We’re back again, talking about the infamous Comfort Zone. If you’re just joining us for this mini-series of blog posts all about the comfort zone, then you might want to skip back to the previous post. I talked about what exactly the comfort zone is. Today we’re moving on to the pros and cons of the comfort zone and figuring out if it’s as terrible as people say it is (and hint-hint establishing the dangers of it).
Now, many people just outright shun the comfort zone as a place we should never enter, but that’s actually quite short-sighted. To keep things fair, today we’re going to look at the comfort zone from both sides of the coin and really understand when it’s good, when it’s bad, and when you ought to push yourself that little further out of it. So, if you’re ready, I’m ready – and I’ll meet you below!
There is Some Good to The Comfort Zone
It’s very name sort of insinuates that it’s good, right? The comfort zone is a place you want to be. It conjures up images of my head on soft pillows and being wrapped in warm woollen blankets like a sausage roll (or at least, that’s what my comfort zone looks like). My point is, if we called it ‘the deadly zone’ or ‘the scary zone’, you’d want out pretty quick. In theory, then, there must be some good things about it. But what are they?
It's A Safety Net
The most obvious reason the comfort zone is good is its safety net. When we’ve had a bad day, work has been stressful, or we’ve had a fight with our partner, our comfort zone is always there to welcome us home. It’s a safe space where we can do the things we know and love. There’s no risk of failure in the comfort zone because it’s where we operate daily, and it’s basically a big hug on rough days. That has to be beneficial -sometimes.
It Gives Us A BreaK
Not only is it a safe space, but it’s also a place for us to unwind and relax – switch off even.
I started my driving lessons a couple of months ago. I’ve had to stop for a while due to eye surgery. But I remember the stress of driving. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels like there are so many things to look out for and be aware of. Speed here and mirrors there. Signs and lanes there. One rule here but another there. It takes a crazy amount of processing power for me to even do bay parking.
But my dad has been driving for over 30 years. It’s pretty much second nature to him. I’m convinced he can drive better than he can walk, especially considering he’s had more accidents walking than driving. He drives effortlessly. He often says he couldn’t be a driving instructor because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He just does it.
Driving is in my dad’s comfort zone; it’s providing him with a mental break from life. Imagine if we were always in the state that I’m currently in when I’m behind the wheel. Imagine if we were in that constant state of panic forever – it’d be so intense. But our comfort zone is where we can operate almost passively and give our brains the break they deserve.
It Brings Order To The Chaos
And finally, it brings order to the chaos of this world. We don’t know what’s around the next bend or what might happen tomorrow, and for us humans, that can be pretty challenging. After all, we all like to think we’ve got this whole ‘living our lives’ thing on lock, but none of us can deny that anything could happen tomorrow that flips our day-to-day upside down.
That’s why we need the comfort zone. Here everything is as it should be. We know it; we know how it looks and operates, and we feel comfortable there, just going through the motions. It’s basically habits, and we do them because it gives us control. So, yes, the comfort zone is necessary. But is it always good?
First Things First
You might just have read those good points and thought, “Yep, that sounds nice. Grab me that warm woollen blanket you mentioned, and I’ll be alright here”. And that’s absolutely OK. Sometimes we need to operate in the comfort zone for a little while longer.
Really, there is only one purpose when you push the boundaries of the comfort zone – and that’s growth. If you’re happy where you’re at right now and have no desire to be better or do more or achieve higher, then there’s no reason to challenge yourself by escaping the comfort zone. If you have no reason for growth right now, then you’ve no reason to leave your comfort zone. It’s not on everyone’s to-do list, so don’t waste time challenging and stretching yourself if it’s not something you want.
BUT, there are people, like myself, who want more out of their life right now. We aren’t content with our lives remaining the same; we seek more from ourselves and life. Since you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you’re one of those people too, and you’re looking for some reasons to leave the comfort zone behind. We probably should be looking to avoid that comfort zone if you are.
Basically, “The Comfort Zone is the best place for those who are content with there they are”. If you’re content, then stay there. That’s absolutely OK. But if you’re not, then it’s time to push yourself to do/be/achieve better. So what DOES make comfort bad for us then?
Problem 1: It's Either Growth Or Comfort. You Can't Have Both.
Have you ever been learning a new skill or trying your hand at a new task and then fell into the trap of repeatedly practising the same thing because you knew you were good at it? I have. We all have. Right now, I’m thinking about drumming. There have been so many times, I’ve found myself ‘practising’ the same thing. I’m practising the same patterns at the same speed playing the same songs. Where’s the growth in that? It was a challenge; it wasn’t hard. It defeats the whole purpose of practice: progress, not perfection.
Or maybe a more universal idea – swimming. Remember swimming lessons when they’d always insist on trying new strokes? I’m sure most of us preferred the front crawl. Who needs to know butterfly stroke or the dolphin when you’re already the master of front crawl?
