The Physics of Expanding Your Comfort Zone

How the forces of reality and complacency make it challenging to expand your comfort zone into your theoretical potential.

Updated:

Key Points

  • To successfully expand your comfort zone, it helps to understand where to push and what’s stopping you.
  • Your obstacles are delusion, reality, and complacency.
  • To overcome them, stay out of your danger zone, seek a better sense of your true potential, push in the right places, and use perspective for motivation.

Comfort Zone Physics 101

Everyone says, “Get out of your comfort zone,” but is that really a good idea or harmfully useless advice?

What’s wrong with being in your comfort zone if you’re kicking but inside of it? Michael Jordan was better off comfortably schooling fools on the basketball court than whiffing away at baseballs, right?

So maybe you’re better off expanding your comfort zone than getting out of it.

But which edges? And how hard do you push?

Not all edges of your comfort zone are wise to push. Take Russian roulette, for example. 

These questions led me to push the edges of my own comfort zone by challenging the “get out of your comfort zone” cliché. I researched, experimented, and modeled until coming up with a breakthrough I’m proud of. This model:

Complete comfort zone diagram

The practical theoretical physics of comfort zones.

You may feel a bit uncomfortable at first trying to wrap your head around it. But it’s a healthy discomfort. Push through to understand this model, and you’ll have a better idea on how to expand your comfort zone into your true potential. 

Lets’s get started by looking at:

By the end, you’ll be a qualified comfort zone physicist.

Free Wake-Up Call

Take the 20-question “Comfort Zone Assessment” to find out in just 3.5 minutes:

Where are you complacent?

Which area of your life most needs a push?

How to get started?

It’s gimmicky and unscientific, but also quick, fun, and revealing.

Be Uncomplacent

PS: Surprise personalized accountability challenge afterward.

The 3 Obstacles to Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Obstacle #1: Delusion

This is your Delusion Bubble:

Delusion bubble saying "hey"

Your Delusion Bubble is what you think your potential is.

It changes all the time.

When I was in high school, my Delusion Bubble included me being an NBA player. Then pre-pretirement, it was being CEO of the company I worked at, Procter and Gamble. And now it may be my dreams of becoming some sort of taller, chiller, happier Tim Ferriss.

Delusion Bubbles are problematic because they aren’t in the same place as our potential:

Delusion Bubble, potential, and comfort zone diagram

So even when you muster up the motivation to push your comfort zone in deluded directions, you make no progress.

Why?

Because you’re fruitlessly fighting the second obstacle in the way of expanding your comfort zone into your potential, The Force of Reality.

Obstacle #2: The Force of Reality

The Force of Reality is composed of various mini-forces like:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Other people who are better than you

And The Force of Reality is stronger than you, so however much effort you exert, you will never make any progress against it. But, because most of our Delusion Bubbles are directly opposed to reality, we waste our willpower trying, anyway.

The force of reality prevents you from ever achieving all your delusions.

Take my former dreams of becoming a basketball star as an example. I tried as hard as I could to jump higher and shoot straighter, but the reality of my genetics dragged me down.

It was hopeless.

And, since my fantasies of being the next Steve Nash were more in the direction of delusion than my potential, my efforts hardly helped me expand my comfort zone.

But at least I was doing something.

If you do nothing, the constant pressure of The Force of Reality will squeeze your comfort zone until it’s gone and you’re left floating in a void of anxiety.

For instance, if I sit around blogging the same way about the same stuff all the time, the reality of changing interests, technology, and my growing senility would cause my audience and influence to disappear. This would make me feel uncomfortable, so I’d abandon blogging and curl up inside my ever-shrinking comfort zone.

Worse yet, the third obstacle to expanding my comfort zone into my potential will blow it backward.

Obstacle #3: The Force of Complacency

The Force of Complacency, like The Force of Reality, exerts negative pressure against your comfort zone:

The force of complacency pushes your comfort zone away from expanding into its potential.

But complacency isn’t as powerful as reality. If you have the courage to push the edges of your comfort zone directly into it, you can overcome it and inch forward into your potential.

Complacency is an incessant headwind you have to constantly fight into. If not, it’ll push your comfort zone backward—away from your potential and toward your Danger Zone, which we’ll look at next.

The Strategies for Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Strategy #1: Stay Away From Your Danger Zone

This is your Danger Zone:

Danger zone saying "boo"

The Danger Zone is where bad things happen to you. Things like:

  • Sickness
  • Pain
  • Sadness
  • Stupidity

And the more time you spend in your Danger Zone, the worse they become. But we do it anyway because, for most of us, part of our comfort zone overlaps the Danger Zone:

Don't push at the sanity line!

This overlapping area is the Zone of Despair. Many everyday behaviors and habits are within the Zone of Despair. They include:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating junk food
  • Watching TV and porn
  • Consuming social media
  • Frivolous spending
  • Saying yes to meetings you don’t need to attend

These activities are alluring and pleasurable, and The Force of Complacency pushes us toward them, so we tend to spend more time than we should doing them.

And some lunatics do even worse by pushing the edges of their comfort zones toward their Danger Zones.

The border separating our comfort zone from the fiery inferno of the rest of our Danger Zone is the Sanity Line. It shields you from doing uncomfortable and dangerous nonsense like smoking fentanyl, gambling your entire fortune on a single bet, stabbing yourself in the leg with a pencil, or trying to run across busy highways blindfolded.

People push against their Sanity Line thinking they’re “getting out of their comfort zones,” which we’re all told is a good thing to do. It’s not. It’s insane. Doing so only pushes your comfort zone further away from its potential.

Now let’s use this model to look at strategies for doing the opposite.

