How We Wind Ourselves Up Via Our PACES – Part 4 – Desire For EASE – Caroline Ferguson, Mindset Trainer

How We Wind Ourselves Up Via Our PACES – Part 4 – Desire For EASE

By Caroline Ferguson | PACES


Once upon a time, for me, today’s topic was a little too close for comfort.

(Heh, did you see what I did there? You will in a second.)

The fourth of the five ways in which we tend to disturb ourselves – or what I call our PACES™ – is a whopper:


This one triggers people in lots of different ways but it all comes down to wanting life to be safe and easy and ‘known’.

For much of human evolution, the world has been a very dangerous place. Every time we left the sanctuary of our shelter, we risked death from predators or marauders.

It’s a fact that most people have a comfort zone and don’t like straying too far from it. And no wonder. The negative consequences of entering unknown territory can range from mild concern, to anxiety, through to full-blown panic and terror.

‘Discomfort disturbance’ as it’s sometimes known (or Low Frustration Tolerance, but let’s not go there), covers a multitude of mindset unpleasantness. Here are just a few of the ways in which it can show up:

  • I have to know what’s going to happen…
  • I can’t possibly get up on that stage – I’m so scared…
  • Please don’t make me go to the dentist. I can’t bear the thought of the pain…
  • I can’t face opening my bank statement and all those bills…
  • I hate going on the tube – just the thought of all those people…
  • I can’t stand the idea of spending the holidays with my awful family…

It’s all in the “or else…”

As with yesterday’s post about our need for validation, the key to why we have a huge desire to feel comfortable and in control of ourselves and our environment lies in the unspoken “or else…” that clings to these thoughts.

  • … or else it will be absolutely awful.
  • … or else I can’t bear it.
  • … or else I can’t stand how it would feel.
  • … or else I won’t be able to cope.

I have a confession.

A narrow comfort zone prevents a lot of experts from fully stepping into their roles with conviction. This is something I come across a lot in my coaching practice and it strikes a chord with me.

You see, discomfort disturbance used to be my ‘thing‘. A sensitive flower for much of my life, the words “I can’t bear it…” had a starring role in my phrasebook.

It was only when I retrained as a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist that I finally found a psychological toolkit that could help me to expand my comfort zone. I can’t tell you what a difference it made. I’m a much more confident and peaceful person these days and cope pretty well with not knowing.

To everyone who was on the receiving end of my past tantrums, I humbly apologise.

A word about anxiety…

Feeling overwhelmed at being outside your comfort zone can cause real issues for those who suffer from anxiety. In fact it’s a bit of a vicious circle.

If you think you’re going to feel anxious and out of your depth in a particular situation, then it’s quite likely that you will. (Not least because you’ve already wound yourself up into a state just thinking about how uncomfortable you might feel long before you actually experience it.)

By the way, when I mention anxiety, I’m not referring to pronounced negative emotion, such as you get with generalised anxiety disorder (known as GAD). Left unchecked, anxiety can become a miserable habit. If you find that you’re constantly anxious and can’t switch your brain off from fretting and imagining the worst – especially in the wee small hours when fears tend to be magnified – please go and see your doctor. There are plenty of ways they can help.

So how do you expand a restricted comfort zone?

The key to cracking discomfort disturbance is boosting your RESILIENCE. And that, surprise, surprise, is all down to changing your mindset.

Resilience is the ability to weather the ups and downs of life and bounce back from adversity.

If you cling to rigid beliefs and behaviour and spend all your time worrying about the problem, setbacks can knock you over. Whereas if you’re flexible and adaptable and able to focus on solutions, you’re much more likely to emerge relatively unscathed.

With resilience on your side, you’re better able to deal with situations that feel unpleasant, scary or threatening. You trust yourself and know that you’re strong enough to survive pretty much anything.

How to become more resilient

To develop resilience, when you’re facing an uncomfortable situation remind yourself that you can cope. Do this with passion and vigour and gusto so that your mind understands that this is something important and a change from your normal behaviour.

