The Comfort Zone

It’s easy to recognise things in our lives which we do almost automatically, like getting dressed in the morning or washing the dishes. Tasks that don’t require much effort and can be done on autopilot with little stress. Different people have different comfort zones, like how driving a car can be very intensive for someone with little experience but is significantly easier for someone with lots more experience.

The comfort zone is generally a peaceful place to be. You don’t stress yourself too much, nor do you push your limits. Though if you stay planted in your comfort zone, your personal growth tends to stagnate. And if you remain planted in your comfort zone for too long, things just on the edge of it become harder — the comfort zone shrinks over time.

For example, if regularly going to the gym is on the edge of your comfort zone, and then you spend a week out on holiday, it’ll probably be harder to get back into going to the gym regularly. The size of your comfort zone needs to be maintained, or else you may fall into a rut. Frequently challenging yourself helps maintain and grow the size of your comfort zone.

If you sit around only doing stuff that you are content with, not exploring outside your personal comfort bubble, you also don’t get to experience the potential benefits of what you can improve in.

The areas in which you can improve your life the most can usually be best enhanced by venturing outside your comfort zone. Whether it be going for a run, asking for a pay rise, or asking someone out on a date. Virtually everyone has strengths in some areas and is significantly weaker in others. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone more often can help improve yourself in the weaker areas, making you a more well-rounded person.

As you push the boundaries of your comfort zone, more things become easier to try. Tasks that were really far outside your comfort zone become closer to it, so they become easier to attempt. Accepting the discomfort of these challenges and learning to enjoy the pain more allows you to improve yourself at a much quicker rate.

For me, the last few months have been full of discomfort — most of it was self-imposed. I experienced a dramatic shift in how I see the world. I started this blog and forced myself to write new articles every day — which was incredibly difficult given that I have minimal experience writing articles in general. No doubt, it provided plenty of benefits in my life — mainly becoming smarter and more courageous — and it really pushed the boundaries of what I find comfortable.

This week I gave a 15-minute presentation on a mathematical essay I wrote, to a small group of students I’d never met, and with only a chalkboard and speech to present with. I didn’t do much preparation, and the preparations I made fell apart during the presentation when I realised that I didn’t have the time to properly explore all the points I was making. I didn’t feel very stressed beforehand, partly because I’ve learned how to think in a way that doesn’t make me feel much stress about the future (if you want to learn more about thinking differently, consider reading my articles on happiness on this blog). When I was giving the speech, I felt incredibly uncomfortable, especially after my plans fell apart and I was highly concerned with not getting the main points across clearly.

It was an incredible experience that was very uncomfortable but of excellent value. In the future, I’d be much more comfortable to give a similar speech to another small group of people, or even to a larger number of people. My comfort zone has been expanded slightly, and it’ll be easier for me to give speeches in the future.

In the next 7 days, I plan to try and run 6km on a treadmill without slowing down for a break. I haven’t run that far before, and it’s just outside my comfort zone. As I progress to running further distances; I’m continually pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone.

So, what are you going to do in the next week or month that’s a challenge for you? If you complete one challenge, taking on another will seem much more manageable. Challenging yourself often enough will make a habit of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. This lets you grow as a person at a much quicker pace, as more opportunities for personal growth will emerge. Your next personal growth experience may be just around the corner.