The opposite of “comfort” is not “discomfort” it is SUCCESS. No I am not crazy, just read this to the end and you will get what I mean.
Comfort is the place where we most have the least level of stress, we know all its parameters, the good and the bad, it is where we can achieve small, steady and predictable progress as investing in safe stocks that has little chance of creating a permanent loss for investors in the long run, knowing that your financial gain is secured, steady but small - versus - taking a calculated risk and investing in variable stocks that can either mean us losing everything or gaining more than we ever imagined possible (The emphasis here is on calculated risk)
It is said that the origin of “comfort zone” originated in reference to the temperature zone (67 to 78 degrees) where we feel most comfortable temperature wise; neither hot nor cold. It is that internal place where we mostly feel safe and secure psychologically.
“The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person’s activities and behaviors operate based on routines and patterns in an anxiety-neutral position that minimizes stress and risks where we feel secure and certain.” In short it is what we are familiar with, what we know.
When we are content in our comfort zone, we stay more in the “Status Quo” - we become less tempted to change anything no matter how bad are the situations we are in, or how unhealthy it is for us. With time, these bad, situations begin to feel less threatening or less harmful to us and we get used to the uncomfortable feelings
Stepping out of our comfort zone triggers the possibility of stress and anxiety as our perception of taking a risk negates our peace of mind of knowing the outcome, what to expect, or how we will react to it.
Another challenge of stepping out of the comfort zone is the worry of people around us not accepting or liking us after the change and how they will react to the new version of “US”.
The result is that:
Why we have comfort zones: Neuroscience
As human beings we are mostly creatures of habits, we cherish our comfort zone because we perceive that we have control on things in our lives, even if when we are not productive
The minute we adventure ourselves out of our comfort zone we feel vulnerable, anxious and exposed, we do not know what to expect; it is as losing control, we feel scared of the unknown- that is why we as human beings avoid change that will ultimately push us out of our comfort zone
Getting out of our comfort zone can be:
Voluntarily by choice as we realize that the only constant in life is change and to grow we need to change
Being pushed of the comfort zone due to circumstances that make us lose our sense of what we define as security: Job, Partner, or Home
The biggest mistake people make when they are out of their comfort zone is not acknowledging that they might be going through a loss process, or admitting that they might be experiencing fear or uncertainty
The good part in this whole process is that being out of our comfort zone (either by choice or being pushed) can help us achieve goals that otherwise we would have never been able to dream that we could accomplish
We do not know what we do not know, meaning that we will never know how much we are capable of till we try, and as long as we are comfortable or think that we are comfortable in Status Quo we will not try anything new; it is crucial to our own self growth
The fact is when we are children we are very curious, we do not know the difference, we do not have the concept of fear of any kind so we adventure ourselves in new territories all the time not knowing what to expect and it is fun. Then we grow and realize how much we have to lose when we step in uncharted new pathways SO we recoil to our own comfortable space which can rob us from ever knowing our true potential
We can only grow by trying new things and accepting different challenges, when we get stuck, we narrow our channels of discoveries and exploration even of our own selves. There is a price to pay for everything, and we need not only to realize that, but also accept it and be fine with it, the currency we pay for advancement and growth is a little bit of uncertainty, mixed with fear, anxiety and sealed with some tears sometimes, as I always say, pain in life is unavoidable but suffering is optional
The payoff is huge, we need to find the courage to face the fear of change and its stress in the short term, rather than suffer the misery of becoming stuck on the long term
"They say if the Captain of a ship wants to keep his ship pristine, he wouldn’t sail into the ocean."
Habits are a double edge sword, when our brain learns what works one time, it starts to recognize this and create more neural pathways or synapsis that almost unconsciously allow us to create an efficient action. They say neurons that fire together, work together
While habits are good to create efficiency in our lives, they are not the main key to come up with new innovative ideas that will disrupt markets or help us overcome the competition or even think about products or services that we have never thought about before
So, we need to start getting comfortable in being uncomfortable, start pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and achieving results.
We train our brain to keep repeating the process, messages of accomplishment are sent to our brains. Our internal rewards, when we achieve any goal big or small, sends signals to the brain to release the “Happy chemicals” as Dopamine and Serotonin that make us feel happy.
To keep feeling that euphoria our brain will need to keep repeating that process of achievement by reaching out, facing challenges and practicing changes even small ones till it becomes a habit to step out of status quo and achieving results.
I am not necessarily saying that we will succeed every single time, sometimes we will need to either adjust our goals or adjust our path or even our understanding of what we need to accomplish, and sometimes we will just fail. Depending how we look at failures or obstacles will determine how we move forward, do we look at them as failures or as a step to knowing what not do, do we look at obstacles as barriers or stepping stones?
