“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.”
In this blog I am going to explain what a comfort zone is and why it is incredibly important to to step out of your comfort zone in order develop new skills, experience new things and fulfil your true potential.
What is a Comfort Zone?
The term “comfort zone” was originally coined by Alasdair White, a Business Management Theorist, in 2009. Popular definitions of what a comfort zone is often go something like this:
A comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person, and they are at ease, and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.
People feel safe and comfortable in their comfort zone. There is less risk, relatively less stress, and few nasty surprises. Sounds good right. However, there is also extraordinarily little personal growth in your comfort zone, which is why any life coach will tell you it is not a place you want to stay. People who stay in their comfort zone will stay the same and will never develop new skills, experience new things, or fulfil their true potential.
Sure, outside of your comfort zone is the unknown. True, you never know what will happen. However, outcomes may not be certain, but personal growth is. People who venture into this unknown, frightening, and uncomfortable land will most certainly change themselves for the better.
Because leaving your comfort zone is uncomfortable! Getting out of your comfort zone is difficult because the brain doesn’t like change; it craves routine and is actually hard-wired to keep you safe. Unfortunately, it is also programmed to expect the worst-case scenario and acts to protect you, which is why we think the worst thoughts and the inner voice tries to talk us out of it when we do try to push our comfort zone.
However, following the same routine every day of your life even if you are not entirely happy maybe a recipe for steady performance but doesn’t lead to growth or maximum performance. Another factor is that we like to minimise the risk of failure. Outside the comfort zone, the likelihood of failure is obviously increased as we do things we’re unfamiliar with. Many of us would rather succeed without personal growth than go through the negative feelings failure presents, but failure always leads to growth.
The brain is also lazy. The brain also burns lots of the body’s energy. While the brain represents just 2% of a person’s total body weight, it accounts for 20% of the body’s energy use and – your brain (and body) is going to want to conserve energy where it can, and therefore it looks for the easiest route. The brain does not want extra things to do. Therefore it is easier for the brain to rely on habits and routine to get you through life. Makes sense but the problem is, the brain also does not know the difference between a good new habit and a bad old habit, so it tries to get you to do what you have always done, by encouraging you to stay inside your comfort zone.
In recent years psychologists have expanded on the concept of the comfort zone and something called Yerkes “Optimal Anxiety” theory. The brain learns best when stress levels are slightly higher than normal – a space called Optimal Anxiety, which falls somewhere between our comfort zone and the point of total freakout. Although some degree of anxiety can improve our performance on a range of tasks, severe anxiety can have the opposite effect and hinder our performance. Thus, whereas a confident and talented actor may perform optimally in front of a live audience, a novice may develop stage-fright and freeze.
Whilst it is important to explore the world outside your comfort zone, it is also necessary to do this in a way that doesn’t cause excessive anxiety and still look after your physical and mental health! You need to know what growth looks like for you. Your growth zone exists outside of your comfort zone but is not a place of stress, on the flipside, it’s a space of opportunity. To expand your comfort zone, increase the quality of your life, and enhance your self-confidence, you must keep on pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, so it expands bit by bit. We have to venture into the unknown, to make it known.
Stepping out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone means identifying the opportunity and doing things that you do not normally feel comfortable with doing. Think of the long-term benefits of trying something different rather than the short-term nervousness anxiety that it will provoke. Fight through the initial aversiveness of venturing outside, and what was once uncomfortable will slowly become incorporated into your comfort zone.
Pushing your comfort zone does NOT have to be extreme, actually it shouldn’t be. You don’t have to wake up tomorrow and do a sky dive. Push yourself in unfamiliar places, eat different foods, meet different people, and do other simple things that you would not normally do. Yes, you may feel anxious and you will not know what will happen. However, as you step out your comfort zone and explore your growth zone you will experience new things, learn more and see things in a different light.
When people ask me what my favourite holiday is, it is a tough one for me to find just one. Travel is a passion of mine, and I blessed to have the craziest of parents who started my travel bug with trips to exotic places like Thailand as a little girl and didn’t think anything of doing things like an unplanned “day trip” to France. But one holiday that certainly sticks out is my 2017 adventure to Peru. Not just because it was an amazing trip of culture, pisco sour cocktails and exploring the Amazon rain-forest, but because I really pushed my comfort zone.
From zip lining over canyons, to trying the local delicacy of alpaca and guinea pig (I don’t recommend eating either of those by the way), every day was a comfort pushing escapade! And of course, there was my five-day trek on the “Salkantay” route to Machu Picchu, which is considered the hardest of the treks to the world heritage site. Combine that with me being seriously ill with ‘food poisoning’ (turned out it was a parasite!), I seriously doubted myself on the start of that journey. But I did it and I felt invincible after. My comfort zone had been stretched and now I was on the next level! I had a taste of what I could achieve when I put my mind to it, and I liked it.
Keep Pushing your Comfort Zone
Your comfort zone is like a muscle – keep growing and stretching it! Once you have created this new reality, you need to push yourself beyond your new comfort zone so that your never-ending cycle of personal growth continues.
Yes, I know it can be scary, and it feels comforting to do the things we have always done, however following the same routine every day of your life does not lead to growth and self-development!
Are you frightened of failing? Read my article Why Failure is Actually a Good Thing to see why failure is an essential part of your self-development. As Sara Blakely, multi-millionaire founder and CEO of SPANX said, “Go ahead, make mistakes. The worst that can happen is you become memorable!“
If you are looking to grow your comfort zone and want to do this in a way that is supported, get in touch via email@example.com to see how my 121 coaching packages might be perfect for you!
I am not naturally one of those people who want to venture out of their comfort zone. However, as I understood more about personal development and create my life-by-design, I learnt everything is on the other side of your fear and comfort zone. Listen to my Facebook Live for 7 essential tips how to push yourself out of your comfort zone!
Listen to my Facebook Live for 7 essential tips
how to push yourself out of your comfort zone!
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Below are links to other blog articles that you might be interested to read.
The Pomodoro technique divides the working day into easy to manage segments – think of these as elephant bit-sizing chunks. All tasks, big and small, are broken down into small manageable activities that can be tackled one-step at a time. Find out why it will help you be more productive especially if you are working from home.
Thought is the most powerful force in the universe. As Einstein’s relativity revolution revealed, everything is made of energy. Our thoughts are the controlling factor in what we manifest and create in our lives. Find out how you can use visualisation as a powerful technique to create success.
If you asked me what was one of the things I was most proud about in my corporate career, apart from moving up the ladder fairly quickly, it would also probably be my work-life balance.
When it comes to goal setting, you’ll have heard about SMART goals. But if SMART goals are the way to do it, then why do so many of us not achieve our goals? Here is why SMART goals are stupid and some top tips how you can improve your goal setting!
The way to achieve success and get your goal isn’t to do with what you might think. It has nothing to do with willpower, determination or how many degrees you’ve got. It is about the daily discipline of habits.
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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.
For more information please see www.alicedartnell.com.
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