The Way We Think About Our Comfort Zone Is Broken

life is sweetest comfort zoneHave you ever wondered why we are always being told to step out of our comfort zone? Why is our comfort zone such a bad place? (Because, seriously? My comfort zone is super awesome!)

When I started to research the “comfort zone” in earnest, it was incredibly difficult to find anyone saying anything positive about our comfort zones.  A quick Google search gave me such gems as:

  • 6 Reasons to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
  • Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone For Good
  • How To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
  • You Need To Get OUT Of Your Comfort Zone

(Okay, I get it already!)

skydivingSo why does everyone think we need to get OUT of our comfort zone?  Well, as far as I can tell it has something to do with the incorrect assumption that being in your happy place – because that’s what your comfort zone is – keeps you from experiencing life to its fullest.  I mean, c’mon, everyone needs to jump out of plane at least once, right?  Um, no.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what your comfort zone is:

According to Wikipedia:

The comfort zone is a psychological state in which a person feels familiar, at ease, in control and experiences low anxiety and stress. In the zone a steady level of performance is possible.

And from Merriam-Webster:

a place, situation, or level where someone feels confident and comfortable

So when someone tells me to get out of your comfort zone, what I hear is, “stop being confident and familiar with your surroundings and do something that makes you uncomfortable and scares the living crap out of you!”.  Does that sound completely absurd to anyone else?  Because I think that’s bull!

If the old adage is correct and confidence breeds success then doesn’t it make sense that making decisions while entrenched in your comfort zone is the best way to be successful?

devil wears pradaBut wait, what about all those hyper-successful CEOs and entrepreneurs who “step out of their comfort zones” every day and create or run huge, massive companies and organizations?  Well, I would say that they were most definitely within their comfort zones the whole time!  Put those same uber-successful extrovert types and put them in a room full of babies and then you’ll see some squirm-worthy fun!  😀  Those same people who can make multi-million dollar decisions on a whim will be anxious and nervous about handling teeny drooling tots… and diapers!  Are they terrible people because they don’t find Baby Einstein their cup of tea?  Of course not, they’re just out of their comfort zone.

Not all comfort zones are created equal!  Mine is almost always at home in my favorite oversized chair, with my Kindle in one hand and a cup of peppermint tea in the other. Or, it’s right here, between my Mac and a cup of hot coffee.  Wherever in my home I am, I am both confident and comfortable – the perfect atmosphere for making great decisions and coming up with mind-boggling ideas that could change the world… or maybe just change the furniture arrangement in my living room 😉  But my husband’s idea of a comfort zone is… well… just about anywhere.  He loves to drive out-of-town and enjoy food festivals, go hiking, try new restaurants and eat weird food that no one can pronounce or recognize; you name it – if it involves travel and adventure, sign him up! He also loves going to the office and tackling email, budgets, employee reviews; stress is his motivator.  His comfort zone is vastly different from mine… and that’s cool!

stretch-zoneSo the next time someone tries to convince you to leave your comfort zone, that happy place that makes you both anxiety-free and confident, just tell them thanks but… hell, no!  Stay where you’re most likely to be happy and make confident decisions that will both make you successful – that is, success according to you – and a better person.  At the same time, wrap your arms around the externally perceived challenges and situations that can tend to cause you anxiety and pull them into your circle of comfort – tweak them, downsize them, whatever makes them fit!  NOT the other way around.  Or, envision your comfort zone as a huge bubble; when you are faced with something icky, outside of your comfort-bubble, simply expand your bubble to encompass the scary stuff.  By doing this, you handle your challenges with confidence in the comfort of your own “zone”!

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