Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone, True of False?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” is a quote by the author Neale Donald Walsch that explains his belief and we have to get out of our comfort zone to live a more meaningful life.  This philosophy is shared by many people but there are always multiple ways to reach the same destination.  Let’s look at the following quotes and see how these amazing people view “challenges” and “comfort zone” differently.  

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” - Neale Donald Walsch

There is no question many people get inspired with the attitude of getting out of their comfort zone and saying “yes” to difficult challenges.  Taking the do-or-die last shot of a basketball game is the symbol of courage and making the shot creates a new hero.  That’s a typical way to think, and likely a good way to think.  That’s obviously so much better than just staying in your comfort zone and not working hard at improving yourself.  One thing we should note is that during the process of stepping outside our comfort zone, we usually would do a lot of hard work to ensure that we don’t hurt ourselves.  Hard work is actually the key reason that your life will be improved.  Here’s an interesting question - what will happen if you do a lot of hard work and you keep staying inside your comfort zone?

“It doesn't matter how big your circle of competence is — it’s much more important that you’re able to actually determine the limits of the circle, regardless of whether its expansive or tiny, because outside of the circle lies serious risk. You can mitigate risk by not venturing outside of the circle, or by learning more, which, in effect, will expand your circle.” - Warren Buffett

To answer the above mentioned question, let’s look at Warren Buffett’s quote about the “circle of competence”, which almost means the “comfort zone”.  Warren Buffett is a big fan of staying inside the circle of competence and working hard at utilizing what you are already good at.  He also explains that you can increase your circle of competence by learning more.  In other words, to live a successful life, you can either choose to stay inside your circle of competence and be great inside it, or you can choose to keep learning and expanding your circle of competence.  Warren Buffett tends to pick the first option but he has definitely expanded his circle of competence at different points of his amazing career.  

“It is really important to stay within your circle of competence. If you are not sure what the boundaries of that circle are for you, then you do not have real mastery of your field.” - Charlie Munger

Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett’s working partner and he is also known as one of the wisest people in the world.  He also has the tendency of staying inside his circle of competence and being great inside it.  In the above quote, he emphasizes the importance of knowing where the boundary of your circle of competence is.  Without knowing where the boundary is, you can’t tell whether you are staying inside it or stepping outside it.  

“If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about something, say ‘no’.” - Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur and writer.  If you are not sure about when to say “yes” and “no” to challenges, the above quote from him may be helpful.  When an opportunity comes and it’s time for you to choose whether to accept the challenge, ask yourself if you really really want to say “yes”.  If there is no “sure yes” in your mind, then just say “no”.  Also from Sivers’s teaching, he said there are different stages in life.  At an early stage of your life, when you have nothing and when you are not sure what you are good at and what you want to do, saying “yes” to a lot of things gives you the chance to explore.  At a later stage of your life when you know your path relatively more clearly, you want to say “no” to things that will distract you from reaching your big goals.  

“Getting in the habit of living in your stretch zone is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It’s always exciting and it constantly strengthens you.” - Ray Dalio

What is the stretch zone?  It basically means the area slightly outside of your comfort zone.  Ray Dalio is one of the best investors in history.  He also wrote the famous book - Principles, a life-changing book for many people.  He likes to spend a lot of time at the stretch zone.  That way, he isn’t too far from the comfort zone so he can work effectively and successfully.  At the same time, he can force himself to keep learning and improving.  In his book Principles, he explains you should have a set of principles to base your decisions on.  If you have written down your own principles, you should be able to decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to opportunities.  

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to live a good life.  “Good life” means different things to different people anyway.   Warren Buffett’s philosophy is nice and clear.  To live an amazing life, you either stay inside your circle of competence and be really good within the circle, or you keep learning more to expand your circle.  What you don’t want to do is to go way too far from your circle of competence before you have actually expanded the circle.  Know your limit.  If you want to go over your limit, first expand your limit by learning and practicing.  You can also use Ray Dalio’s method of keep playing around at the edge of your comfort zone.  Different approaches work for different people.  You will have an advantage if you can find an approach that works well for you and that you can stick to.  

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