Taking a Look at the Comfort Zone

by | Jan 21, 2012

For a couple of decades now, we have been contemplating the dangers of being in The Comfort Zone.

Step out of your Comfort Zone“, we are told, ” Growth and achievement do not live there. Get out! “

How long is it OK to stay in our comfort zone?

I can, of course, see the importance of stretching; challenging ourselves to take risks, and encouraging others to do the same. After all, if we choose to stay cocooned for too long, the Universe will find a way of catapulting us from the comfort place into foreign territory anyway. Better to make a choice for change than have it foisted upon us, right?

But, (and there is one), a place of comfort seems to have become somewhere in which none of us would want to be caught dead. And, if we find that we are feeling comfortable, it’s possible that this, in itself, creates an uneasiness that causes the devil on our shoulder to whisper something about not doing enough or being enough or living up to our potential.
Wikipedia defines The Comfort Zone as, a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition.
That’s one perspective.

Judith Bardwick, who wrote Danger in the Comfort Zone (first published in 1991), refers to it as a place where our sense of entitlement hangs out. Dr Bardwick’s book discusses the habit of expecting something for nothing and our tendency toward righteous indignation when we don’t get it.This is another perspective.

If we were to subscribe to the latter one, it’s easy to see how being in the comfort zone can be interpreted negatively.
On the other hand, if we were to view it simply as a place in neutral territory, it could very well have its benefits. Here’s what occurs to me from that vantage point:

  •  The Comfort Zone can be a place of planning and reflection.
    Often, when we are in the middle of change, there is internal noise that eclipses our ability to fully grasp what we are learning. We simply want to get through it and come out the other end relatively unscathed.
    I think though, when the turmoil created by change dies down, the neutrality of our more comfortable place allows for the opportunity to reflect on what we have learned and to plan for what comes next.

 

  •  The Comfort Zone can be a place of respite
    We all know that the pace of change is unrelenting. In many ways it’s exciting. On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to step back and take a deep breath. Giving ourselves a short break from the pressure and risks of unrelenting “newness” just might, in the long run, help us re-energize and go back in with greater focus than we otherwise might have.

So, to me, the danger does not lie in being in the comfort zone. It lies in staying there too long. The question is, how long is too long?

Anais Nin once said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Perhaps it is then that we know it’s time to step out; when we realize staying in the comfort zone is no longer serving us, or anyone else; and when comfort is in danger of morphing into pain.

What do you think?

Gwyn Teatro

Gwyn Teatro Subscriber
Gwyn Teatro is the author of internationally acclaimed leadership blog " You're not the boss of me" . She is a Certified Professional Coach with a Masters of Science degree in Management. With career experience spanning financial services and HR, Gwyn has coached, senior business leaders and groups on leadership, organizational effectiveness and strategic business planning. Although now technically retired, she continues to have a keen interest in leadership development and helping leaders (or those who aspire to be), find their success.
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