The comfort zone. We’ve all got one. Wikipedia describes it as ‘ a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk’. Sounds pretty boring to me.
A couple of years ago I was attending a residential course for my MBA. It was for the subject ‘change management’ –change management is a business term that relates to making changes to processes and procedures and supporting employees through those changes. Basically helping them move outside their ‘comfort zone’.
This was an experiential learning experience where each day we were pushed further and further outside our own comfort zone to experience the feelings that change brings. I consider myself a change embracer but this experience was tougher than I had imagined, I had no control over, or in fact any idea about, what was happening next.
On the final day we were told that as a group we had to perform a song and dance in a video. Now I’m pretty confident in my dance moves but I am terrified of being in front of a camera. All I could think was how awful I would look, and how people would judge me when we watched the video back at the end of the day. So I did what any normal person would do. I panicked, looked around for the closest exit and got ready to run! Small problem though, I was miles away from home and if I left now I’d have to repeat the whole subject again to get a pass and finish my MBA.
But then I thought it through. I realized that if I felt this way, many of the other students would surely feel the same, in which case when it came to watching the video the only person they would be focusing on was themselves. So I harnessed my courage and changed my focus. I knew if I didn’t embrace it then all I would see when watching the video was how awkward and reserved I was and this would make me feel even worse. I thought if I have to do this I might as well have fun with it and I just let myself go.
So what was the result? Well I had fun, a lot of fun. And when I watched the video at the end of the day I looked like I was doing just that, having fun.
Comfort zones may be easy places to hang out but if we don’t step outside of them and take a risk we will never know how great we can be, how much fun we can have and what we are capable of achieving. I really believe that if you stay within your comfort zone for too long, you will become ‘uncomfortable’. You’ll be stuck living with the anxiety and stress that has built up over time because you haven’t been living to your full potential. So get out there, embrace your fears and vulnerabilities, and take a risk. What’s the worst that could happen? Or more importantly, what’s the best that could happen?