"When we live in our comfort zone, we become accustomed to our surroundings and experience little challenge." - elise grigg, Counseling Intern
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
“The magic happens outside of your comfort zone.”
“Nothing grows or gets done in your comfort zone.”
“When you step out of your comfort zone, you are stepping into your greatness.”
You've likely heard one of these phrases or others about our "comfort zone". Each speaks about the power of living our lives outside of our comfort zones, indirectly implying that being inside our comfort zone should be avoided. But what if our comfort zone wasn’t positive or negative? What if it was just neutral? What if, then, we could use our comfort zone to our advantage?
The Comfort Zone
A comfort zone is a psychological state of familiarity, security, and ease – a state where minimal stress and anxiety is experienced, where we feel most at home. In our comfort zone, we feel in control, relaxed, and assured in our routines, and we produce steady, consistent performance results.
When we step outside of our comfort zone, we open ourselves up to risk and the potential of stress and anxiety from the unknown. We generally think of stress and anxiety as negative and bad (in some situations they definitely are), but a healthy amount of each can actually prompt growth, positive change, and creativity.
The Optimal Zone
Just beyond our comfort zone lies our optimal zone. Here, we have just the right amount of stress and anxiety to propel ourselves forward – to challenge ourselves and rise to the occasion. Breaking the habits and routines from our comfort zone is scary, but it provides the opportunity to grow, evolve, and improve. If you’d like to read more about facing your fears, click here!
The Danger Zone
The danger zone is where we stretch ourselves too far from our comfort zone and experience significant amounts of stress and anxiety. We may actually regress or hurt ourselves from going beyond our own safety limits and boundaries. Pushing ourselves too far, too fast lands us in this zone.
Using Your Comfort Zone to Your Advantage
Living consistently in one zone provides little opportunity for growth, learning, and change. When we live in the comfort zone, we become accustomed to our surroundings and experience little challenge. When we live in the optimal zone, we experience challenge but have no opportunity to process, reflect, and accept our learnings. When we live in the danger zone, we become burnt out, exhausted, and in a perpetual state of anxiety.
The ideal zone is a balance between your optimal zone and your comfort zone.
Think back to playing tag as a child. If you stayed on home base the entire game, you wouldn’t experience the risk and challenge of getting tagged. If you never touched home base, you would become tired very quickly from constantly being chased. If you balanced running around and using home base when you needed to, you would have a much greater chance of winning, learning, and enjoying the experience of the game.
Your comfort zone is your life’s home base. Use it when you need a break from your optimal zone. Use it to process, reflect, and absorb your challenging experiences. Use it to learn and re-energize yourself to step back into the optimal zone. As important as it is to break out of your comfort zone, it’s just as important to revisit it.
Elise Grigg, Counseling Intern