What a nice word! It sounds like soft pillows, warmth and the smell of cinnamon – in short: heavenly!
So why the hell everyone wants to tell me that I should leave this place?
By “everyone” I mean in this case motivational psychology articles, self-help books focusing on “success” and personal fitness trainer. They all say things like “Get out of your comfort zone – the TRUE life waiting there!”.
The term comfort zone refers to all those situations that are familiar to us. These are situations that we handle without really thinking about it – on autopilot, so to speak. We know how to behave and what will happen next. Everything is well organized and predictable. Every task, we have to do, is done easily, because of our experience. Everything is already done a thousand times!
No wonder we feel safe and secure within our comfort zone … okay, maybe it’s a bit boring from time to time, but all in all, the comfort zone seems to be a pretty fluffy spot.
It is a fundamental dilemma of humanity: we are constantly looking for more (be it the success, happiness, meaning, self-realization …) and yet at the same time we have an infinite fear of change. We want the safety of the familiar and at the same time, we are curious about the unknown.
Our inner longing for personal development cannot be satisfied in the comfort zone. If we want to learn something new and develop further, we have to venture out into the growth zone.
In the growth zone, we are suddenly faced with tasks for those solutions our previous repertoire of action is insufficient. Of course, we will use our knowledge and skills from the comfort zone, but this alone will not be enough: In order to survive, we have to break new ground in our thinking and acting – whatever the danger of failure. An unsafe condition, which we usually perceive as strenuous and unpleasant. But it’s worth it! If a new action strategy is found that leads to the goal, then this is internalized. Thus, the existing action repertoire is expanded and the comfort zone is increased since we now feel able to respond adequately to requirements in a new area.
It only becomes problematic, when we move too far away from our comfort zone. Because leaving the comfort zone does not necessarily mean further development. If we go too far away from everything we know, we get into the so-called panic zone. Suddenly we are facing tremendous challenges without tools. Everything familiar is too far away for us to build on it. We get scared and finally, we get panicky! It is absolutely understandable that there can be no growth in this zone.
Therefore, you have to find the right measure just like with all things in life!
Do not let the comfort of your comfort zone or the fear of the panic zone keep you from becoming the person you want to be!
* This article is based on the learning zone model by Luckner & Nadler