Or do they?! Recently I have been pushing the boundaries of my own comfort zone and wanted to share what I have learnt. For those of you who have read my previous blogs, you will notice that this writing style is definitely stepping out of my comfort zones – this offers an infinitely more personal perspective!
With that comes a degree of anxiety and nervousness…what if my experiences are of little value to anyone else? What if I get some negative feedback about the change of style? What if readers disagree with my experiences? And so on. If I listened to all the ‘what if?’ questions generated by my mind, I would stay firmly in my comfort zone!
It’s natural to feel vulnerable, we all know that stepping out of our comfort zones requires some courage, but without doubt, I have recognised the positive impact of adopting a growth mindset*. As I venture outside of my comfort zone, I remember that the things I can’t do or haven’t previously experienced are just skills I don’t have YET.
I’ve accepted that there may be frustrations, struggles, setbacks and failures but having that positive can-do attitude allows me to persevere and relish the insights along the way.
Recent events have reminded me how much I enjoy the adrenalin rush of adventuring beyond and the sense of achievement that follows, even if the actual outcomes aren’t what I expected. In a work context, I have noticed this kick starts my personal performance, my energy levels heighten and my productivity and creativity increases.
The science supports these reactions. Our comfort zones are a space where our activities and behaviours fit a routine pattern that provides a state of mental security – stress and risk are minimised. Without that sense of unease, we tend to do the minimum required to get by. By introducing an element of stress and anxiety we move into a space of ‘optimal activity’ – it is here that we can maximise our performance. Increase the anxiety too much and we become too stressed to be productive, our performance drops off and we yearn to return to our comfortable zone. So, as with so many things, it’s all about balance!
Read any management/business book and you will find quotes about the need to step outside your comfort zone but I have also learnt that great things come from within your comfort zone. Returning to my comfort zone gives me the space to relax, reflect on my experiences and work out how I can apply the benefits going forward – without this, the great things or defining moments from my ventures outside of my comfort zone are wasted and just remain experiences.
* For more on this watch the TED talk by Carol Dweck