By Carolyn Gregoire ⎥ Photo : Pinterest
The comfort zone is a “behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk” — the operative words here being stress and risk. In our comfort zone, there is a sense of familiarity, security and certainty. When we step outside of our comfort zone, we’re taking a risk, and opening ourselves up to the possibility of stress and anxiety; we’re not quite sure what will happen and how we’ll react. We’ve come to see stress as a dirty word — and for good reason — but a little bit of healthy stress can actually act as a catalyst for growth and provide a powerful motivation to act. Within our comfort zones, generally speaking, there’s little stress. While staying in your comfort zone can result in consistent, steady performance, stepping out of your comfort zone into a new and challenging task can create the conditions for optimal performance.
Think about it : Did you ever do something you were really proud of when you were in autopilot mode?
Here’s why we struggle to step outside our comfort zones — and how we stand to benefit when we do.
WE SEEK OUT COMFORT,
THAT'S WHY IT'S SO HARD TO LET IT GO
Humans are creatures of comfort. Our comfort zone is our natural, neutral state — a place where stress and anxiety are minimal, where we know what’s coming next and can plan accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with being in your comfort zone, unless you get too comfortable and start holding yourself back instead of challenging yourself to learn, grow and try new things.
CHALLENGING YOURSELF CAN HELP
YOU PERFORM AT YOUR PEAK
Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is an important, and almost universal, factor in personal growth. How can we expect to evolve in our lives and careers if we only stick to habit and routine? Reaching new heights involves the risk of attempting something we might not succeed at.
A little anxiety can help us perform at our peak, psychologists have found — in other words, when we challenge ourselves, we tend to rise to the occasion.
TAKING RISKS IS WHAT
HELPS US GROW
As children, we’re natural risk-takers. But as we get older and learn to fear failure, we start holding ourselves back and attempting fewer new things. This comes at a high cost to our tremendous potential for lifelong growth and transformation.
“We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure,” the author John Gardner wrote in Self-Renewal. “It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure — all your life. It’s as simple as that.”
TRYING NEW THINGS CAN MAKE
YOU MORE CREATIVE
Creativity is innately risky — when we share creative work, we open ourselves up to vulnerability and possible rejection. At the same time, risking failure increases the possibility of great creative achievement.
In becoming a person who regularly takes calculated risks, challenges yourself, and tries new things, you’ll cultivate openness to experience, one of what’s known in psychology as the “Big Five” personality traits. Openness to experience — which is characterized by qualities like intellectual curiosity, imagination, emotional and fantasy interests, and a drive to explore one’s inner and outer lives — has been shown to be the best predictor of creative achievement.
EMBRACING NEW CHALLENGES
CAN HELP YOU AGE BETTER
Our comfort zones tend to shrink as we get older — but if we can keep expanding them, we’ll open ourselves up to greater fulfillment and improved well-being as we age.
A 2013 study found that learning new and demanding life skills, while also maintaining a strong social network, can help us stay mentally sharp as we get older.
BUT DON'T PUSH
YOURSELF TOO FAR
A famous experiment conducted on mice in 1908 by Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson found that stimulation could improve performance, but only to a certain extent. Performance was improved up to the level of “optimal anxiety” — beyond that level, there was too much stress, and performance dropped. What’s now called the “Yerkes-Dodson Law” refers to the curve of performance peaking at the point of optimal anxiety, and lowering with both too little and too much anxiety.
“When demands become too great for us to handle, when the pressure overwhelms us, too much to do with too little time or support, we enter the zone of bad stress,” author Daniel Goleman writes in Psychology Today. “Just beyond the optimal zone at the top or the performance arc, there is a tipping point where the brain secretes too many stress hormones, and they start to interfere with our ability to work well, to learn, to innovate, to listen, and to plan effectively.”
Clearly, too much stress and anxiety can be paralyzing. Stress reduces productivity and stifles creativity — not to mention contributing to a number of physical and mental health problems.
If you want to challenge yourself,
check out our Challenge "Less Is More" to develop your true potential : here !