You may have heard that stepping outside your comfort zone is critical to success and self-improvement. While this is often the case, there are certain instances where over-aggressive actions can actually harm our well-being. If you're trying to determine whether you should stay in or stray from your comfort zone, learn how to make an honest assessment.
What Is a Comfort Zone?
In most cases, the term "comfort zone" refers to an emotional, psychological and/or behavior construct that defines our daily routine. Being in your comfort zone implies security, safety and familiarity. If also describes an existence that keeps us calm, comfortable and emotional balanced. A healthy comfort zone is an effective adaptation that promotes psychological wellness. At the same time, it can develop into a crutch that prevents us from taking on new challenges that allow us to reach our full potential. To help determine if a new challenge or opportunity should draw you outside your comfort zone, ask yourself the following questions.
Is the Timing Wrong? You can never be fully prepared for something that's entirely new; however, if you're completely unprepared, the likelihood of failure is high. Before stepping outside your comfort zone to embrace a new challenge, make sure you are ready. Have you studied enough? Have you talked to and learned from others? Perhaps it will help to practice in less-consequential versions of the proposed situation to see if you're ready. If not, try getting all your ducks in a row before making that final leap.
Is This Something You Really Care About? There are all sorts of situations in life that lie outside our comfort zones; but not all are relevant to our long-term interests. For example, you may be terrified of giving public speeches, but if they aren't a big part of your job or life, there's not much point in dedicating valuable energy conquering your fears. It's not necessary to stretch yourself in every possible way. That said, make sure you are being honest with yourself and don't use the "I don't care about it" excuse just to get out of uncomfortable situations.
Am I Entering the Right "Zone?" For most people, life is spread over three zones: a comfort zone, a challenge zone and a panic zone. In the challenge zone, we embrace new, unfamiliar opportunities that lead to self-improvement and personal growth. In the panic zone, we overextend our abilities to the point where we feel overwhelmed and compelled to pretend. We've all heard the adage "fake it until you make it." While this can be useful advice, it's not always good to fake our way through situations that lie outside our capabilities. Take a step back and honestly assess whether a new opportunity might exist in your challenge zone or panic zone. If it lies in the panic zone, think about steps you can take to ready yourself for the challenge or simply refocus on more attainable goals.
When to Expand Your Comfort Zone
Comfort zones are difficult places to leave, and for good reason. We feel natural, safe and secure in them. Many times, they are where we do our best work. On the other hand, there are times when our comfort zones prevent us from embracing new, fulfilling opportunities. In the end, only you can honestly assess the value of leaving your comfort zone.
By balancing bravery with sensibility, you can determine whether a new experience will add more stress or skill to your life. If the rewards and timing make sense, a new experience can bring great dividends. If not, it may be best to focus your time and energy on the things you know best.