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Thoughts around a generation's journey to adulting...

Of Comfort Zones and Cages

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We’ve considered in past posts how young adults can get paralyzed by uncertainty and anxiety, with a hesitancy to commit to things that require real effort, and a fear of risk-taking.  Meanwhile they may have a gifted (cursed?) existence in that they don’t really have needs, pressures or obligations that require them to get out there and take some chances. So they get stuck in their comfort zones.  

I am happy to report, though, that most young people get the concept of comfort zones — and with just a bit of facilitation they can identify their own comfort zones and consider if / how those are holding them back. In fact, comfort zones are a great place to start working with young adults as we help them to find their way.  

In my work with clients, we often discuss a fable of my creation about this bear who was raised in a traveling circus, living in a cage since infancy. One day the humans in charge decide to give the bear its freedom, opening the cage door and trying to prompt the bear out into the wilderness. The bear is unsure, as out there it will have to fend for itself, sleep in the rain, eat whatever, and deal with all kinds of wild animals. The bear rationalizes that while cage life kind of sucks, and the floor is hard, and it gets lonely — regular meals are delivered, it gets dog biscuits for doing tricks, it doesn’t get rained on, and they change the straw every now and again. So it chooses to stay in the cage.  

The tragedy of the bear’s circumstances and decisions are obvious. And people are quite able consider if their own life decisions might sadly be like that bear’s.   

Many young adults can quickly relate to that poor bear — with empathy for it, certainly not judgement. And when we maintain an empathetic perspective, they are able to explore their own fears and comfort zones with less embarrassment. We can unpack what things are hard or scary for them. Also, in what ways they are hesitant. We can talk about when their comfort zones may be problematic, and what they are giving up by avoiding life’s challenges. And they realize that it is probably time for them to try growing through their hesitancy, to experience what waits on the other side.  

Helping young people to step out of their comfort zones can be an effective way to get growth-related thinking in motion. Working to overcome a specific fear or discomfort can be fairly straightforward and maybe even exciting. And it is not so ambitious as making some big life plan. It is just about taking steps and gaining confidence.  

When a young person has stalled on the road of life, coaching them to take a few steps out of their cage is a great way to help them along.

Anyone who would like to connect with me or explore these topics more is invited to visit my website at www.otoolecoaching.com

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Martin O'Toole

Marty is a great listener who asks a lot of curious questions. When he asks about your day or how you are doing, he really wants to know. And he comes equipped with a supply of anecdotes and stories that keep the time together interesting.

He is practical and results-oriented. He believes in showing up every day to do the work and learning by experience. He preaches action orientation, resilience, entrepreneurship, and the importance of good decision-making.