We hear it all the time “Doh, I’m well out of my comfort zone” and “Oh my gosh, I can’t do that”. Do you know where your comfort zone is? How do you know? Truth is…you don’t know about them all… your comfort zones exists in a continual state of ‘bendiness’.
Haha, I can hear you all now, “Bendiness? That’s a new word, he’s finally tipped over the edge, Shaun – has officially – lost – it”.
I thought I’d explain a few things about comfort zones, as I understand them. Those trainers out there can use this explanation when setting out your ground rules at the start of your sessions. Those coaches out there can use this information to safely stretch your clients and those psychologists out there can…well…just can.
It speaks for itself really; a comfort zone is an area where we feel comfortable. In our comfort zone we perform well and feel confident. We begin to feel uneasy and even frightened when we move outside this zone. People get anxious and fearful simply because they’re stepping out of the psychological boundaries they themself have created. Limiting ourselves in this way prevents us achieving our ultimate performance and success (whatever that is!). Therefore, it’s wise to clearly identify, challenge and expand personal comfort zones.
So, why do we need to expand our comfort zones at all?
Well, because what is comfortable for you now will, at some point, become a limitation. We all had to leave the comfort of the womb in order to grow and develop our potential. Think of another, more recent time when you were forced to move out of your comfort zone, for example when accepting a promotion or bungee jumping, now think about where it took you and the final destination.
So, here’s my take on it…
…It helps to think that there are actually 3 zones:
1. Comfort zone
2. Stretch zone
3. Panic zone
Now, if you think of these 3 zones set up as concentric circles. The inner circle is your comfort zone, the second circle your stretch zone and the outer circle your panic zone. Can’t think? Here’s a picture – Click.
The best place to learn is in your stretch zone. We don’t learn much in our comfort zone…we’re generally lazy like that. We also don’t learn much in the panic zone, or at least we’ll concentrate on only learning what we need to escape the panic zone; this learning doesn’t have to be permanent. So it makes sense to help people come out of their comfort zone and sit in their stretch zone. However, the stretch zone isn’t really that comfortable…come on… if it was comfortable it’d be called the comfort zone surely?
Because the stretch zone isn’t normally that comfy, we don’t have to stay in it. We can dip in and out. When we dip out of our comfort zone into the stretch zone the boundaries are blurred and, if done correctly, the boundaries between the two zones can be flexed… or bent. ‘Bendiness’… Things are sounding better now aren’t they?
When working with a client or group of learners, it’s your job to bounce them into their stretch zone and then return them safely to their comfort zone, keep doing it and the boundaries between the two flex and the result will be an expansion of the comfort zone… so, in other words, the more you do this bouncing the more you become comfortable with whatever you’re bouncing with.
How do we expand our comfort zones?
Try this exercise on for size:
1. Identify 3 of your comfort zones…and write them down.
This first step will allow you to identify and examine your limitations. What is holding you back? Are there things you want to do, places you want to go? Yet somehow you speak about it, know the theory, but just don’t take action. These are your comfort zones. For example, you may lack discipline in your fitness plan, or, as in my case, you might be fearful of letting go of your monthly salary to start your own business. Come on…You know where you are holding back!
2. Name a comfort zone you are ready to challenge…and write it down.
Pick one comfort zone you are ready and willing to change. Break it up into chunks by answering the following three questions (you can add more):
How does it hold you back?
What are your fears?
How do you know you are ready to change?
3. Face the fear and expand.
You see, the thing is, comfort zones are relative; they are merely the limited perceptions of our minds. Comfort for me might be stagnation for another and my advance is another’s retreat. We have nothing to fear in overstepping the boundaries we have created in our own minds.
Next, clearly list the actions you could take to expand your comfort zones. What are you going to do differently in the next 7 days?
You’ll need to be specific about dates and what support you will need.
I hope this article helps. Remember, you are the author of your own life; you create your own destiny. As you break down your barriers and allow for bendiness, confidence and passion emerge and grant you nothing but Forward Motion.