Don’t Get Stuck In Your Comfort Zones

When you’ve been doing something for a while, and start getting good at it, things feel great. You like your progress, your pace, and where it has taken to you. When things feel this good, why change into the unknown, possibly “feel bad” world that may (or you know is) waiting for you. What you’ve done has worked for you up till now, so it makes sense that continuing it will work for you in the future.

It feels good. But it’s a trap. The comfort zone trap.

Getting Stuck In Your Comfort Zones

When you fall into a comfort zone, everything feels like a plus. You are kind of tricked into thinking that this is beneficial to you because plus is positive. But when things are always feeling good, it’s very hard to make new and significant progress, and ever step out of there. The longer you are in a comfort zone, the longer you may never leave.

There are 4 comfort zones I’ve found which Japanese learners get stuck in. There is resistance to leave and you convince yourself that everything is okay.

Comfort Zones

Zone 1: English subtitles
Zone 2: Japanese-English dictionary
Zone 3: Simple media only (manga, anime, etc.)
Zone 4: Controlled speaking environments (classes, lessons, etc.)

How do you leave the comfort zones? Well you enter the… “discomfort” zones. Places you are unfamiliar with, feel doubt and lack of confidence.

Discomfort Zones

Zone 1: Japanese subtitles or no subtitles
Zone 2: Japanese-Japanese dictionary
Zone 3: Complex media (Novels, news, etc.)
Zone 4: Conversations out in the wild in Japan or with normal Japanese people

Getting Stuck In Your Comfort Zones 2

Taking a step out into these brings about discomfort… but only at first. Discomfort zones quickly turn into normal zones, and eventually into their own final comfort zones. Wouldn’t you rather be in a final comfort zone, where you have the ability to do everything you set out to do?

It’s tough. Everyone loves comfort. But comfort can be a major enemy.

What comfort zones have you gotten stuck in?

How did you get out?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese. On a quest to become 日本語王 (king of the Japanese language).

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Don’t Get Stuck In Your Comfort Zones — 19 Comments

  1. As far as comfort zones go:

    Zone 1: It was painful to let go of subtitles. I was lucky enough to get into things that rarely if ever got subtitled, so I knew I could survive without them. I also knew subtitles were holding me back and I had to take the training wheels off sooner or later.

    Zone 2: I’m still struggling with this but I’m working hard to wean myself off J-E.

    Zone 3: I’ve tried to watch a variety of things from the beginning (but you can probably tell from all the hearts I use in my typing what I spend 80% of my time consuming).

    Zone 4: I’ve never been in a controlled speaking environment <3

    Discomfort Zones:

    Zone 3: I'm not quite ready for novels or the news yet. I need a firmer grasp on Kanji and vocab.

    Zone 4: This has just started happening for me. I've been watching a ton of people stream on Twitch and niconico and one day I finally got the courage to type おはよう and you know what happened? The world ended. No just kidding (but I was scared). The cute girl (technically woman) who was streaming said it right back <3 Since then I've typed a few more simple things but my speed hasn't gotten there quite yet to participate in stream chats.

    I've also just recently started using twitter (again). I've tried to write Japanese before but it just never felt right. It felt like "okay I want to say something in English so now I have to figure out how to say it in Japanese". I was just trying to write in Japanese for the sake of writing in Japanese. It didn't feel right. Recently it has changed into "okay I have this thing/feeling I want to write and it's going to come out in Japanese". It feels right. I'm expressing what I want to say in Japanese (in my tweets). I don't feel like I'm writing it just for the sake of it. I'm just writing what I want to say. Now, to be fair all of my tweets are still at the baby level (extremely simple stuff) and I know I've missed a particle here or there and some of them could have been more clear, but I am expressing myself in Japanese.

    It took me a long time to get into this discomfort zone. I think it just kind of happened naturally, and it’s still very uncomfortable. But holy moly I am NOT going back now…FULL SPEED AHEAD!

    • Congrats on working up the courage to start participating in Twitch chats. Even just saying a few words can make a difference in growing your ability to have conversations. If you have something you want to say, and can say it, do it. Simple words are great for this. You don’t need to turn each expression of feeling into a chore, so do it when the moment strikes!

  2. Zone 1: I’ve actually stopped using subtitles of any sort for anything Japanese related. I watch series where I can gleam a lot of context from behavior and it’s not a terrible way to spend time. I still don’t understand much. I’ve told myself that if I really wanna understand anime and jdrama ever again, it’s going to be in Japanese.

    Zone 2: I guess you could say I’m comfortable in a J-E environment, but I’m still learning new grammar structures every now and then. I occasionally pop open a J-J dictionary, but it scares me away. I feel like I’m level 10 wandering into a level 90 zone. I still don’t get J-J and how its supposed to work. Mind you, I haven’t done any of the JalUP stuff, so maybe I’m missing some of the required building blocks that would’ve propped me up in preparation for J-J learning. I’ve attempted to go J-J like 3 times, and after a week or so I’m like.. “What am I doing, none of this makes sense at all”. I think that if I graded myself correctly in ANKI with J-J stuff, I’d be in an endless loop of pressing the “wrong” button.

    Zone 3: I wish Anime and Manga were simple. I still have a questionable understanding of certain tenses, for example natte+iku/kuru/itta/kita, v+te+iku/kuru, monka/monda, and sentences with that stuff throw me off too much. Also, even when I can understand everything in a sentence in a line of manga dialogue, I’m not even sure I’m getting it. I understand probably 15-20% of anime dialogue.

    Zone 4: I’ve had no conversation with a Japanese person whatsoever. I kind of feel like this might be the integral piece of the puzzle that I’m missing, but there are no means and/or I’m too shy to get onto those language exchange sites. Heck, I have issues with speaking to people I don’t know in my own language.