It will not be easy, it doesn’t come naturally, the natural process of our brain is to keep us safe, it is our defense mechanism to stay in our comfort zone, it is how we protect ourselves from harm and danger, it will not happen overnight, it will take hard work, effort, sweat and tears – so worth it at the end
The thing we need to be careful of is not pushing ourselves too far of the comfort zone edge or becoming “Adrenaline junkies”. The extreme pressure created causes excess stress that promotes the release of stress hormones like Cortisol from the brain which interferes with our ability to reasoning, work, plan, or even produce and we become even more scarred to step out of the comfort zone, and starts a vicious cycle of being stuck
It is important to understand that what I am talking about here is an optimal level of anxiety, I am not asking that we take a leap of faith and fly off a high mountain just with a flying suit with no parachutes.
Stepping out of our comfort zone can be as simple as saying hello to a stranger in an elevator, or trying a new cuisine or restaurant, or learn a new skill, or travel to a foreign country we do not speak its language, ask people for their opinion no matter how different it is, do whatever doesn’t come naturally to us, or even take a different route to work just to disrupt our routine
Stepping out of our comfort zone is not ONLY about taking a leap of faith and jumping with our eyes closed, or about toughening it up, or just having enough inspiration. It takes way more than that, no matter what we go through we can take solace knowing that we are not the only ones going through the challenge
Entrepreneurs and the Comfort Zone
Obviously, stepping out of the comfort zone becomes critical to entrepreneurs, one of the reasons why entrepreneurship fails is that entrepreneurs stay stuck in their comfort zone and what feels comfortable for them, not necessarily thinking what their customers need being disconnected from what they actually need to offer and wants
To get out of our comfort zone:
1. First thing, we need to define our comfort zone-we all have different comfort zones and different change triggers, then acknowledging that we are stuck
2.What is our payoff: We need to dig deep and think what are we benefiting from :
Staying in a job because we are have the security of a regular paycheck, we do not have to take the risk to go out and interview and risk rejection, or start our business risking failure
Staying in a dysfunctional relationship because we know how to deal with the bad and good, we do not have to start searching for someone new, going out on a lot of first dates, not knowing if we will have seconds, getting hurt though we can be hurting all the time – but - by one single person instead by different people over an over; or feeling like getting rejected over and over
3. Knowing our “WHY”, our purpose deep inside and being convinced that what we are trying to achieve is crucial to our lives and is worth the discomfort we will experience getting out of our comfort zone
4. Knowing that what works for us might not work for someone else, be prepared to change or adjust our plans on a dime, changing the way we look at things “”, change negative to positive starting with our words, words have power in our lives, use positive verbiage, change our body language, changing the way we feel and think -
5. Clarity on the situation
Who we are? And what we want to become, what kind of change we are trying to bring?
Our strengths and weaknesses
What is our starting point, our inventory of skills, talents, and resources?
Taking inventory of our feelings and emotions no matter how ridiculous we think they are
Take inventory of our challenges and why we see them as challenges and why we are trying to avoid them
What are our real fears, making fear our friend to peek into the future
How the future looks if we are able to overcome the challenge and how our life would look if we do not do anything about it?
Know where we are now and where we want to be
6. Think about the worst case scenario and work it backwards. Anything that happens ranging from where we are and the worst case scenario is actually a gain
When we become that person who regularly takes calculated risks, when we challenge our self to try new things, we will develop an openness and welcome to experience characterized by qualities like imagination, innovation, positive-ness, healthy curiosity, and a drive to explore our lives better inside out increasing our chances to grow and achieve our dreams
We can’t live outside our comfort zone all the time, it will bring unnecessary stress to our body and brain, we need to come back to our comfort zone every now and then to let the new habits settle to become part of our routines and to give us a break from stress and anxiety, but remember not to become complacent where the New new, becomes the old new
By practicing getting out of the comfort zone or shaking up our Status Quo, challenging our routines, we will push our self to new ways of thinking, that will affect our behaviors and actions in a new way – no one said it would be easy but the rewards are huge – I am one of those people that always said “I rather be hurt in love (worst case scenario) than not knowing how love feels at all, by taking that chance and stepping out of the comfort zone 16 years ago yesterday I met the love of my life, by refusing Status Quo 6 years ago leaving the 9 to 5 job, despite all the worries, anxiety and fears as well as the unsolicited advices from people around me not to start a business, I did and I couldn’t be happier – it is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life (After the decision to marry my hubby)
We all experience FEAR when it comes to change as it feels like a threat to us and we chose to maintain the "Status Quo" rather than pushing the limits.
And this my friends is the biggest injustice that we do not only to ourselves or the people we can help but t ithe whole Universe
We all have a light inside that we need to help illuminating the world with.
What are you doing right now to step out of your comfort zone to your success? Please share your story
You can listen my Podcast about Getting out of Your Comfort Zone
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Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh
Diversity, Inclusion, and Leadership Consultant-
Transformation Coach - The Fear Whisperer
Sahar Consulting, LLC
Reinvent Yourself To Greatness (Product of Sahar Consulting, LLC)
I help Professional, career oriented women entrepreneurs and start-ups stuck in their lives, unemployed , individuals, indor in a job they hate, or in transition, struggling with figuring out what to do next, spinning their wheels in the same place; to show them how regain control of their lives, conquer their fears by moving out of their comfort zones that results in a journey of discovery to define their purpose & passion and become the person that achieves both happiness and success in their lives.