The comfort zone sounds so obvious, but personal development is much more involved. If you want to grow, succeed or do anything new, you need to go outside it.
The comfort zone is in a situation where a person is familiar, at ease and in control. Outside of the comfort zone there is increased anxiety and stress. So, the further out a person gets the greater the level of stress. The easiest definition I have found is from Wikipedia
The most comfortable place in usually not the best for learning or working.
If a person repeatedly leaves the comfort zone and has a successful outcome, they will actually decrease the stress of being outside the zone next time. While that may sound so easy, why do so few really leave the comfort of their familiar surroundings.
The very fact that so few venture out into new paths during their life, is interesting. The very reason this topic seems easy is that everyone thinks they understand it and do know it is crucial. If you ask people, most will say they do venture outside their comfort zone.
So many say they go out of their comfort zone, then why do so many stay in home towns that have no future or jobs they dislike? Why do so many follow the same path as their parents or neighbors? It is the most comfortable of places.
Success, by its very nature, means you have accomplished something. Therefore, success is always outside of the comfort zone. In order to have success, you need to do something new or different. Continual learning means that at least minimally, you constantly feel uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, the further out the greater the stress, anxiety and fear which can hold you back. Repeated success outside the comfort zone will increase confidence. As you increase experience, confidence increases, and these new experiences become part of your larger comfort zone.
Over time, you will grow accustomed to being uncomfortable and continually making progress. It all becomes easier. So, learning begets more learning. Success begets more success. The key is how to get to this point and to recognize the pitfalls and negative pressure from many around you.
Going outside may appear crazy.
On a humorous note, you might say that success is based you intentionally making yourself uncomfortable. You are intentionally outside your comfort zone. So, seemingly this is an almost masochistic behavior subjecting yourself to discomfort. Yet, this is a basic and key ingredient to success. So, if you truly are extremely successful, maybe you have to be a little crazy too.
The concept of the comfort zone is a very useful psychological tool. You can only grow if you step outside your comfort zone. You must be willing to learn new things and skills through new experiences to grow and be successful.
From time to time, you must re-assess and step out to new or revised goals. The process would only stop when you decide you don’t want to go any further or want a break on the way your goals.
With greater skills and knowledge opportunities will increase. When your knowledge increases, your ability and opportunities broaden. You will also find it easier to make educated guesses and other ideas that come to mind will also become better. You will be better at evaluation.
It is very common to notice the success of so many immigrants. One of the reasons that many migrants succeed is that they are more willing to make additional trips far outside comfort zone. They already made some of the biggest changes, new country, new language and friends (see Immigrant Mentality).
Moving to a new country is also a reason that many of the educated immigrants assimilate more and are not just be entirely surrounded by people from their previous country. While they do have friends from their country they are more likely to have a broader diversity than people born here.
Why is it hard to leave your comfort zone?
Inside your zone is where you find enjoyment and find expected outcomes. Do you make the same meals most weeks? Do you go to the same restaurants and order the same items?
Most of us do repeat these behaviors to the point we laugh at ourselves. I am particularly bad at this.
You are comfortable with what you have already experienced. This article gives suggestions to broaden your horizon in some fairly easy ways.
Outside that which is familiar is something unknown with consequences that we may not like or even be familiar. This increases tension and anxiety.
The comfort zone really comprises a psychological state of mind.
Comfort also leads to boredom. So, there are negative aspects of staying comfortable.
Why are there some people even with extreme difficulties reluctant to leave their comfort zone. There are people living in towns or cities that literally have no opportunity to the future but once had in better times.
A psychologist I knew tried to help people in Flint, MI about 90 minutes from her home. Every Saturday she drove there and worked with displaced people and families. After a year she gave up.
Why wouldn’t these people in an unemployable environment move to certain employment and a better income for their family? They replied, ‘this is my home’. They are more comfortable in poverty with little positive outlook than the fear and discomfort of something new.
When someone dies, they are buried or whatever. Then we proceed with our lives. Yes, we may mourn and maybe even remember and think about them once in awhile. People need to do the same with a town or company that died.
People need more than just logic to be encouraged to leave their comfort zone.
In many cases, it is enough to find something interesting, possibly reversible to lessen fear, and not too stressful. That is, a minor step outside the comfort zone.
How much, how far beyond the comfort limits?
Some say to expand your comfort zone in small steps or push the envelope. I generally disagree with this as it could take a life time to make real meaningful progress. Big change comes when you break out of your comfort zone in large jumps.
All success starts outside your comfort zone as explained in this article on another site, ‘Why the magic happens when you step outside your comfort zone.’
I put together a guide to assist you. If you work through this guide, you will clarify some of your own challenges. In an earlier episode, I discussed how friends and family can be harmful. This guide will help you breakthrough some of those challenges. You can download the guide here.
Other people affect you too! It is not just your own comfort zone that affects you, but everyone you know. In the guide for this episode you will see how the comfort zones of people around you intersect your own. That is the place where you and others are comfortable.
Remember, personal development like success is personal. Your values and preferences are yours and can’t be decided by friends and family.
There are some things you will feel very comfortable with discussing with your family. There are some areas that you feel comfortable discussing with your friends and possibly not your family. While there are things that may be comfortable with discussing with friends and family, there are many that are outside everyone’s comfort zone.
If you are outside a friend or family member’s comfort zone, they will be fearful and have increased anxiety. So, they are not likely to encourage you. That is neither a good formula for advice nor encouragement.
You need to think about the comfort zones of your friends and family and see from whom you might get assistance in an uncomfortable environment. As discussed previously, the biggest results and outcomes necessitate finding big distant goals and step by step goals. A new goal gives a new target to work to new successes. This all comes together as a complete personal development plan. You need someone that is encouraging, a mentor, coach or advisor.
In some of the most extreme cases outside the comfort zone, it may be best to not know anybody in the new environment around you. In an environment that is new surrounded by strangers, but supportive, you can express your thoughts, ideas, actions and behavior in ways that you would normally restrain yourself.