A comfort zone is place you feel safe with very little stress. We all need this, and it’s hard wired in us as humans to seek comfort and shelter. It’s completely normal, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Comfort zones relate to situations and activities that are routine and familiar. For example you have meals at certain times of the day, you watch your favourite tv shows of an evening, or you go to the same bar every Friday night after work, to meet your friends.
I am a creature of habit and have always disliked change. Even my partner moving the sofa to another area of the living room used to freak me out lol! He even used to joke about it! So when he split up with me a few years ago I was really forced to leave my comfort zone.
Buying my own property and moving out of our home was totally out of my comfort zone. However I feel happy and settled now. It’s helped me grow as I’d never lived on my own before, and realise it was a golden opportunity to develop myself.
Sometimes situations in life force us to leave our comfort zone, and sometimes this is a good thing. You realise you’re capable of more than you thought, and you grow as your horizons expand.
However, a comfortable life with little risk may seem idyllic, and as I mentioned before, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you won’t grow. If you want to grow and progress in life you need to take some sort of calculated risk. Staying where you are for fear of change can not only stunt your growth, but you may end up missing out on some amazing opportunities.
Being fearful of the unknown is normal
It’s perfectly normal to fear change, or that which we don’t understand. It’s a survival instinct, and keeps us safe from that which may harm us. However, once you experience change you’ll realise how exhilarating it can be.
You’ve moved outside of your comfort zone and it really wasn’t that hard. You’re safe, and nothing bad has happened to you.
The older you get the more set in your ways you become. This tends to make the area you feel comfortable in shrink, so it’s always a good idea to push your boundaries while you’re fairly young.
Just stepping outside of your comfort zone where you experience minimal risk is known as “optimal anxiety” Your stress levels are slightly raised but nothing you can’t cope with.
In this state you’re still fairly relaxed, but pushing yourself enough to achieve positive results.
For example you may be starting a new venture. You don’t just give up your job as that would be very high risk, but instead slowly build your business during evenings and weekends.
There is some minimal risk with the danger of wasting time and money, However you still have the security of your day job. It’s in this zone that you may be your most creative, and motivated without the pressure that high risk brings.
In the example of building a business in your spare time, you are stepping just outside your comfort zone with minimal stress. The stress you may have is related to the time taken to achieve results, and this can help push you forward.
Pushing yourself a bit further beyond the optimal anxiety state may start to have negative effects. The discomfort becomes greater and though you’ll still able to cope, you may find it harder to focus.
Just do it anyway!
The area outside the optimal anxiety zone is known as the learning zone. This is where you challenge yourself and start to grow. You may make mistakes and experience failures but it’s all part of the learning process. If you want to try something new but are afraid, just do it anyway! You may surprise yourself!
The holiday you wanted to take but were too anxious to go on your own, or the university course you wanted to do but were scared you’d fail.
Neither of these things present any threat to life, or are high risk but you’ll still be way outside your comfort zone when you do them. Chances are though, you’ll have a fantastic holiday. You’ll get to see some exciting new places and make lots of new friends.
The course you were so anxious about doing, may be the making of you, and lead to some amazing career opportunities. The learning zone is an exciting and testing place, where you can realise your true potential.
Going beyond fear!
The area outside of the learning zone is known as the panic zone! If you end up here you’re so scared you can’t think at all. You feel unable to make any rational decisions as you’re completely panic stricken!
This could be a situation where life may be at risk, for example being lost in the forest on a dark and stormy night, or having to deal with a medical emergency. In both cases many people facing such situations often find hidden strengths to deal with them, and become stronger as a result.
Other things to cause fear and panic may not be life threatening but could include public speaking, or taking on promotion at work where you feel totally out of your depth. NLP is one solution that may help you overcome the fears and anxieties of breaking out of your comfort zone
Facing up to your fears and confronting them
Many things we fear are completely unfounded, and just exist in our heads. One way to tackle them is to write down why you are afraid or nervous about doing something. Then ask yourself if it really is founded.
gradually desensitize yourself by facing a feared situation and stay with it for a little while ignoring any discomfort. A typical situation many fear is meeting new people in a social activity such as a party where you don’t know anyone.
You may have a small circle of close friends whom you feel comfortable with, but the idea of socializing with people you don’t know is way out of your comfort zone. You fear you’ll stutter when you talk, or you won’t know what to say when you introduce yourself. You may feel self conscious at being on your own, especially when everyone seems to be socializing in groups.
Ignoring your fear and starting conversation with someone you don’t know is the best way to overcome social anxiety. Do it gradually by talking to one new person every day.
Just talking about the weather, or any other small talk topic is fine. After a while you’ll begin to gain confidence and become desensitized to talking to people you don’t know. Your comfort zone will have expanded, and so will your circle of friends!
I hope this article has encouraged you to start taking more risks in life. Not dangerous ones, but calculated ones that can help you learn and grow.