# Don't Let Yourself Park in the Comfort Zone


Parking in the Comfort Zone

Most of us have, in our house, a thermostat that regulates the temperature. When it gets a bit too warm, the air conditioning kicks on to bring the temperature down to an acceptable range. When the temperature drops below a comfortable point, the heater comes on to bring the room temperature up to a more comfortable level. The 'comfort zone' is the range of temperature that is not too hot and not too cold; just comfortable.

"Complacency, in our fast-paced competitive world, can be fatal to business and severely limit personal and professional growth."

Our personal 'comfort zone' is where we are comfortable in what we are doing in our jobs, our lives, our experiences. It is when we have no feelings of risk or anxiety. Some call it 'being comfortable'. Some would call it 'a rut'.

Each of us has our own personal comfort zone. We have built-in 'thermostats' that regulate our level of anxiety, fear, discomfort. In the areas of our knowledge, skills, habits and attitude, when we step outside our normal, existing boundaries, we begin to feel a bit anxious. Our natural tendency is to pull back.

Try this: fold your arms. Now, fold them the other way. How did that make you feel? Felt a bit unnatural, didn't it? That's why we usually stay within our comfort zone. When we try something new, we often feel uneasy about it, and frequently pull back. The security feels good.

The downside of all this is that always staying in our comfort zone can be very limiting. The world passes us by as we stagnate. Complacency, in our fast-paced competitive world, can be fatal to business and severely limit personal and professional growth. If we are not learning, trying new things and growing, our jobs and businesses may be deteriorating.

How do we step out of the comfort zone? Before you just throw all caution to the wind, try some simple things. Drive home a different route. Shop at a different grocery store. Order something from the menu that you've never tried before. Sleep on the other side of the bed.

Make a conscious effort to experiment. Let yourself feel the adrenaline level rise a bit. Allow your anxiety level to increase. Feel your heart rate and breathing going faster. The adrenaline is your body's natural drug that, in moderation, makes you sharp, creative, and quick. It creates the feeling of excitement and exhilaration that comes from trying something new. Recognize that it also can be scary and stressful. Some stress is useful. Too much can be harmful. Some stress provides energy. Too much stress causes distress and can lead to burnout if done to extreme.

Why would we want to give ourselves the stress of stepping outside the comfort zone? Because that's where growth takes place. Just like a muscle gets stronger when we exercise it outside its normal range of use, we get stronger when we get out of our rut. And just like our muscles, once we stretch beyond our current capabilities, we don't ever go back to our original dimensions.

As we try new things, we gain confidence. Confidence makes us feel powerful and good. And when we are confident that we can survive new ideas, we allow ourselves to try even more new things.

What's the limit? Obviously, we need to be realistic in our risk management. The most successful people think through the possible outcomes of taking a risk. Then they prepare for how they would deal with each. Successful people take risks, but they are not foolhardy or stupid.

What are some higher level activities that could add to your personal and professional growth? Here's my challenge to you. Make a list of 50 things that, if you really were successful in doing them, you would be a better person or a better company. Things like give a speech (oh no!), write and publish an article, start an exercise program, meditate daily, teach a class, feed a homeless person, volunteer, climb a mountain, learn to play a new musical instrument, sign up for a dance class, try for that promotion, and so on.

Then, from your list, choose one or two that you are willing to do within the next 90 days. Schedule this one or two new activities, then go for it. Afterward, choose one or two more and do it again. Make personal and professional growth a lifelong habit.