American author, Neale Donald Walsch,wrote in his bestselling series Conversations with God that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” It’s a popular inspirational quote featured on motivational posters, wallpapers, mugs, t-shirts, and countless other items.
In this article I want to explore this quote a bit more, in the same way as I recently covered the quote “it’s better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war“.
We’ll cover the meaning of the quote, its alternative version, its secondary meaning you may have not thought about, and more.
What Is the Meaning of the Quote “Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone?”
For the best explanation of the quote, let’s listen to the man who originally came up with it. In his interview for 1440.org, Neale Donald Walsch says that:
(…) it is when we stretch into That Which Is Uncomfortable that we really (and often, for the first time) experience life at its most tingling, igniting, and magnificent level.
In other words, when we get out of our comfort zone, we experience the level of stimulation we can’t get when we remain in our safe, familiar world.
For example, the exhilaration you can get from paragliding or scuba diving is unique. You’re unlikely to experience it in your everyday, secure, predictable world.
Being in your comfort zone is, by definition, comfortable, but it’s also rarely, if ever, exciting. Meanwhile, leaving it always brings more stimulation.
I have one issue with that quote, though: does life really only begin at the end of your comfort zone? What about so many nice things well within our comfort zones such as chatting with a friend or playing with your dog?
Even though I’m a huge proponent of voluntary discomfort, I would never say that you can’t experience anything good unless it’s uncomfortable.
Let’s explore that a little more to gain a better understanding of Walsch’s thought process.
A Better Version of the Quote?
Walsch later in that same quoted interview explains the meaning of the quote in different words:
Life begins when boredom ends.
I find this a more accurate thought that the original quote that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Judging the quality of life by the amount of boredom is less extreme of an idea and sounds more like a universal truth applicable to everyone.
There’s a lot of joy to be had within your comfort zone. You don’t have to leave it to “begin” your life. (And yes, I’m saying it as a guy running a website called Discomfort Club.) For example, one can feel 100% alive having dinner with his family even if it’s within his comfort zone.
The real problem starts when our lives lack any kind of stimulation or challenge, as I described it on the About page.
So, rather than life beginning at the end of your comfort zone, life begins when you have a healthy balance between comfort and discomfort.
To further clarify, by “comfort” I mean enjoyable, safe activities like family dinners, having sex with your partner, or having picnic and doing nothing in particular other than talk and eat.
When I write “discomfort” I mean things like hard workouts, doing things you’re afraid of like public speaking, and pursuing hard, seemingly impossible goals.
Find a healthy balance between these two and your life will surely “begin.”
Resist Change and You’ll Never Be Above Average
We’ve covered the topic of happiness. But there’s one more aspect to the quote we haven’t addressed yet, so let’s deepen our understanding even further.
In the same interview, Walsch emphasizes how important it is to venture outside your comfort zone to become exceptional:
It doesn’t take long for the average person to realize that for the average person to rise above the average, a willingness to be a little scared or a little nervous or at least a little unsure is going to be required.
Our comfort zones define our level of success and performance. If you’re interested in making the most out of your short time on Earth and accomplish some big things, you need to recognize the danger of being too comfortable.
I’d go so far as to say that rejecting security and embracing fear and discomfort is the first step toward self-improvement. If you don’t face your insecurities and anxieties head on, there’s little hope of change. You need to push past your limitations to grow, and that requires leaving your comfort zone.
When you step out of your comfort zone, you redefine your limits and come back with new insights and abilities. This is how, over time, you become exceptional.
And if your only goal is to feel safe and comfortable (as it is for most people), unfortunately you’re unlikely to rise above the average.
Here’s What You’ll Realize When You Leave Your Comfort Zone
When we embrace change and push our limits, we enter a different world. It provides new opportunities for growth but at the same time, more challenges that may test your willpower. It provides more excitement but also more risk that may introduce more stress.
For example, let’s say that you’re afraid of water. Maybe you’ve already spent decades staying away from any bodies of water. You can continue spending the rest of your life avoiding water if you want. But you’ll be missing out a lot. You’re missing the experience of swimming, diving, surfing, sailing, having carefree fun in the water, and much more.
Will the process of facing your fear of water cause distress? Of course it will. But over time, as your fear lessens, it’ll provide more options in life. You’ll be capable of learning and enjoying water sports. You’ll no longer feel anxious around water. Eventually, you’ll feel… free.
Free of fear. Free of limitations. Free to experience more. Free to learn new things.
I can write entire articles on the mental shifts I’ve experienced through addressing my fears and exploring the edges of my comfort zone. But ultimately, the only way you’ll understand the power of leaving your familiar, safe surroundings is by actually doing it.
Expanding Your Comfort Zone Leads to a More Rewarding Life
Every man can benefit from expanding his comfort zone. Pushing your limits lets you access hidden reserves of potential and makes you realize how much more you’re capable of.
Imagine yourself as a guy who has only a fraction of the insecurities you now have. Imagine yourself as a guy who isn’t afraid of doing hard, uncomfortable things. Imagine yourself as a man of value who constantly gets tougher through self-imposed challenges.
How different would your life be?
Would it be, paradoxically, easier?
Would you do things you’ve never imagined you could do?
Would things that are currently out of your reach be completely normal and comfortable?
Would you be better equipped to deal with setbacks?
Would you have more enriching experiences?
And on that note, let’s end this article. I hope that my take on the quote made you think and hopefully encouraged you to develop a healthier balance between comfort and discomfort.
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