Have a think… What three things would you really like to achieve but feel are out of reach?
If thinking about something in your business is challenging, how about your personal life? Perhaps you want to get fitter and be able to easily run 5k or get down to your ideal weight. It could be that you want to be able to present your business without a gut-wrenching fear of public speaking or maybe you want to scale your business to earn the income you desire.
Now, ask yourself why these things are out of reach? Is it a lack of time, knowledge, motivation?
You’re not alone.
Although these things do affect our ability to increase sales, it’s normally the fear of leaving our comfort zone that stops us moving forward.
Perhaps you feel awkward and anxious. Maybe you make excuses and get affected by other people’s opinions. Or do you procrastinate to avoid feeling uncomfortable?
Now stop to think why you feel this way. Is it because of what someone has told you? Probably not! It’s more likely to be that self-doubting mental chatter in your head.
And that’s the comfort zone kicking in!
What’s stopping you?
As much as humans love to learn and want to succeed, we often feel afraid of taking action. Think about the dieticians, physiotherapists and coaches who try to get their patients and clients to do things that would be good for them!
What is the comfort zone?
Judith Bardwick defines the comfort zone as “a behavioral state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance.”.
However, as nice as it may feel, the comfort zone can be a scary place for anyone who wants to succeed. Although there are low levels of anxiety and stress, you will only ever achieve a steady level of performance. The comfort zone stops you from living life to the full and reaching your potential.
I often relate to this state when someone can carry out their job with their eyes shut (not literally, but you get my drift). In fact, they may find it so easy that they get bored and lose motivation. Hence the importance of businesses developing their teams to ensure they are motivated and working as efficiently and happily as they can.
In order for us to learn and grow as individuals we need to take on and acquire new tasks. However, when we do this, it spurs the fight and flight reaction. A mild state of stress is fine but for some people this is so overwhelming that they will revert back to their comfort zone to avoid feeling discomfort.
This brings me onto the Yerkes-Dodson Law, first described back in 1908. This law suggests that there is a relationship between our motivation levels and what they term ‘arousal’ (we would call it stress). Yerkes and Dodson found that mild electrical shocks could be used to motivate rats to complete a maze. However, when the electrical shocks became too strong, the rats would scurry around in random directions to escape.
It’s easy to relate this to our own lives. For example, how often have you heard people say that the nerves you feel before speaking in public are a ‘good thing’?
Understanding the Comfort Zone in more detail
We now understand that the comfort zone is a psychological state where things feel familiar and safe. So, how do we get out of it?
There are 4 stages to leaving the comfort zone. The comfort zone itself, the fear zone, learning zone and growth zone.
What is the fear zone?
We all know the fear zone. It’s where we feel anxious and overwhelmed because we’re wary of the unknown. This fear triggers a flight or fight response – we subconsciously try to stay safe by finding excuses to avoid the thing that’s triggering that fear.
But feeling fear is normal. If we accept this and learn to expect a feeling of fear, we can master it. In fact, we – and our businesses – will only grow when we are willing to try something new and feel uncomfortable.
Introducing the learning zone
The learning zone is where the magic starts to happen. It’s where we develop new skills, expand our mind and overcome challenges.
We enter the learning zone when we carry out a task that we were fearful of, such as public speaking. Being in the learning zone can feel stressful, however it should also be satisfying and stimulating.
Arriving in the growth zone
The growth zone is the holy grail of personal development. Here, we have overcome our fear, learnt new skills and are now achieving the goals we set out to achieve.
But just because someone is in the growth zone in one aspect of their life or business, doesn’t mean they have nothing left to work on. And remember there’s a chance that the things that once scared us become so commonplace that they get absorbed into our comfort zone.
I hate to say this, but the fear will not go away until we carry out what we are scared of. If we want to continue to grow, fear will be a permanent feature of our lives.
We will just have that feeling towards different tasks.
Trust the process and know that if you deal with your fear head-on, your life will be more fulfilling, and you will achieve more than you ever thought possible.
How to move out of your comfort zone
Ready to move out of that ever-so-safe yet restrictive comfort zone? Here’s what you need to do…
Start by identifying the things in your business that you see as ‘comfortable’ and those that feel out of reach – your areas of development.
Now, draw your own comfort zone / growth zone and then plot out the thing you’d like to achieve on it. Then, identify one thing from your list that you want to change. By starting with a single step, you’re more likely to succeed.
Now it’s time to:
1 – Make a list of the best and worst things that could happen if you take action. Be honest, is the worst outcome simply that your business ends up in the same situation as today?
Think about it in a sales context. If you follow up on that proposal, what is the worst that can happen?
I always liken sales to customer services and would expect someone to call me back. If someone does not show good customer service skills and efficiency from the start, you have to wonder what they will be like when you are working with them!
2 – Commit to take on a small task.
Making a commitment is a huge step out of your comfort zone – and will give you a mental boost when you’ve done it.
3 – Act and then reward yourself.
Giving yourself a reward after carrying out a new task will create a psychological reminder of why you are doing it and encourage you to keep going.
Think about this…
- Awareness of your fears is the first step.
- We will always feel fear if we want to continue to grow.
- If we have a certain fear, such as public speaking, the fear will not go until we have carried out the very thing that is scaring us.
- The greater your skills, the more fulfilled you will feel.
Keep on moving
Making these changes may feel scary. However, as you challenge yourself you will start feeling at ease with the new tasks and will grow your comfort zone. You’ll start living life to the full and reach your professional and personal potential.
The fear that stops us moving forward can often be related to the emotion we hold against the fear, which is a subject for another day…
So, for now I will also leave with the fact that 85-92% of what we worry about never happens!
If you feel stuck in your comfort zone and want support and accountability to expand your horizons, get in touch by booking a free 30-minute discovery call.
If you enjoyed this blog, you might like to read my blog about improving your resilience in the workplace.