So what are you going to choose? Growth or comfort? Because the only way you can ever further your skills, no matter what you’re striving for, is by leaving the comfort zone behind and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. We haven’t always chosen growth, but we ought to from now on.
There’s something known as ‘The Goldilocks Rule’ that James Clear explains. It basically refers to how we humans need to push ourselves ever so slightly every day by being right on the edge of our capabilities. Don’t push too hard, and don’t settle for too easy. Find that ‘just right’ Goldilocks sweet spot, and you’ll progress much further and much quicker than you ever thought possible. But your first step always has to be away from that comfort zone.
Problem 2: It Makes Life Boring, Don't You Think?
Ever felt like you’re stuck in a rut? Like you’re just going through the motions every day, without really living, loving, or experiencing the world completely? Yes? Then you, my friend, are in your comfort zone. It happens to the best of us. We slip into what’s comfortable until it becomes all that we are. That zest for life and desire to do more, be more and achieve more just disappears. But don’t worry, I know where it’s kept.
And it’s kept just outside your comfort zone. Take one step in that direction, and I guarantee you’ll find that fire again. And that fire can do amazing things. It can transport you to new places for new adventures. It can introduce you to new people and broaden your horizons. And best of all? It can make life fun again.
And isn’t that really the point? Isn’t life about way more than just what we know and what we’re comfortable with? Isn’t life supposed to be filled with adventures and new experiences? Life should feel like one long journey of exploration. Exploring new places and things. Even exploring ourselves. Life is so much more than we already see, have and do. It would be a crime to deny ourselves of that adventure because that’s what living is.
The comfort zone is a place we all need, but picture it not as your home but as a lovely hotel as you navigate the long road of life. Are things feeling a bit much? Are you lost? Then, by all means, head back to the comfort zone hotel. But when you feel ready, check out quickly because there’s a whole host of activities, people and places that are just waiting around the bend!
Problem 3: Makes You Lazy And Content
So far, we’ve been talking about the comfort zone as a nice resting spot, and it can be. But it’s dangerous too. You rest there too long, and you lose a part of yourself – your drive. You stay in the comfort zone, and you’re no longer just comfortable – you’re stuck. And that can lead to laziness and being content with your lot in life when really you could do so much more.
The comfort zone is a dangerous place for those seeking permanent residence. Because it leads to a loss of potential. It limits your ability to learn. And it stifles your ability to grow. It’s the comfort zone that can take your drive and zest and fire and starve it of what it needs. Because for those things to thrive and drive you forwards, they need adventure and new experiences. Without them, they’ll wither.
It might have your drive/zest/fire locked up right now, but they aren’t dead, and you can free them by just breaking out of the comfort zone. By forcing yourself to do the thing even when the thing is scary, you’ll reignite that fire, bring your drive forwards, and find your zest for life again. But only you can do it for yourself.
Problem 4: You Can't Discover Your True Potential
My final point is this: you won’t ever find your true potential in your comfort zone. Nobody ever found out something new about themselves by doing the same thing over and over again. It’s the road less travelled that holds all the secrets to everything you could do or achieve – everything you could be!
That’s because we only ever discover new things when we’re uncomfortable. It’s in our nature to want to avoid new things, but everything that’s in our comfort zone right now was new at one point. And now look at it? It’s a part of you. But just because you’ve found one part you like, it doesn’t mean you should stop looking for the rest. Introspection and retrospection require discomfort. It’s those two things that will maximise your potential and open your eyes to the world of possibilities. They’re just waiting there for you to grab them!
Have you read this one?
Ever wondered what introspect and retrospect are? More so, are they important? Well we’ve already discussed this. CHECK IT OUT!
Because ultimately, that’s the very worst thing about the comfort zone. It welcomes you in like an old friend, but if you aren’t careful, it can lock the door whilst you’re not looking. And sure, the comfort zone might like you exactly as you are right now, but what if there was something better out there for you? What if your true potential was just on the other side of that locked door? I don’t know about you, but that’s got to be worth a look, right?
After everything we’ve looked at today, I think it’s fair to say that the comfort zone has its good and bad points. It’s a great place to rest for a while when things are tough. But it isn’t a place you should call home for long. Because, ultimately, the comfort zone is like a hospital. It’s good to head there when you really need it, but taking up permanent residence shouldn’t be your long-term aim!
To finish, I just want to share a quote somebody once told me during a more turbulent time in my life: ‘Anxiety is a cue to face your fears, not run from them.’
And I think that applies here. When that uncomfortable thing you want to do is calling you – do it. Discomfort isn’t a warning. Nervousness isn’t a premonition. And anxieties don’t know things we don’t. If we want to try something new, aim for something more, and leave the comfort zone behind – then just do it.
Because at the end of the day, it’s as simple and as hard as that.