    • i stopped j-e when i knew they were dragging me down,i dont know how i knew it,i just knew.
      and when i reviewing cards and see something that sounds wrong i still come back to edit some sentence / definition that doesnt “feel” right every now and then,so i’m sure you will be fine,there are also some cards that should be in J-E than J-J imo,today i learnt a word that mean “oxygen” and i… understand for about 10% in J-J,so i’m going j-e with this one

    • Going into J-J right is hard, which is why the whole JALUP series was started. It takes a solid base of J-E, and then very very slowly works its way up from there. Maybe you might want to try the J-J sample, and see if that helps.

      I didn’t mean to imply anime and manga are simple. It’s not (http://japaneselevelup.com/6-reasons-japanese-anime-difficult-understand/). However, even once you get used to it, novels, news, etc. are much harder.

      You might want to just start having conversation on social sites like Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, etc.

      • Thanks for the words closa, and thanks Adam, I will give it a go. I’m kinda feeling like it’s time to move to the next level. Just trying to get my reviews in check.

  3. Comfort Zones

    Zone 1: English subtitles- Stopped using them!
    Zone 2: Japanese-English dictionary-I use it to cheat in J-J every 10th word, I am working on it
    Zone 3: Simple media only (manga, anime, etc.)-Currently not simple at all, so I don’t count it comfort quite yet
    Zone 4: Controlled speaking environments (classes, lessons, etc.)-I am taking a Japanese class offered by my school for free for easy GPA, I have a 99% average in it and I am really bored in it because I know everything.

    Discomfort Zones

    Zone 1: Japanese subtitles or no subtitles – Yup!
    Zone 2: Japanese-Japanese dictionary – Yup! (with mild cheating that I am working on)
    Zone 3: Complex media (Novels, news, etc.) Not quite there
    Zone 4: Conversations out in the wild in Japan or with normal Japanese people I had 2 normal conversations in my life in Japanese, both before I discovered Jalup so no.

    • Never understood the desire to read the news in Japanese. I avoid that stuff in English as much as possible ;P.

    • Of course it counts!

      However, I wouldn’t understimate the value of being aware of what’s going on in the world. Maybe find a more interesting/entertaining news source? =)

    • Yes, I didn’t just mean world news (politics, etc.). Science and technology news is just as important as anything else.

      News is written differently (even casual news sites), so it’s a step up.

      • I casually read blog.esuteru (if anyone knows what that is) and frequent livedoor even less. A lot of the news is either slightly depressing or uninteresting for me, i.e. Kidnapping of a high schooler, some pop star appearing in AV, and nearly all things politically related.

        There are a few exceptions, like hearing about the FMA live action adaptation, or the Tokyo Olympics symbols and signs reformation. I really should start listening to news broadcasts though.

        By the way, would be cool to see an Adam top five section. Especially for books. I really like the book write ups you’ve been doing, but there are so many now it’s getting hard to choose :P. Would be handy to know what your absolute all time favourites are, in order. Maybe even a top whatever variety shows airing right now. I’ve been loving keeping up week to week with getsuyo. It’s a lot more enjoyable watching variety shows as they air, I’ve found.

        • I will admit, I usually skip the same old depressing murder/kidnap/violence stories on Livedoor, and mostly focus on the Tech/Trends/entertainment.

          I could try a top 5, but I think the problem I have is that my likes and favorites are constantly in shift. But I’ll definitely consider an all time bests and see what I come up with.

          I do definitely need to update the variety shows.

  4. Anki decks can be a comfort zone of sorts, even though they’re a tremendous help, just like reading novels you’ve already read in English can be a comfort zone, even though they’re useful at the start. I’ve been stuck in both before, but got out because reading books was more interesting than reviewing Anki, and reading books I never read before was more interesting than re-reading old ones.

    • Great point Daniel. Anki, and even just getting stuck in “learning material mode” is a comfort zone that can be hard to break out of sometimes. It’s always a feeling of “I’ll move on to real materials when I’m ready.”

  5. I definitely agree with you that the human tendency to avoid anything that provides temporary discomfort, whether mental, emotional, or physical, is something that holds people back from developing to their full potential. The great thing about pushing yourself past your comfort zone is that the areas which provided you with discomfort in the past becomes your new normal, thereby allowing you to utilize more of your potential.

    Physically, people who go to the gym and what to get stronger or more fit have to push past their comfort zone in order to grow.

    Emotionally, people who may be reluctant to speak with members of the opposite sex due to the emotional discomfort it generates should attempt to make small strides by even saying こんにちわ/안녕 to members of the opposite sex whenever the opportunity arises. Once that becomes the new normal, you can take further strides to develop yourself emotionally.

    Of course, with language learning, I think the biggest obstacle is speaking. You have to deal with both emotional and mental discomfort when speaking in another language. For many people, the idea of striking up a simple conversation with a stranger can be an uncomfortable experience in and of itself, but when mixing that with striking up a conversation in another language, it’s easy and understandable to throw in the towel.

    During my time in Korea, I definitely had to force myself to go out there and speak to people. Once I was able to do that comfortably, then I had to try to steer myself and push myself to engage in conversations or tasks that required me to push my language skills further, such as doing my banking in Korean. The biggest barrier to all this was anxiety. Once I stopped caring as much whether I was saying things properly or naturally, I was able to practice my speaking skills more confidently and more frequently.

    Thanks for the food for thought JALUP.

    http://www.koreancrusade.com

    • You bring up a great point when it comes to speaking and that just taking a few steps outside your zone a little at a time, slowly expands that zone. Everyone is going to have those embarrassing conversations in the beginning. But things start to feel better real quick.

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