“You need to get out of your comfort zone.” How often do you hear that as the rationale for doing something different? Have you stopped and wondered what your comfort zone is exactly? Let’s take a moment to define it.
According to wikipedia, the comfort zone is defined as a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.
So basically, it’s going about your regular day doing things that don’t freak you out. It also means you are doing things that aren’t helping you grow because it’s routine.
But is your comfort zone really this black and white? Are you either in or out?
In reality, rather than 2 discrete states, it’s actually a range where the starting point is the outer edge of your current comfort zone and the next point is a place that makes you slightly uncomfortable and the point after that, even more uncomfortable.
It’s a range where newness, adventure and personal growth get progressively larger as you step away from your routine.
How does this apply? Let’s take socializing for example. May be you are an introvert and only go to parties where you know most of the people there. So going to a random event where you know no one would be out of your comfort zone. But where do you draw the line exactly? What if you were invited to go somewhere with 5 other friends – would you do that? What if there were only 3?
“It’s great to step outside your comfort zone. That’s how you grow.”
So should we always strive to be outside it?
It depends. The first step is to be aware of and define your current comfort zone. Unless you know your limit – how would you know to step outside it? And by how much?
Second, you have to decide how far you are willing to step outside of it.
Sometimes taking too big a leap can send you recoiling back to your comfort zone. So for our introvert in the example above, maybe going to a party with 20 or so people 4 of them friends would be a good step outside their comfort zone. But a nightclub with a 1000 people where they don’t know anyone is too big a stretch. It may prevent them from going at all.
Another thing to consider is just because something is outside of your comfort zone, it isn’t necessarily good for you. You could, for example, be in a work environment that’s so far outside your comfort zone that you are constantly stressed. That doesn’t lead to growth. It leads to burnout.
So what’s the point?
Instead of blindly assuming that getting out of your comfort zone any way you can is a good thing, realize it might not be.
Think about expanding your horizons in this way:
- Pick one area of your life where you want to improve. Say it’s being more comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
- Assess your current behavior and measure it. Does it feel completely routine? If so, call that your comfort zone. Let’s say you currently give your boss a weekly status report in his office. Since you are completely comfortable with it, let’s call this a “1″.
- Map your growth. Your comfort zone is “1″ and let’s just say giving a presentation to the entire company is a “10″. What are the steps in between? Maybe sharing a project audit with your colleagues is a “3″. Perhaps researching an industry issue and presenting it to your division is an “8″. Fill in the numbers and soon you’ll have a scale leading you from comfortable routine to hair-raising.
- Now that you have your scale, draw a line between the number that gives you some butterflies and the number that makes you sweat. This where you’ll test the waters to see if you can turn comfortable routine into comfortable growth
As you can see, blinding going for what’s outside your comfort zone is not the answer. Go too far and you’ll snap back to square one. The next time you are asked to step outside your comfort zone, do an assessment and make a plan. Growth may be tough at times but comfortable growth should be exciting and achievable.
Pooja is a firm believer in the power of the human spirit. If you want it badly enough, there is no dream that’s too big to achieve with the right ATTITUDE, COMMITMENT and HARD WORK. As a life coach, she gets to work with clients and discover what’s truly important in their lives. Pooja creates CUSTOMIZED plans designed to help you achieve your GOALS. She helps you find and live your AWESOME!