Comfort zone has become a popular term that describes an anxiety-neutral position where our defense mechanisms are low, and where we feel risk-free and safe.
By this rule, everything that we do with ease is within our comfort zone, and all things that require extra effort are outside of it.
However, all learning in life demand leaving the comfort zone and venturing to experiment and explore the unknown. It could be practicing a new sport, visiting a new country for the first time, tasting an exotic dish or even starting a new friendship.
Since and early age, we are encouraged by our parents to try the new and soon we become experts; we learn to crawl, walk and run, each and every time leaving an already comfortable stage for the unfamiliar next.
But as we grow, we start losing our naiveté and it becomes more difficult to step out and try new things, our boundaries loose flexibility and our comfort zone becomes confined and smaller.
Many times, it is due to procrastination, or because we honestly feel that life is perfectly OK as it is, and not worthwhile of making the effort. For the more competitive, is the limiting hesitation of not matching self-expectations.
It is fair to say that not all trips out of our comfort zone are rewarded with gratifying experiences, some are painful, unpleasant and even shocking.
A friend had a terrible experience on a trip that was supposed to be a great vacation. She was assaulted and robbed and ended in the police station wanting to go home in the next plane with no intensions to ever travel anywhere outside the country.
Or a young executive, new to his job, who had to speak at a large conference. He had prepared extensively and knew the topic well, but he was frozen and embarrassed when someone in the audience started asking questions that he was not ready to answer.
Negative experiences are unhappy trips out of the comfort zone, no question about it, but they also bring important learnings.
There is no way we can learn from a point of absolute risk aversion. Life will always be challenging and the more we practice being out of the safe zone, the more we will learn to deal with difficult situations.
Many experts in the matter say that there is a strong correlation between the way we relate to our comfort zone and our personal development and growth. The more we step out, the more experienced we become and the less resistance we will feel, because the comfort zone expands the more we cross its boundaries.
We can develop a habit of challenging it by doing simple things, like conquering small fears, to engaging in extraordinary endeavors. Every day, life gives us tons of opportunities to try new ventures, to welcome a taste for the unknown and to confront our own preconceptions that block our desire to explore and learn.
I invite you to take a minute to think about your relationship with your zone of comfort. How well do you know it, how often do you test it, or when do you avoid dealing with it? It’s amazing how by answering these simple questions we can learn much about ourselves.