You know that the comfort zone will keep you mediocre, don’t you? What will it take to get you off the couch? You know, to where you really deserve to be?
The Comfort Zone (Audio)
How comfortably are you entrenched in your comfort zone? What does it take to get you out of it? Interesting thing the comfort zone, isn’t it? It’s so…. well – comfortable. And stretching ourselves out of it can often be quite scary, right? When last have you consciously set a goal or decided to do something that really stretched and challenged you and took you “way out there” past where you are comfortable? What made you do that? And how did it go in the end?
Wikipedia describes the comfort zone as: a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk. (White 2009). A person’s personality can be described by his or her comfort zones. Highly successful persons may routinely step outside their comfort zones, to accomplish what they wish. A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security. Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside a person’s comfort zone, they must experiment with new and different behaviours, and then experience the new and different responses that then occur within their environment.
I think that is an excellent definition and collection of factors describing a comfort zone beautifully.
In many cases when it comes to our comfort zone, we can often allow our minds to create all sorts of scary scenarios for us can’t we? In my blog Dealing with Fear we spoke about these sorts of fears being “made in the mind”, and that most of them are actually worry, which is us imagining things in our mind that we don’t want to occur…. The comfort zone is one of those areas where we don’t have to venture out into those “scary” areas “where we might fail”.
It is often in these cut off points where we are deciding between staying within and venturing outside of this comfort zone that Procrastination is often allowed to play out, right?
Conversely, in my blog Finding the Edge we explored what it takes to find that point where we have “gone too far” in that to find the edge, we have to actually go beyond it sometimes.
All of these necessitate us “having a go” and transcending the fear we will always experience from time to time.
You remember the story of the dog on the nail, don’t you? At what point will it no longer be tolerably uncomfortable lying on the nail so that we muster the energy it will take to get up off it and go and lie where there isn’t a nail? Or put differently: when will the pain of staying the same become greater than the perceived pain of change?
We are creatures of habit, aren’t we? We love it when things are cruising along quite nicely.
And then someone or something comes along and changes all that. The markets go crazy and spiral out of control and our “nest egg” we created goes into freefall either through interest rates falling or share prices plummeting or all sorts of other stuff we aren’t able to control. Or everything is going just beautifully in our job and we get a new boss, or the company is acquired and suddenly everything is up for grabs.
And then we have to change. And suddenly we are back right outside of our comfort zone. Happens all the time, doesn’t it?
So how do we get out of our comfort zone?
I could say just do it. Not very helpful. However, when we are out of suitable options, it can be the only way left, can’t it? Then we do in fact “just do it”. So apart from that, what will get us “off the couch?
In my blog The Price and the Prize we discussed the prize having to be big enough of an incentive to make paying the price worthwhile. It is often knowing What is your purpose? that helps us decide whether something is worthwhile getting out of the comfort zone for, would you agree? Oh shucks I hear you say – there he goes again – rabbiting on about goals…. However I have learned that: “when the dream is big enough, the facts no longer count”. We are driven by wanting the outcome, so we just get on with it, right?
Getting good at your dislikes
One of my mentors taught me that success is a often a consequence of needing to “get good at what I dislike”. He started out in real estate and hated knocking on doors, but realized that the only path to success for him as a junior in that game was to get good at that, which he did.
I realized I had done the same a long time back when I was in multilevel marketing and realized that success in that field was going to come largely from “cold calling” which I absolutely hated. I would pick 20 names of people out of the weekend newspaper that were selling their business and call them to ask what they were planning to do once they had sold their business. I knew I needed to make 20 calls to get 2 appointments, which is what I did every Sunday night for months.
I can tell you, I am very good on the telephone as a result. I got really good at that dislike. Thank goodness I don’t need to do that anymore, but if I have to, I just do it.
So if getting out of your comfort zone entails doing something you dislike – just do it until you are good at it; who knows you might even get to enjoy it after a while.
The right frame of mind
I worked with a client this week whose Self Talk had convinced him he really doesn’t enjoy the pressure of selling. He said he felt way out of his comfort zone in the sales call and in sales meetings. We discussed how he might adopt a different mindset towards it, and reflected on my blog Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself, where we explored what different ways there might be of looking at that.
- We considered changing our view from “having to sell” to the other party to “giving them only the information they need so that we are helping them to buy”, thereby taking all the focus and pressure off ourselves
- We looked at focusing on the rapport and the relationship to get the other party talking (usually about themselves and what they want”), again taking all the focus off ourselves
- We reflected on enjoying the conversation and learning more about the other party and their business and what their “pain points” are, so as to be more able to enjoy building the relationship
- We thought about our value proposition coming from our knowledge. That’s right, but only knowledge relevant to that clients needs after we have earned the right to impart it, by listening to them completely. We realized that the emphasis is so much better on “asking” instead of having to do all the “telling”
- Think about others “selling to you” – if you’re anything like me, it makes you want to back off, doesn’t it? So by approaching the sales call or meeting by helping “pull them towards you”, they don’t need or want to back off, do they?
Can you see how something considered outside of that comfort zone can be looked at from a completely different mindset so that we can help reframe it? What about talking ourselves into something rather than allowing our over protective left brain to talk us out of it?
But do we always need to be striving for more, for pushing the envelope, for stretching and growing? Can’t we just be content, I hear some of you ask? I have been reading Hutson, Crouch and Lucas’ book “The Contented Achiever” for that reason – to find some opposing views to always “have to be stretching”. And I must admit that I do appreciate the Balance where we can very happily operate within that comfortable space that we all seem to strive to have created for ourselves. Isn’t that what we all aspire to in our “golden years” to have provided for all eventualities so that we can be comfortable? I think so.
I must say, having found my niche and doing “what I was born to do”, I am very content. I love what I do and I’m very good at it. And it gives me the flexibility to pursue lots of things I am interested in when I’m not focused on work. However, I know that there will always be challenges that stretch and grow us. We are always learning. I firmly believe that we are “either green and growing, or we are ripe and rotting…”. Curiosity is such a wonderful driver to keep us interested (and interesting).
And so when things change and we have to get out of our comfort zone to “step up” to meet a challenge – well, then so be it. We get on with it.
So what does it take for you to get out of your comfort zone? Do you live in an attitude of fear of the unknown or what could go wrong? Or do you relish the challenges that change brings with it? Or do you sit somewhere between those two?
What are you currently afraid of or worrying about that sends uncomfortable chills up your spine when you think about it? How long have you allowed that to be the case? How much longer are you going to allow that to inhibit you in being the magnificent self you were meant to be? When will the nail become uncomfortable enough for you to choose to get off it?
Go on, why not pick just one big thing and “have a go”. And if you need a sounding board and a thinking partner to help keep you on track, why not not select a good coach to run with you?
What if you could?
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