Beware your Comfort Zones as they can limit your success! Comfort zones are the things we are emotionally comfortable doing, things that don’t challenge or stretch us. “Outside of our comfort zones” are the things we fear, we may fail at or make us appear foolish or inadequate. Consequently we subconsciously strive to stay within our comfort zones to avoid those most uncomfortable emotions: fear and discomfort.
However, there is no growth within our comfort zones and if we want to develop, it is essential we move outside our comfort zones and experience some emotional discomfort. Simply increasing our knowledge we do little to widen our comfort zones. Only personal experience, trial, error, and success can do this. Comfort zones are very tricky things. When faced with moving outside our comfort zones, we typically come up with all sorts of apparently practical and rational reasons why that uncomfortable thing we must do can be put off until later. The reality is we just want to avoid the spectre of emotional discomfort.
People often come to coaching sessions with all sorts of practical reasons why they cant make the changes that they know they should . Often the bottom line is fear: fear of becoming superfluous, being shown to “not know everything,” to admit inadequacy.
I am writing this as someone guilty of finding ‘logical reasons’ I hate making sales calls, I’m not very good at it, I fear rejection, and it’s right outside my comfort zone. I can easily come up with 20 reasons why I can do this later and dozens of things which are more important to do now.
But it isn’t just unpleasant changes that we seek to avoid. Even changes that we know are positive can be resisted because we prefer the devil we know to the devil we don’t. The improvement promised by a change isn’t guaranteed, whereas the present is real and tangible. Today’s unsatisfactory certainty can often be preferable to a superior but uncertain tomorrow.
How then do we decide whether to make a change?
Simply by performing a quick cost/benefit calculation. If the benefit of the change outweighs the perceived cost then we are likely to commit to making the change. If our present situation is extremely unsatisfactory, the perceived value of the change increases. However, if the present situation is not that bad, then the change has to offer significant benefits to be worthwhile. If the change process is likely to be particularly emotionally uncomfortable, again the benefits will need to be substantial.
It is common for us to skew the cost/benefit calculation in favour staying put. We might downplay the disadvantages of the current situation, convincing ourselves that it’s not that bad after all. We might amplify the difficulties of making the change, convincing ourselves the change process will be onerous and unpleasant. Finally, we may downplay the value of the change; convincing ourselves it’s not worthwhile going though all the hassle for such limited benefits. But this is just our comfort zones working on our defence mechanisms convincing us we would be better off playing it safe and staying in an emotionally safe place.
How can we increase our commitment to making changes?
Firstly, amplify the need for change – build-up the disadvantages of the present, and increase your desire for change.
Secondly, be honest about the cost of change – recognise it’s your comfort zones talking and it’s not that difficult. Talk to people who’ve gone though that change; many people are comfortable with what you’re fearful of.
At this point I need to mention the inner-critic. Let me ask, do you talk to yourself? Perhaps you’re having a conversation with yourself right now along the lines of: “Do I talk to myself, well I’m not sure, perhaps sometimes…..” Our inner-critic is the negative internal conversation that tells you “you’re not good enough”, and “you can’t do it”, and at that moment when you need to feel supremely confident reminds you that you’re nervous and you’re going to blow it. We all have an inner-critic, so you’re not alone – some are just more vocal than others.
Thirdly, hate your comfort zones. Millions of people are comfortable with the things you fear. Your comfort zones hinder your progress and make you less than you could be.
Fourthly, don’t be distracted by your comfort zones and the fear of emotional discomfort. Focus your attention on the benefits of the change and visualise how much better things will be once the change is complete. The more you become obsessed with this new great future, the greater will be your motivation to undertake the less comfortable parts of the change.
Finally – stick with it. As the change progresses and things get better the pain and discomfort associated with the present situation starts to wane and so will the desire for change. You’ll find yourself back to where you started if you don’t see the process of change through to completion. So keep faith and see it through to the end.
I also want to mention courage – Courage is not about the absence of fear. Only a stupid person doesn’t feel fear.
A friend of mine rides a motorbike very quickly and does things I never would. He appears to have no fear. Last year he launched himself into a field at 130mph, breaking 9 ribs and his collar bone. He is very lucky to be alive. Fearlessness is not good. Courage is helpful. Courage enables us to conquer what we thought we couldn’t and discover that we’re capable of much more than we gave ourselves credit for.
So when faced with the emotional discomfort presented by the limits of your comfort zones, dig deep, summon up your courage and find out what you’re really capable of.
Leigh Dorling is pasionate about helping business leaders and managers succeed. He created http://www.CreateYourMessage.com as a fun way to produce motivational posters for his clients and to aid them create powerful reminders of values, vision, beliefs and goals. He also runs Cognisi.co.uk a leading coaching business that really delivers results.