Why Your Comfort Zone Is Your Power Zone
How many of us have heard the advice that we need to “get out of our comfort zone” in order to be successful?
My survey of hundreds of entrepreneurs asked whether they felt it was important to get out of their comfort zone to be successful. The overwhelming majority agreed. This means that they’d bought into the myth.
However, when asked whether they were willing to be out of alignment with their core values, 100 percent of these same entrepreneurs responded they wouldn’t be willing. Could this mean their innate selves knew that attempting to do or be something they’re not creates internal conflict and angst? It appears so.
Our core values are our fundamental beliefs that guide our behavior and decisions. Even if we haven’t taken time to actually define the values that give us purpose and meaning, we know them inherently. They might involve freedom, courage, and family. Or could include honesty, kindness, and integrity.
Our comfort zone is formed by our core values. Power and confidence come from the feeling that we know what to do and that we can count on ourselves to stay true to our values. We launch our actions from a familiar, safe, and secure place. In this zone, we’ve created a track record of success, performing tasks with confidence and honing our skills.
And we’ve been confidently doing those tasks because they’re aligned with our core values and sense of purpose. In addition, that confidence provides us the power to stretch just a bit to expand and grow.
Conversely, the anxiety created by the risk of leaving one’s comfort zone leads to procrastination and inaction. Our innate fight-or-flight response to stress kicks in and we’re uncertain how to move forward. Further, by focusing on our personal perceived deficiencies, we experience low self-esteem and dissatisfaction in our life.
But when we’re confident that we’re proficient in our skills and able to effectively perform our tasks, our mind tells us that we’re likely to be successful at new tasks that require similar skills and experience. Creating habits and routines inside our comfort zone becomes easier, too.
The circumference of our comfort zone represents the place where we feel safe. While in our comfort zone, we feel that we were born to fulfill a purpose or were called to do something because we’re a natural at it. We also expect to be successful when we stretch a bit more to accomplish new, similar tasks.
Just like a rubber band, our comfort zone has enough flexibility to expand to include a wider area. As we grow personally and professionally, take safe risks, and become more comfortable in various situations, the circumference of our comfort zone also grows. Our confidence allows us freedom to keep growing and improving our skills in harmony with our core values.
However, if that rubber band expands too far — meaning it stretches beyond our comfort zone — it snaps, and we’re unable to perform. The expression “I’m reaching my breaking point” describes this condition. We feel that we’re left dangling and unable to support ourselves and others.
The way to achieve larger goals is to gently expand the circumference of our comfort zone while not going beyond the edge of its safe boundaries.
For example, I stretched to the edge of my comfort zone when I went snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. I’m not a good swimmer, and I hadn’t done anything like it before. But I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see the coral and sea life up close. I had to expand my comfort zone a bit by taking a snorkeling lesson and then staying near the tour guide to feel safe. As a result, I accomplished my goal without snapping and feeling out of control.
By working within and expanding our comfort zone — by being in alignment with our core values and personality traits — we’ll have more confidence, more energy, and more courage to achieve our goals.
Mental health experts agree that feeling self-satisfied improves our mental well-being. It allows our brain to release dopamine and serotonin into our system, which are known as the “feel good” hormones. Some of the many positive mental symptoms reported when people feel a sense of satisfaction include the following:
- Improved mood
- Increased attentiveness and focus
- Increased productivity and creativity
- Improved analytical skills
- Increased motivation
These are all factors that contribute to success.
Take a moment to think about a time when you wanted to learn how to do something you’d never done before — for example, play a new instrument, write a book, take up a new sport, or grow your audience on a social media platform — and you enjoyed the process. You felt the why of what you were doing. You felt aligned with your purpose and calling as you mastered new skills and abilities. You could say it just felt right to expand in this way.
Take another moment and consider a time when you felt you should learn how to do something you’d never done before. Did you procrastinate getting started? Perhaps you never fully mastered the new activity or skill because you couldn’t see the point in moving toward its completion. Perhaps you’re beating yourself up for not finishing it successfully.
What you discovered is that moving forward would have meant being out of alignment with your core values in some way. You found the edge of your comfort zone.
If we discover that moving forward feels painful, we can trust that to go further in this direction will force us beyond our comfort zone. If we attempt to ignore and push past those feelings, we’ll reach our breaking point. We’ll have lost our personal power and no longer have confidence in our ability.
When we stay true to our core values, we can consciously make choices in any situation that maintain our alignment even while gently stretching to acquire new skills and experiences. We will also quickly know when we feel out of alignment.
Written by Stacey Hall.
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