What is the comfort zone? Well, not our sofa, although this is where many of us retreat to when we want to relax and feel comfortable. Comfort zone relates to a mental state in which we are relaxed, where we can pursue our daily work and routines, where we are open to learning. We know where we are, we rely on ourselves and established routines, we know what we are doing, we feel comfortable. Being out of the comfort zone is – you guessed it – uncomfortable and it is the space where learning is difficult, if not impossible as being out there causes stress.
When we are in the discomfort zone, we mostly did not choose to be there, it happens quite suddenly, quickly, it can be an accident, something we did not plan for or anticipate. Or, we push ourselves into the discomfort zone by not taking care of the time we need to adapt to change. Learning in the discomfort zone is not possible, our brain, and therefore our body, is in survival mode, we are experiencing mental and physical stress. Confidence is lost in the blink of an eye, and it takes a long time to rebuild it. Only with hindsight, when recovering from the experience, we learn from it and sometimes can even grow on it.
Stretching the comfort zone is a very different process. We make a conscious decision to leave our space of routine, the well-known and embark on a chosen adventure or decide to face new challenges. As long as these activities are associated with a tingle, a little excitement, we are stretching our comfort zone, but not actually leaving it.
Step-by-step, and ideally with some support, we can do what we want to do, go where we always wanted to go. Often, social pressure, the idea of ‘…if I only push myself hard enough, I will succeed’ is the reason for us ending out there, in that zone of discomfort and worst case, we experience burn-out symptoms.
What if we could just be a bit more patient, and friendly to ourselves, without loosing sight of our goals and dreams? I believe that personal development and growth do not happen over night, it takes time and to take that time for yourself is the first step toward stretching that comfort zone.