not want to pull off the highway or onto the shoulder. I kept driving, reviewing my thoughts, especially those about courage, hoping that through repetition I could brand the thoughts into my memory bank. I needed to get a recording device so my big thoughts didn’t blow away in the wind.
It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes later when I saw more signs for road work and my favorite sign — “right lane closed ahead, merge left”. Traffic slowed to a crawl, as three lanes merged into one. Honestly, I wasn’t bothered; there was so much commotion inside me I appreciated the opportunity to slow the car, move like a turtle, and focus on my thoughts. “I should get an app on my phone to record myself,” but the next thought immediately replaced the first… maybe my phone had a voice-recording app already on it!
As I inched forward in the snail trail of cars, I grabbed my phone and searched the apps. I am NOT cell phone savvy, but I did know how to access the apps; on the third page of app icons I saw “voice recorder!” I tapped it with trepidation, and the screen responded, “speak into the microphone at the bottom of the phone.” With more confidence, I tapped “OK;” a big microphone with a red button appeared. Still eyeing traffic every few seconds, I tapped the red button and said, “this is a test, this is only a test.” I tapped again and saw that 3 seconds appeared to have recorded under the title Voice 001. Holy crap, it worked! To some. this would have been merely incidental, but I was elated! I did one more test and then went for broke. I recorded two minutes and 55 seconds of me in epiphany!!…
Here’s the deal… I just had a major revelation about the comfort zone, and it’s not just that the comfort zone does not include the power zone or that the power zone is outside of the comfort zone. It’s the idea that by doing courage work, (and what I’m going to say is “WholeSoul” work within my wellness model) we can expand the comfort zone, we can push its boundaries outward. It’s almost like inhaling a deeper breath — we expand our rib cage, and the lungs, loosely attached to the skeletal structure, follow, causing a pressure gradient; air naturally rushes in to fill the space, neutralizing the gradient. In physiology, this is often referred to as “structure enabling function,” but here, the result is a larger comfort zone. THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME! It means two important things:
1. The country we live in, the place we spend most of our time — our comfort zone — becomes larger, and this allows us to do so many more things.
2. We begin to feel comfortable doing more powerful things.
As we expand the boundaries of the comfort zone, we become bigger, we ARE bigger, and the things that we’re choosing to do take less courage, they are less scary, and we are less fearful as we do them — we begin to incorporate new things within the boundaries of what we know as our comfort zone!
I turned off the recorder and moments later, the construction ended, one lane expanded back to three and the road became just a road again. But the rest of the drive home I felt sort of loopy, mesmerized by the crystallization of my thoughts, and the fact that traffic had slowed to a crawl at the exact moment I needed it to. Did I make that happen? I think not… but it certainly seemed miraculous.
And my epiphany — that the comfort zone is dynamic and can swell as we evolve — well that was just the beginning. When I transcribed my words and began to form them into an article, I realized that trying new things is scarier for some than others, and this seriously impacts how we live our lives. An example helps to illustrate my point:
My comfort zone is much bigger than my ex-boyfriend’s. Let’s use pictures to help us visualize this… If we were drawing circles to reflect our comfort zones, mine might be the size of an old 33 1/3 record, while his might be the size of a bottle cap. And now, as I look back and consider the difference in the size of our comfort circles, I see why it was so hard for me to be his partner. Naturally, I wanted to do things that were in my comfort zone, but they weren’t in his comfort zone. He had to do courage work just to be in a relationship with me, to be with me daily. Whether we went out, stayed in, socialized with others, or hung out alone, the relationship itself was outside his comfort zone. At the same time, I wanted not only to share things in my comfort zone but to expand my boundaries toward the power zone by doing MORE courage work; for him, that was probably like contemplating intergalactic travel!
The comfort zone vs the power zone is something I’m been studying for many years, probably a quarter of a century. Most people are familiar with the concept of the comfort zone, but perhaps not the power zone. I’m sure someone coined that term before me, but I didn’t read about it in a book. I named it during a time when I was going through some traumatic life changes, and I envisioned the power zone as a place where I would be able to live my life to the fullest, in a purely authentic way, not worried about what anyone else thought of me. I knew I couldn’t get to that place as long as I clung to comfort. Eventually, my longing to be in the power zone helped me to work through change and build a tolerance for discomfort.
All these years later, I see that it’s not the power zone itself I am after, it’s enlarging the comfort zone, and the awareness that the “power” lies in our ability to forge ahead, especially during times of dramatic change, like our current chaotic reality. Through WholeSoul work, by being courageous, we can expand and push the boundaries of what was once a meager comfort zone! We can do more, and we don’t have to always live on the scary edges, because the scary edges eventually get incorporated into the comfort zone… with practice, the scary edges become surprisingly safe.
If you think about it, the way this works is quite brilliant — we evolve, and we become new beings with bigger comfort zones. Yes, we keep exploring outward, and it takes more courage and more effort to be out there, but summoning our courage becomes easier and the rewards more glorious as we journey into new territory and become ever more ourselves.