Strategy #2: Shift Your Delusion Toward Your Potential

The more you manage to shift your Delusion Bubble to overlap your potential, the less effort you waste fruitlessly fighting The Force of Reality, and the more you direct it toward overcoming The Force of Complacency to steadily push your comfort zone into your potential.

Shifting your delusion bubble toward your potential.

How do you do so?

One way is by shifting the border between your potential and your Delusion Bubbles, the False Fence of Identity:

Push at your false fence of identity.

The False Fence of Identity is formed by either:

  • Thinking you’re someone you’re not. (e.g., “I think I’m hot sh*t.”)
  • Having fixed or limiting beliefs. (e.g., “I’m too old to do that.”)

To give you another personal example of the latter, I used to self-identify as a “shy guy.” So I acted accordingly by keeping to myself. I didn’t think I could do anything about it, so I couldn’t see my true, full potential.

But then I read one of my favorite mind-changing books, Quiet. It changed my identity. Rather than identify as shy, I shifted my identity toward being introverted. Introversion doesn’t limit me, and now that I understand this aspect of myself, I have a more expansive view of where my potential may lay.

So learning from books is one way to push your identity fence. Others include:

  • Experiment. Try new things and see what hits the mark and what misses. For instance, trying all different businesses during my pretirement misadventures taught me that my dream of being a big-time startup CEO is delusion. My true potential is being a humble CEO of My Life and helping others figure out how to tap into their potential.
  • Understand the difference between identity and personality. Your personality is how your brain is wired and out of your control. Identities layers you put on top that you can remove and replace until you find the right fit.
  • Outside feedback. Find demotivational speakers who will tell you to “f*ck your dreams if they’re not yours,” as Charlamagne Tha God eloquently puts it. Second, listen carefully for when people tell you you’re doing something special so you know to look harder in that direction for your potential. And third, ask family and friends where they think your potential lies.

Strategy #3: Push Your Fulfillment Frontier

When you have a better idea of where your potential lies, it’s a matter of pushing the edges of your comfort zone to get it there.

That border is your Fulfillment Frontier:

Push your fulfillment frontier to nudge your comfort zone toward its potential.

You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve been pushing my Fulfillment Frontier with this post. I’ve never used diagrams to explain a concept before. It feels uncomfortable. But I know it’s in the direction of my potential, so I’m powering through The Force of Complacency to try it.

There are endless strategies for pushing your fulfillment frontier.

  • Take on courses, challenges, or coaching to learn new skills and develop existing ones.
  • Spiff up your daily routine.
  • Find a purpose that injects PEDs of motivation into your butt.

The better you know your potential, the better you’ll know what to do. This blog and my newsletter share a bunch of my favorite ideas I find. Check those later, if you want.

For now, let’s look at one not-so-obvious strategy for motivating yourself to expand your comfort zone into your potential:

Perspective

Strategy #4: Motivate Yourself With Perspective

When fighting complacency and pushing your Fulfillment Frontier feels overwhelming, these two perspective exercises will motivate you to keep at it.

4.1. Compare your comfort zone to other people’s.

Not to brag, but a lot of what I find easy and enjoy doing is way out of other people’s comfort zones. Examples include fasting, outdoor workouts, blogging, traveling off the beaten path, and sleeping on the floor.

Plenty of people don’t believe these activities are truly in my comfort zone. More importantly, they don’t think there’s any way they could be comfortable doing the same.

But that’s BS.

I’m not special. Anyone can do it.

Likewise, I’m sure there are things inside your comfort zone that others have a hard time believing they could expand their comfort zones to encompass. But they can. Because you’re not that special, either.

Now take this perspective and think of people whose comfort zones are way bigger than yours.

What do you think one of these mega-comfort zone-ed folk would say if you told them you didn’t believe you could ever become as comfortable as they are at what they do?

As long as it doesn’t defy The Force of Reality, they’d tell you it’s not impossible. They’re not special. At some point, their comfort zone was once the same size as yours.

Getting perspective from relative comfort zones.

4.2. Compare Yourself to Your Past and Future Selves

It’s also self-motivating to remind yourself how uncomfortable you used to be doing many of the things you now do comfortably.

For example, I can think back to Young Chris, who didn’t speak other languages and got nervous calling strangers on the phone.

My comfort zone’s grown a lot since then. Not only does this make me feel proud of my efforts, but it also encourages me to pass on the favor to my future self to ensure that lucky guy has one helluva swanky comfort zone.

Consider trying the same.

Make Yourself Extra Comfortable

By now, you should have a comfortable understanding of the model from the beginning of this post:

Complete comfort zone diagram

While this diagram may approximately depict where your comfort zone is at today, if you keep honing in on your potential and fighting complacency by pushing at your Fulfillment Frontier, your situation may one day look more like this:

Where my comfort zone will be one day in the future, away from the danger zone and filling my potential.

Your comfort zone will have expanded significantly, it’ll have moved outside of your Danger Zone, and it will fill up a good chunk of your potential.

It’ll take time and effort to get there. But that’s life. There’s truly nothing better to do. So I hope you look forward to the challenge as much as I do.

And I hope this post helped you understand how to make it happen.

Check these resources out for more positively uncomfortable content to help you work toward your potential:

Audiovisual Explanation

If reading blog posts is not inside your comfort zone, watch this instead:

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

2 responses to “The Physics of Expanding Your Comfort Zone”

  1. Tyler Avatar
    Tyler

    I hardly ever comment on posts, videos, etc., but in the spirit of doing something new (and expanding my comfort zone), I’ll leave one here. I gotta say, of all the different videos and articles that talk about getting out of your comfort zone, this one really clicked for me!

    1. Chris Avatar
      Chris

      Thanks for breaking the comment seal on this post, Tyler! I’m heartened to know this model clicks with at least one other person.

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