Beyond your comfort zone
Turns out that cheesy motivational poster in your neighbour’s cubicle was right after all: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Here’s how to break free from your fears.
theseare uncomfortable times. Companies are struggling, the economy is in the doldrums, jobs are scarce and politics are scary. Curling into the foetal position seems appropriate. Trying to create a safe space amid the tumult is a normal human reaction. When outside risk increases, we inevitably attempt to make our own environment as secure as possible. We play it safe, stick to only doing work we feel confident about, approach everything in the same way that has guaranteed success in the past. We repeat behaviours and don’t stick our necks out, choosing routine and comfort instead of taking risks. We end up in a comfortable routine where we don’t face failure and we avoid stress.
The problem is that a comfort zone can be a very dangerous place. Life is growth. When you don’t challenge yourself, you become stunted. If you don’t adapt to a changing business environment, you will be sleepwalking into an almighty crisis. If you stick only to the tried and tested, you will stifle your own creativity. If you don’t risk failure, you won’t innovate and put yourself and your company on a higher plane. If you stick to only routine work, a robot will eventually grab your job.
Also, breathing the air inside your comfortable bubble for too long can be toxic. While you avoid the stress and anxiety of failure, you will start falling behind. Eventually you will feel boredom, envy and stagnation.
In truth, life outside your comfort zone is stressful. It comes with anxiety and failure. But to perform at your peak you need a bit of stress to spur you on. Psychologists talk about “optimal anxiety”, which is based on the Yerkes-Dodson law. More than a century ago, two psychologists found that performance increases as stress levels rise – up to a point. When the pressure becomes overwhelming, you won’t be able to cope and your ability to achieve will suffer. But without some anxiety and fear, you won’t ever step up and reach your full potential.
“One way to jolt yourself out of a lethargic state is to imagine yourself on your deathbed, looking back at your life,” says Jonathan Hoch, founder of and executive coach at Hoch Partners Executive Coaching in Johannesburg. With this perspective in mind, are you happy about how well you are living up to your potential? Are you living a meaningful life that won’t lead to regrets? Now imagine what would constitute a successful life. Unfortunately, chances are that your successful life will not be attained by watching daytime TV and sticking to routine behaviour. You will need to embrace some risk and stress, and escape your comfort zone.
A comfort zone can be a very dangerous place. Life is growth. When you don’t challenge yourself, you become stunted.
Even minor changes in your daily routine can open your mind to new ways of thinking. Change your breakfast. Change your hair. Install a different Founder of and executive coach at Hoch Partners Executive Coaching