What is a comfort zone?
Your comfort zone encompasses the familiar tasks you do every day, your habits and ways of thinking. And while many routine practices are beneficial – too many can be dangerous to your health! The more habituated you become, the harder it might be to step outside your comfort zone – and your resilience may suffer.
”Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth than everything else combined. Comfort kills!” – T. Harv Eker
Me: “How about going to the movies on Wednesday evening?”
From the response I received you’d think I’d said something blasphemous;
Friend: “I can’t do it on Wednesday evening! That’s when I wash my hair, have takeaways and watch TV.”
This was the response I received from a very habituated friend. I’d been turned down on many occasions as I witnessed her becoming more and more unwilling to step outside her increasingly tiny comfort zone. Even going to the movies had become a big deal!
Repetition: The good and the… not so good.
Repeating the same tasks, in the same way, week-after-week and month-after-month is a great way to embed learning. Repetition and practice are proven ways to consolidate knowledge and skill.
On the other hand, the reason it’s often difficult to change a bad habit is that, by replicating it, it becomes more entrenched.
Each time you repeat a task, you strengthen a neural network.
After a while, the neural network fires the same way automatically. You no longer have to think consciously about what you’re doing. All these repetitive tasks and habits now fall within your comfort zone.
Having set ways of doing everything makes it difficult – when an external change occurs, because you may not have the experience or strength to cope.
Everyone has a comfort zone
Continuing to develop and grow; to step outside your habituated behaviours is essential to prevent that comfort zone becoming your prison. It will also prevent you from becoming an exceedingly boring person!
When you take up new activities, take a training course, find ways to perform tasks differently, or even drive a different way to work, you generate new and creative thought.
How to expand your comfort zone
The simple answer is to do something different.
It’s important to keep learning. It may feel uncomfortable – awkward even – when you begin to learn something new. That’s because it’s unfamiliar.
Learning stimulates your brain and creates new neural connections
If you repeat a task, it will feel more comfortable the second time. If you replicate the action enough times, it will soon become part of your day-to-day life. The undertaking now falls within your comfort zone. In this way, your comfort zone has expanded.
Learning to ride a bike or drive a car are both quite complicated skills involving many factors. You need precise hand and eye coordination. You need to use every limb. You have to be aware – not only of what you’re doing – but what’s happening around you. You have to take into account other people’s behaviour – especially if you have a strong survival instinct!
But once you can drive or ride a bike, they become a new part of your comfort zone.
To live a fulfilling, resilient life, find more ways to increase your comfort zone.
You can start small
You don’t have to do something extreme like bungee jumping – although feel free if the urge takes you! You could do something simple like taking a different route to and from work. Try cleaning your teeth with the toothbrush in the opposite hand to the one you usually use. Take up a new interest, or learn public speaking, a new language, dancing, yoga, an instrument or a new software programme. (Better still, come and learn NLP!) Or try anything new that makes you feel just a little uncomfortable.
Expand your thinking
Whenever you learn something unfamiliar, your brain grows new dendrites and forms new neural connections. Your thinking expands. Frequently you can apply aspects of what you’ve discovered to other contexts. For example, learning to dance might help you be more coordinated in your chosen sport. Mastering public speaking could help build your confidence for training staff at work, or doing sales presentations. And learning NLP will support you in all those contexts!?
If you don’t want to do something different, that’s a pretty good indication that you’re stuck in a rut. Someone once said that a rut is just a coffin with an open lid!
Build your resilience while you can
If you allow yourself to stay in your comfort zone, you’ll stagnate. Stagnation can result in rigidity and inflexibility.
Change is going to occur sooner or later.
Change is one thing in life that’s inevitable. If you don’t build your resilience by getting out of your comfort zone before you need to, it’s unlikely you’ll have the physical, mental or emotional resources to cope when those changes occur.
It requires stubbornness and energy to remain in a comfort zone when everything around is changing. To others you may appear like a giant boulder; solid and immovable. The people in your life will learn to avoid or go around you – or they’ll galvanise forces to leverage you out of the way!
- Everyone has a comfort zone.
- A comfort zone is important to enable you to do repetitive tasks more easily.
- On the edge of your comfort zone is where learning occurs (and magic happens!)
- Learning new things expands your brain capacity and increases the zone in which you feel comfortable.
- Learning – and becoming a little uncomfortable helps you become more resilient to the changes that are inevitable in life.