Are you in the comfort zone? It may seem like an odd question to ask – what is the comfort zone anyway?
A video by Bill Eckstrom giving a Ted Talk was in my YouTube feed this morning and the title was, “why comfort will ruin your life”. It sounded interesting, in a morbid way, so I had a listen, then I listened again.
Bill states that as humans we are in one of four states or what he calls “growth rings”. When he talks about these growth rings he is talking about them from a career or family perspective, but as Muslims we can look at them from a religious perspective too.
The first is a low performing, low growth environment “stagnation“. So this is the Muslim who perhaps prays now and then, goes to jummah now and then, gives sadaqah now and then. He is a bit, hit and miss with his religion and he doesn’t make any attempt to further what little knowledge he has. This is not a safe place to be as it can slowly lead to chaos, if not checked.
The second is almost the opposite of stagnation, which is “chaos.” Bill says that this is the antithesis to stagnation but is also low performing and low growth. This would be someone who has not yet found Islam, they don’t have the light of Emaan. Their lives are in chaos – although they appear calm and collected – their souls are in trouble until they find the true purpose in life which is the worship of the One, Allah.
The third is “order” and this may sound good, after all we seek order in our lives. Bill describes this state as predictable comfort i.e. the comfort zone. So this brings us to the title, are you in the comfort zone? The comfort zone is where a person is in a status quo, they are praying 5 times, paying sadaqah by direct debit each month, always attending jummah, attending a weekly class on Islam and repeats.
What is wrong with that? Surely this is the goal for all of us? It is of course, in fact this may be the goal for many. It may be that you in the comfort zone with a lot less i.e. regularly praying jummah or praying isha on a daily basis. The danger with constantly being in a state of “order” is that you are not growing. As one of my teachers said, “you are on a downward escalator, if you don’t keep moving you will end up going backwards” i.e. by staying in the state or order you will start to stagnate and that leads to problem.
That is why we come to the fourth growth ring which is “complexity“. Bill explains this as “growth only occurs in a state of discomfort” i.e. we need to get out of the comfort zone to truly grow as a “slave” of Allah. We need to switch up our practices, wake up for tahajjud, pray in a different mosque, give out random sadaqah, do a different dhikr, attend classes we wouldn’t normally attend, pray sunnah prayers we don’t normally pray, go on spiritual retreats, give up our trips to holiday resorts and go off the beaten track to Jerusalem, Cairo, Bosnia, Istanbul.
We were made for so much. Allah has angels who worship Him, He created us to know Him and to love Him.
Our religion is so amazing, Allah has given us so many different ways of worship so that our slave-hood to him isn’t slavish but actually a relationship of love. So yes, we spend our time in order as order is key, however, order easily leads to stagnation and so every now and again we must enter the zone of complexity! Switch up your routine, step up your game, get out of the mundane, taste the worship, feel the love and rejuvenate your soul.