“Minds, like bodies, will fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.”
Most of us have a thermostat that regulates the temperature in our house.
When it gets a bit too warm, the air conditioning kicks on to bring the temperature down to an acceptable range. When the temperature drops below a comfortable point, the heater comes on to bring the room temperature up to a more comfortable level. The “comfort zone” is the range of temperature that is not too hot and not too cold; just comfortable.
Your personal “comfort zone” is where you are comfortable in what you are doing in your job, your life and your experiences. It is when you have no feelings of risk or anxiety. Some call it “being comfortable”. Some would call it “a rut”.
You have your own personal comfort zone.
Your built-in “thermostat” regulates your level of anxiety, fear and discomfort. When you step outside your normal, existing boundaries in the areas of your knowledge, skills, habits and attitude, you begin to feel a bit anxious. The natural tendency is to pull back.
Try this: fold your arms. Now, fold them the other way.
How did that make you feel? Felt a bit unnatural, didn’t it? That’s why you usually stay within your comfort zone. When you try something new, you often feel uneasy about it, and frequently pull back. The security feels good.
The downside of all this is that always staying in your comfort zone can be very limiting.
The world passes us by as we stagnate. Complacency, in our fast-paced competitive world, can be fatal to business and severely limit personal and professional growth. If you are not learning, trying new things and growing, your job or business may be deteriorating.
How do you <– e x p a n d –> your comfort zone?
Before you just throw all caution to the wind, try some simple things.
- Drive home a different route.
- Shop at a different grocery store.
- Order something from the menu that you’ve never tried before.
- Sleep on the other side of the bed.
Make a conscious effort to experiment.
Let yourself feel the adrenaline level rise a bit. Allow your anxiety level to increase. Feel your heart rate and breathing going faster.
The adrenaline is your body’s natural drug that, in moderation, makes you sharp, creative, and quick. It creates the feeling of excitement and exhilaration that comes from trying something new. Recognize that it also can be scary and stressful. Some stress is useful. Too much can be harmful. Some stress provides energy. Too much stress causes distress and can lead to burnout if done to extreme.
Why would you want to give yourself the stress of stepping outside your comfort zone?
Because that’s where growth takes place.
Just like a muscle gets stronger when you exercise it outside its normal range of use, you get stronger when you get out of your rut. And just like your muscles, once you stretch beyond your current capabilities, you don’t go back to your original dimensions.
As you try new things, you gain confidence. Confidence makes you feel powerful and good. And when you are confident that you can survive new ideas, you allow yourself to try even more new things.
What’s the limit?
Obviously, you need to be realistic in your risk management. Most successful people think through the possible outcomes of taking a risk. Then they prepare for how they would deal with each potential outcome. Successful people take risks, but they are not foolhardy or stupid.
What are some higher-level activities that could add to your personal and professional growth?
Here’s my challenge to you.
Make a list of 50 things that, if you really were successful in doing them, you would be a better person or a better company. Things like
- Give a speech (oh no!),
- Write and publish an article,
- Start an exercise program,
- Meditate daily,
- Teach a class,
- Feed a homeless person,
- Climb a mountain,
- Learn to play a new musical instrument,
- Sign up for a dance class,
- Try for that promotion,
- And so on.
Then choose one or two that you are willing to do within the next 90 days. Schedule those new activities, and then go for it. Afterward, choose one or two more and do it again. Make personal and professional growth a lifelong habit.
Don’t stay PARKED in the comfort zone.
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