So the oft-quoted saying goes….. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
When you spend your adult life working in and around the personal development world, it is hard not to be familiar with the idea of us all having a comfort zone, and that by stepping out of that comfort zone, change and wondrous things happen. Illustrated often by this sort of diagram:
The problem for me, is that this diagram got ruined when the film ‘Meet the Parents’ came out and Jack Byrnes (played by Robert De Niro) showed his prospective son-in-law Gaylord Focker (played by Ben Stiller) that his behaviour had led to him no longer being within his ‘Circle of Trust’, which he illustrated like this…..
I found it very funny, though you have to have seen the film to appreciate it. Needless to say, it means I now snigger every time I see the comfort zone diagram because I think of the film. Yeah, so, I digressed….
One prominent condition that holds many people back in life is the fear of leaving their comfort zone. What is this comfort zone thing all about? The scientific name for the comfort zone is the “Corley Syndrome,” and it is a type of mental conditioning that can cause a person to create, operate, and stay within certain mental boundaries.
For many, this false sense of security eventually leads to complacency, inaction and people end up staying stuck within this place. Your comfort zone is potentially the greatest enemy of your achievement in life.
For some, it is largely a self-created prison. It consists of the collections of cant’s, shouldn’t, must not, and other unfounded beliefs forged from ongoing negative self-talk, thoughts, and ideas one has accumulated during his or her lifetime. Let’s have a Tony Robbins quote for a change on my blog (feel free to whoop, high five and play Dr Alban’s “It’s My Life” at the same time as reading it):
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
~ Tony Robbins
I have to hand it to Tony, and as obvious as the quote may seem, he’s on to something there.
Cue major digression number two of this article today….. I know, I know, you can’t go around mentioning early 90s dance tracks by Dr Alban and not pause to get some of that musical goodness in your day, here you go then….
Why We Cling to Comfort Zones
There is a scientific explanation behind why we stay put in a place of comfort and routine. Human beings benefit physically from the behavioural state where activities and expectations fit a pattern of predictability. Stress levels and anxiety, cortisol levels, and blood pressure, are reduced, and there is a certain degree of security in your comfort zone, which increases your sense of calm, happiness, and safety. There are no surprises, but neither is there the fear that comes with risk.
It’s easy to see how your comfort zone becomes a big part of who you are. Staying where you’re comfortable, at work, with a business, or in your personal life, certainly has its benefits. There’s very little chaos, for the most part, and not much risk is involved in remaining with the tried and true. It’s a place or state-of-mind where you feel safe and in control. Typically, people like to feel safe.
However, if you stay put in the place where nothing changes, nothing is ventured, then you may stagnate. Although life is relatively safe inside the place where you feel safest and most in control, it can become pretty mundane, and even become distressing, dissatisfying and lead to disillusionment. Taking that well-worn path, instead of the one less traveled, leads to boredom and a relatively unfulfilled way of living. When at college studying English literature at A level, I recall reading the DH Lawrence ‘The Rainbow’ whereby one of the latter characters Ursula struggled to find fulfillment within the confines of the existing safe and expected nature of her life, she had a vision of a rainbow towering over the Earth, promising a new dawn. Today, there are far less societal confines that Ursula fought against and so seeking fulfillment by stepping out of our comfort zone is much more do-able for us in Western society.
Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about how to actually step out of your comfort zone, but today, I want to simply state the benefits of doing so and the reasons why you should give the patterns of your life an audit and notice where you have been sitting too comfortably.
The Positive Influence of Healthy Stress
Having regular downtime throughout our day is something I advocate and recommend and has all kinds of benefits for us physically and mentally. It is not really that which I am referring to as a comfort zone – it is more of an attitude, a way of being, a way of looking at life and recognising where changes and shifts can be sought.
Just taking that step outside of your predictable behaviour will automatically make your heart beat a little faster, your palms may sweat, and you may experience a ripple of fear. However, that uneasy feeling, that momentary fit of the jitters, is often accompanied by excitement and the anticipation of experiencing something brand-new. You feel a little more alive than normal, and that’s usually a good thing. A scientific study published in the NY Times suggested that learning new and demanding skills while maintaining an engaged social network are key to staying sharp as we age.
