The comfort zone is “behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk.”
What is it about our comfort zone that we are afraid to push the boundaries? Is it the familiarity, the security and safety, or a certainty (or uncertainty)? Maybe it is staying in that easy routine that doesn’t present any stress, panic, anxiety, or discomfort.
The Comfort Zone keeps us at an easier, comfortable and less stressful pace of activities we do on a regular basis, like cooking, commuting, watching TV, a familiar training routine, racing the same races, doing nothing at all, eating the same foods, living your predictable life, not interrupting the balance.
We even stay busy in the “work trap” in order not to move ahead into any new territory.
Our comfort zones ebb and flow-we move and shift in and out of learning curves but when that curve gets a bit too stressful it moves to panic. That’s when it gets challenging.
Becoming uncomfortable challenges the body, heart, spirit and the mind but it is what keeps us growing, moving forward, changing and propelling us out of that stagnant place we call comfort.
In 1908 psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance but in order to maximize performance, one needs to create a place of “Optimal Anxiety.”
This slight stress and hint of anxiety seems to help us get more work done; it also has been proven to up our skill level, performance, and get us to push ourselves just enough to get it done.
The balance is crucial. If the mix of stress, pressure and task is too much, performance will drop. We then go back into our neutral comfortable, low-anxiety state .
Researcher Brené Brown says, “uncertain social, political, or economic conditions can also effectively make our comfort zones smaller. The more afraid we are, the smaller our zone tends to be.”
Here are a few reasons why you may want to find that productive discomfort spot:
Personal growth – Doing something out of the zone like rock climbing, sky diving, or a physical challenge that actually creates a good stress, so when you are done it gives you a sense of accomplishment and therefore helps boost your confidence level.
Motivation – Doing something fresh, exciting and unconventional not only keeps you motivated, it also creates the hormone Dopamine in the brain that tells us we may be rewarded each time we move out into a place that is new, creative and innovative. It has also been proven to help our learning and memory capabilities.
Let your perfection go We are all not perfect, and to stay in the zone is protecting yourself against imperfection. Once you realize this the more you will take some risks. With that can come greatness, growth and defining what you really are capable of doing. Familiarity is what we enjoy. It is okay to hang in the zone for a while. We need that down time to process all the advantages we achieve when we leave it.
Find that healthy balance between comfort, security, motivation and unfamiliarity and enjoy a new comfort zone that you will create for yourself.
It may not be comfortable at first, but the limits are endless.