Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
From our infancy we’re taught the absolute joy that comes from comfort. And when childlike things fall away they are replaced with adult alternatives. Few of these are more widely discussed than the ‘comfort zone’.
Except perhaps hygge. But that’s for another day.
Contrary to popular belief, I believe that you can flourish in your comfort zone. If you bound out of bed every morning, excited by the prospect of your working day, knowing that you have found the perfect role that matches your skills and ambition, then your comfort zone is one of perfect design. You are the archetypal round peg in a round hole.
You lucky thing.
Stretch your comfort zone, don’t leave it
The key to flourishing in this state is to think of your comfort zone as though it is made of jelly.
When it is rigid, the edges of your comfort zone become walls. And those walls, by design, keep you in and keep new things out.
Whereas jelly walls flex. They are almost greedy in their pursuit of new things, swallowing them up and growing. With this mindset you could dip your toe beyond your comfort zone by learning a new skill or taking a calculated risk and then using the results of those endeavours to grow your comfort zone, rather than leaving it.
Why we stay in our comfort zone
The human brain is inherently cautious. It will choose the path of least resistance. It does this thanks to its role in keeping our ancient ancestors safe. Thousands of years ago, staying within certain geographical areas, sticking with tried-and-tested foods, and running away from danger were pretty critical to staying alive.
Our brains want us to stay safe.
But they are not always our friend.
Think of every new challenge you have considered. The career change, the diet, the public speaking opportunity. At some point in your deliberations, your brain will have highlighted all of the reasons that taking the opportunity will lead to harm and offered you all of the excuses you need to turn the opportunity down.
“I’ll make a fool of myself”, “I’ll fail”, “They won’t want to listen to me”, or “I’ll get some more experience under my belt and say yes next time”.
When you listen to and believe your own fears and excuses you are keeping yourself from growth. And that is when comfortable can become really uncomfortable.
When comfortable becomes uncomfortable
There are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to determine whether your comfort zone has, in fact, become uncomfortable.
- Are you excited by the prospect of your working day? No-one is excited every day, and there are times that work can be difficult due to deadlines or particularly tricky projects. But, in general, does your work excite you?
- When did you last learn something? No profession stands still. There is always more to learn and new things to try. This is especially true in communication with new channels coming on line all of the time, new techniques and evolving customer needs. Learning something new and then putting it into practice is invigorating. Are you motivated to keep up-to-date within your field?
- Are you literally too comfortable? Our personal style has the potential to transform our mindset. This is perhaps best illustrated by the notion that you should dress for the job you want, not the one you have. This works in the sense that your outer-appearance matches your inner ambitions. This can positively impact your mindset, giving you confidence in the same way that a suit of armour gives its wearer a sense of protection. But the opposite is also true. You can be so comfortable that you start to dress for the job you used to have. In turn your ambition starts to match your appearance. Do you dress for the job you want?
These three questions can help you reflect on whether or not you’ve become too comfortable but they are also the key to stretching your comfort zone. You can take action this week:
- Remember what excites you about your career, or identify what career would excite you and make that your goal.
- Learn something new and put it into practice. This could be as formal as signing up for a course or reading an article or blog to pick up a new skill.
- Dress for the job you want. What image do you want to present to the world this week? Plan your outfits accordingly.
Do you love your comfort zone or are you trying to stretch it? We’d love to hear from you below or over on our Facebook page.
Until next week,
Lucy and Emma | The Communication Coaches