Comfort Zone has become a fashionable term, one describing an anxiety-free stance whereby our defense mechanisms are low, and we feel safe. However, all learning in life necessitates a departure from our comfort zone and venture out to experiment and explore the unknown. It could be practicing a new sport, visiting a new country, sampling an exotic dish, or even starting a new friendship.
Since an early age, our parents encouraged us to try the new, and soon we become experts, we learn to crawl, walk, and run—every time exiting the known comfortable stage and fearlessly entering into unfamiliar territory. As we grow, we begin losing our naiveté, and it becomes more challenging to step out and try new things. Our boundaries become less fluid, and our comfort zone confined and smaller.
It is fair to say that not all trips out of our comfort zone are gratifying experiences; some are painful, unpleasant, and even shocking. A colleague has a terrible experience on a business trip that was supposed to be her starting international assignment. She is assaulted and robbed and finds herself at a police station wanting to return home on the next plane with mixed feelings of accepting the new job. A newly hired young executive has to speak at a large conference. He prepares extensively and has a mastery of the topic, but he is frozen and embarrassed when someone in the audience asks unexpected questions. Negative experiences are unhappy trips out of the comfort zone, no question about it, but they also contribute valuable lessons.
Learning from the point of absolute risk aversion is virtually impossible. Life will always be challenging, and the more we practice being out of our safe zone, the more we will learn to confront and surmount obstacles and hardships. Many experts in the matter find a strong correlation between the way we relate to our comfort zone and our personal development and growth. The more we step out, the less resistance we will feel because our comfort zone expands as we cross its boundaries. We can develop a habit of expanding our comfort zone with simple tasks such as conquering small fears or undertaking extraordinary endeavors. Every day, life gives us countless opportunities to try new ventures, welcome a taste for the unknown, and confront our 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 familiar with it are you, do you test it often, or avoid dealing with it? It’s astounding how, by answering these simple questions, we can learn so much about ourselves.