It’s long been believed that a state of relative comfort creates a steady level of performance. That being the case, to boost performance, there needs to be a healthy degree of stress. Healthy amounts of anxiety can be very motivating. For example, many people cite “work stress” as a source of high anxiety. However, many productive individuals have the capacity to turn those stressors into challenges. They strive to better previous performance, rise above and beyond hurdles, hone skills, and become more self-confident in the process. Intentionally getting outside your comfort zone is one of the best ways to learn, grow, or improve.
Read more about the notion I wrote above here – Learn to enjoy life’s problems.
“Perfection” Loses its Power
When you step outside of the familiar, you begin to take risks. Inevitably, with risk comes failure, but more importantly, with risk comes greatness. Seeking perfection robs you of taking risks, because of the fear of not being able to master what you’ve set out to do. Your experience, at the very least, will be a lesson. Realising the power lies in the experience helps take the pressure off and helps you step out a little bit more easily and quickly.
Creativity is Enhanced
Vulnerability goes hand-in-hand with creativity. Creative people, because they are often made vulnerable as part of their creativity, risk rejection regularly. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and risking this kind of failure can be difficult. But not stepping out of your comfort zone and not allowing yourself to be vulnerable will significantly restrict your creativity and stop you from developing to your full potential and living the life you want most.
Learning to be open to new thoughts, increasing your curiosity, and expanding your creative intelligence, will help you to become more motivated to explore and step out of your comfort zone. This exploration leads to an eagerness for new experiences. Your creativity takes over, and the accompanying vulnerability becomes less paralyzing and less of a roadblock to stepping outside of your comfort zone. Before you know it both life and learning gets easier.
Change Becomes Easier
No matter how much you desire to stay in your comfort zone, life is about change. Inevitably you will be faced and forced to experience an event that shakes your foundation. Many times, when major life transitions and events happen- moving house, change of a job, change in relationship, injury, illness, and the like, you aren’t prepared. In some cases, there’s no way to prepare. You can’t see it coming.
If you’re a person who has stepped outside the predictable, risen to the risk and made peace with the unknown, you’re better equipped to handle life’s changes and transitions. Your life experiences transform you and help you to adapt better and adjust to change.
Your Confidence Grows
What can be more uplifting to your personal confidence and self-worth than succeeding at something new? Mastering a skill or developing in some way makes you feel that much more accomplished. You can’t take on a new challenge and benefit from the growth of confidence it gives until you take that step outside of your comfort zone.
This is the very essence of self-efficacy, a very evidence based notion (research the work of Bandura in the 70s, 80s and 90s) that I talk about often to my therapy clients, my students and within my own books that refers to how much you actually get better at something when you are more confident in your ability to do that thing.
Mind Your Stress Level
Stepping into the unknown can be paralysing for some and overwhelming for many. Not recognising the degree of pressure you undertake by stepping outside of the familiar and comfortable can result in a whole slew of problems. For some, the stress of a new challenge can simply be too much, causing decreased productivity and arresting the creative flow, the opposite result of that which was intended. Too much anxiety and stress can adversely impact your ability to achieve and potentially your health.
If you feel overwhelmed by moving outside of your comfort zone, take baby steps. Make small changes at first, building on these changes until you’re able to go beyond and step further into the unknown. Set about challenges that will stretch you healthily enough to be rewarding, but that are also realistic and achievable.
So, what are you waiting for? Why not think about something you always wanted to do and give it a shot? Where will you, your business, your life, your goals, your ambitions all be in 5 years if you don’t push beyond your current boundaries? Where could you be if you do? Why wait any longer? Why not step outside your comfort zone and live your life where the magic happens?
As I wrote earlier, having looked at the benefits and reasons for moving out of your comfort zone here today, tomorrow I’m going to take this up a notch and examine ways you can actually move out of your comfort zone.
If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then visit these pages:
1. Has safety-seeking behaviour held you back and is it still doing so now? Do you need to believe in yourself more and step out of your comfort zone?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others step out of their comfort zone?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist for whom self-doubt is negatively effecting the success of your business? Do you need to step out of your comfort zone to grow your business?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.