Comfort Kills

By: Chris Vetzel

What if you stopped growing for the rest of your life? If you just stayed in your position at work, maintained your relationships exactly where they are, and engaged in your hobbies at your current level, what would that look like?

It would certainly be comfortable. You would wake up, do your thing, and go to sleep without ever having to deal with the nasty discomfort of stretching yourself and reaching for something more. This may sound nice to some, but, in reality it is a waking nightmare. I know this because I spent nearly a decade of my life in the stasis of my comfort zone after transitioning from the military into civilian life.

It was like a living purgatory; it wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t good. I did the same thing every day. I talked to the same people, I worked the same job, and I didn’t try to improve anything in any area of my life. The high regard that we collectively place on our nation’s veterans made me feel like I had already “arrived” and didn’t have to do anything else to prove my worth or grow. Honestly, it went to my head, and I felt entitled.

Then, I was introduced to The Heroes Journey. I still don’t know what made me attend that first Storytelling Workshop, but something pulled me in. The course forced me out of my comfort zone so violently that I didn’t even know what was happening. But, by the end of a 5-hour workshop, I realized that I had not “arrived,” and I also had an obligation to help others through the power of sharing my own scars.

That day changed my life profoundly, and I will never forget the lessons I learned and the gift I was given by this amazing organization. Now, I want to share with you a few tips to maximizing your life:

Comfort Kills

Comfort is a slow, agonizing death. If you spend most of your life feeling comfortable, then you are not growing. Undertake at LEAST one task per week that makes your heart race and makes you feel like you should just quit.

When I got too deep into the storytelling workshop to back out, I was so far outside my comfort zone that it seemed like an island in the distance with shark-infested waters in between. However, the perseverance in the face of discomfort almost always leads to new growth.

Think about it: have you ever wanted to just relax instead of attending an event that you previously agreed to? And then you begrudgingly attend only to have an amazing time?

Push Yourself

When I was a competitive shooter, there was a saying: “If you’re hitting 80% of your bullseyes, you’re moving too slow.” The idea behind this is that if you wait until your aim and conditions are perfect before pulling the trigger, you’re going to lose, and, more importantly, you are not growing as a shooter.

The sweet spot of pushing the comfort zone is between a 20%-80% success rate. Daniel Coyle, in his book, “The Little Book of Talent,” describes one of the greatest hockey players of all time, Wayne Gretzky, falling on the ice during practice. It was because Gretzky was pushing himself beyond his current skill level. That is how the greats become great: they push beyond what they think they are capable of.

Failure Equals Growth

In any area, how much have you learned from success? Probably nothing because success only indicates what you did right. It does not inform you of how to do better next time, it doesn’t show you what you did wrong or what to improve; it only tells you to keep doing the same thing.

Let’s say you are an undefeated boxer that is 21-0. If you have never lost a fight, you will keep doing the same things that have worked in the past. Then, one day, a 15-6 fighter shows up and cleans your clock. Why? Because he learned what not to do.

Don’t be afraid to fail.

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