I love that word so I’m going to say it again. GUSTO!

Another brilliant tactic is to practise mindful living, which can be summarised in two words: BE PRESENT. Paying attention to the here and now helps you to focus on what is, not terrifying thoughts of what might be. I’ll come back to Mindfulness in another post because if Mindset is 42, then surely Mindfulness must be 43.

Using beliefs to expand your comfort zone

I don’t have space to go into it here but there is an extremely powerful way to develop a more resilient mindset. If you can identify the rigid, irrational beliefs that are causing you to feel uncomfortable in challenging situations, you can choose to replace them with healthier, more flexible beliefs.

But that’s another process altogether. Stay tuned to find out more.

Task: Over the next week, spend five minutes every day reflecting on occasions when you’ve handled difficult situations well. Remember them in detail and relive them. Really connect with your feelings of pride and satisfaction at the way you dealt with those challenges.

Repeat this affirmation to yourself several times a day, with energy and conviction:

“Every day, I’m becoming more resilient. I’m stronger than I give myself credit for and can cope with whatever life throws at me. I don’t waste time anticipating problems that may never happen, but I deal with them well when they do.”

Then, when you next find yourself out of your comfort zone, recall those feelings of pride and satisfaction and remind yourself (with gusto, of course!) that you can cope. Because you can, you know. You always do.

Next time, I’ll take a look at the last of the five PACES™ (ways in which we tend to disturb ourselves): desire for SELF RULE. Ring any bells?

Please comment and share if you’ve found this post interesting or useful.


About the Author

Caroline is a Mindset Trainer and speaker who works with sensitive, high-potential leaders who know they were born for something more. She shows them how to beat mindset blocks and habits, such as limiting beliefs, low self worth and procrastination, that are preventing them from making a bigger impact.

  • sarah says:

    Ok. So you got me. I signed up! Resilient? I like to think so. But I know I could improve on that one. Haha.

    Have to say though, I’ve been stepping outside of my comfort zone regularly for over 2 years now and it’s absolutely BRILLIANT.

    I’ve always liked work challenges and prefer not to know what’s coming next (maybe what’s coming will be tougher to deal with than what’s going on right now (!) so I find in that respect, that ignorance is pure bliss. 🙂

    Look forward to your email Caroline. 😉

    • admin says:

      Hi Sarah, I completely agree – once you expand your zone of comfort, life can be exhilarating. There are definitely some people who are more adventurous and resilient than others.

  • Judy says:

    Thanks, a good reminder not to get more and more drawn into trying to control everything, which of course you can’t do. I agree you have to step back and think what problem am I trying to solve and either find a different way to do it or abandon it as something of lesser concern than what you really want to achieve.

    • admin says:

      That’s a great strategy, Judy. When you stop and reflect, you turn automatic thought process into a conscious one. And when you’re aware of your thoughts, you have the choice to change them.

  • Fil says:

    Such an interesting post Caroline. I’ll be watching out for the rest of your series.

  • Coping with ‘not knowing’ is a core skillset for any entrepreneur; you don’t need to take silly risks but you do have to be comfortable without a predicted outcome.

    • admin says:

      Indeed it is, Jenny, but so many experts and entrepreneurs are holding themselves back because they don’t have that resilience.

      A need for certainty is hard-wired into us – we lived in caves for a lot longer than we’ve been out here in the outside world and life was fraught with danger for our ancestors. The qualities that served them well don’t always work for us today but our minds and bodies haven’t had time to adapt yet.

  • Benedicte says:

    Hey Caroline, again a thought-provoking post! I like how you link the comfort zone issue with the need for validation discussed in yesterday’s post. It makes so much sense, yet I had never thought of it this way. Thanks!

    • admin says:

      Hi B! Thanks for your comment. When it comes to mindset, it’s all linked. It’s the beliefs that are at the heart of it all – I’ll be going into that in more detail soon. x

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