Is your “comfort zone” helping or hurting you… or both?
Should you be operating within your comfort zone or strive to grow and act outside of it?
When is it better to operate strictly within your comfort zone and when is it better to push your self beyond what is comfortable? The argument for each side is compelling. On the one hand you can argue that staying within your comfort zone is optimal because your “comfort zone” is the epicenter of your strengths. On the other hand it can be said that these same strengths that form your comfort zone can actually act as barrier that will prevent you from branching out and growing your experience.
To suggest that you should seek to outgrow your comfort zone and strive for something bigger is very intriguing. So intriguing, in fact, that this question of “Should I seek to get out of my comfort zone?” nearly captivated my entire thought life for the last couple hours. The premise of getting out there and meeting new people and seeking new opportunities truly intrigues me and it very much appeals to my personality style. But as I started traveling down this rabbit trail of thought I started to wonder if the entire premise of comfort zones is framed wrong, because it assumes that everyone has a similar comfort zone and that expanding beyond your comfort zone, in any direction, is beneficial. Basically we are assuming that, first of all, everyone has a strong understanding of themselves (which obviously is not the case) and that everyone has the exact same goals and convictions (also clearly not true, because not everyones goal in life is to be successful in business and strive for achievement) and lastly that their is no “wrong” direction outside of our comfort zones.
The idea of expanding your comfort zone is almost always presented by extremely extroverted “sales professionals” on how to create an uber-successful career. This message is generally geared towards less extroverted or heaven forbid ‘introverted’ individuals whom these “super extroverts” wish to compel to step-up to a better life. In the context of simply becoming a better communicator and possibly a little less shy then YES, forcing yourself to grow beyond what is comfortable is very beneficial. But what about a very out-going and personable salesman that wants to “expand his comfort zone” to do something he feels might be borderline morally wrong?
That’s outside the comfort zone so lets expand it baby! Who cares if it feels a little unethical, after a while your comfort zone will be so expanded that you won’t even think twice about it!
EX: It’s like working out, there is a good “pain” (burn) from exercising muscles properly and there is bad “pain” that comes from improper form (like jacking up a rotator cuff or tweaking your lower back). The bad pain is your body telling you to STOP because it is not beneficial.
The key is to strip everything down to the core, the core of your motives, goals, ambitions, convictions and get to your purpose. Only after you have this core-level understanding will you be able to determine which direction and how far outside of your comfort zone you should try to pursue. Remember that your comfort zone can act as your “conviction” meter letting you know that what you are about to do may conflict with your core beliefs and values.
Focusing on and improving upon your natural strengths as apposed to striving to round off weaknesses is, in my opinion, a much more effective strategy in the pursuit of being the best you can be. There is a fine line though, between staying “in the zone” to focus on being effective and apathetically sitting back while opportunities are within your grasp and letting the fear of the unknown decide your future for you!
Ultimately it comes down to understanding your core. With this understanding you will be able to identify those situations where your comfort zone is providing you with a healthy “governor” and those times when you are just being a big passive baby! Do not be pressured to go a direction that does not line up with what you believe. Know your values and be aware when others are pushing their values upon you, so you can differentiate between “healthy” uncomfortable and “un-healthy” uncomfortable.
Build upon your natural strengths but do not let your comfort zone hold you back from the future you want!