We’ve all heard of the comfort zone and experienced the discomfort of stepping out of it.
Why is it important to keep on stepping out? Let’s start by exploring the zones.
The things you are comfortable and happy to do sit within our comfort zone. They need no effort, they are things we are good at, enjoy or simply know how to do.
Outside of our comfort lies the learning zone. It’s everything we’ve never done. It’s new challenges, experiences, and skills. This means that all learning lies outside of our comfort zone. So, to learn, we have to prepared to experience some discomfort.
Outside of our learning zone is the panic zone. This means that if we are pushed too far out of our comfort zone, we can experience anxiety to such a degree that we not only retreat back to our comfort zone, but we make our comfort zone smaller. For example, if you were a nervous swimmer and someone pushed you into the deep end of the pool, you might decide you will never get into a swimming pool again, or the sea, or a boat. You could develop a fear of all water. Because you were pushed into the panic zone, your comfort zone related to water is now smaller than before.
Why step outside the comfort zone?
Simply staying in our comfort zone will also make it smaller. Some skills that were useful to us 10 years ago are not needed now. If we are not adding any new skills our comfort zone will shrink.
Think about how quickly technology moves on. I want to be able to chat online with my nieces and nephew as they grow up, and access learning over platforms like Zoom, it would be so easy to stop trying to keep up but it isn’t in my own best interest.
If you’re a leader it may be tempting to let the person on your team who is nervous about change, stay in their comfort zone. It might seem like you are being nice, being kind. What it’s actually doing is making it even harder for that person when the time comes that they no longer have the skills to perform their role. Leaders need to be comfortable with creating discomfort for others. As long as it is done with the intention of helping them learn and grow then it is positive discomfort. And as long as you support them you will avoid the panic zone.
Staying in the learning zone.
Every time you do something new your comfort zone grows, and it grows in more directions than you may realise.
Of course, everyone is different, so our comfort zones will be different too. What is easy for one person will be a huge challenge for someone else. Only you know when you are stepping out of one zone and into another.
The great news is that when you do something that really challenges you, suddenly ten other things that used look like a challenge suddenly don’t look as daunting.
That’s why outward-bound challenges can be so transformative. If you do something like a zip line, abseiling, or a parachute jump then going for an interview or starting a new job looks like a breeze.
I go on holiday every year to Center Parcs with my nieces and nephew. I have had to confront my fears to join in with them on zip lines, and my biggest fear of all, caving! I was queuing up with Martha, who was 12 at the time for the new high thrills water ride and I said I thought she was very brave doing all these challenges. She said she wasn’t brave because she wasn’t scared. She said she thought I was brave because I was frightened but I did it anyway. This was honestly one of my proudest most heart melting moments. How did she get so wise?
What is one thing that you could do that would open the doors to lots of other opportunities?
What lies outside your comfort and how will it feel when you have tackled it?
By being comfortable with the discomfort of learning something new, we will always be open to new experiences, new challenges, and growth.
Maybe I can help?
As a coach, I can help you identify what might be holding you back and you may discover that it’s just a story that you are telling yourself.
How would it feel to discover the joy of achieving a new challenge?
How could stepping outside your comfort zone help you find your happy?