To speak of a comfort zone, it is necessary to speak of anxiety levels. Our comfort zone is a psychological state that allows us to constantly maintain a low level of anxiety. It is based on a type of behavior in which the person operates within a position of little or no anxiety. It is where our uncertainty and vulnerability are minimized, where we believe that we have everything (or almost everything) under control..
Daily activities like cooking, watching TV, reading, etc. which we are used to, they will not make us feel anxious or restless, so they are part of our comfort zone.
Although anxiety is not something we like to go looking for, a little can be beneficial. A pinch of anxiety pushes us every day to do our work and improve our performance.
A study with mice carried out in 1908 showed that when a task was easy to carry out, the performance shown by the mice increased as their anxiety levels increased. In contrast, when a task was difficult, increased anxiety only helped if a certain threshold was not exceeded, apparently the combination of a difficult task and high anxiety had a negative effect on stress and subsequent performance.
The comfort zone is often illustrated as we can see in the image below, where the comfort zone extends into a learning zone, but eventually leads to a panic zone, where anxiety is too high..
So when the task was easy, the mice were in their comfort zone and completed it without feeling any anxiety. As the mice's anxiety levels increased, they entered their learning zone and performed better at the same time. But when the task proved difficult, it took a lower level of anxiety to get them into their learning zone, and they soon fell into their panic zone, where performance was drastically reduced..
Although it may not always seem like it, outside of our comfort zone can be a good place to be, as long as we don't tip the scales too far. It is important to remember that there is a difference between the type of controlled anxiety that we are talking about and the actual anxiety that many people struggle with every day. On the other hand, each person's comfort zone is different, and what for someone means broadening their horizons, for another it may mean total panic. Remember, optimal anxiety can lead to improvement on many levels, but excess will lead to disaster..
Here are some ways to get out (and expand) our comfort zone without going too far:
This is something we can all start to do simply. For example, take a different route to go to work, try a new restaurant or a new food, change the way you dress or do your hair, talk to a stranger ... Recalibrate your reality, it does not matter if the change is big or small. The important thing is to make a change in the way you do things from day to day. Find the new perspective you have behind the change, even if it is negative. Don't be discouraged if things don't go the way you planned.
Sometimes a slowdown is all it takes to make us uncomfortable, especially considering that speed and mental agility are highly prized in today's work and personal life. Slow down, observe what is happening, take some time to interpret what we see, and then intervene. Sometimes the mere act of defending our right to make a deeper decision on an issue can push us out of your comfort zone. Think, don't just react.
It seems that we are in contradiction with the previous point, but it is for good reason. Just as there are people who make quick decisions, others are more comfortable weighing all the possible options several times, over and over again. For this type of people it is good to let themselves be carried away more often by impulses. By doing so, you can finally get your personal projects going and learn to trust your intuition more..
Not knowing what is going to happen and the insecurity that this feeling creates in us, drives us towards a desperate attempt to control the future and anticipate anyway towards endless probabilities. Not knowing is synonymous with helplessness, and therefore, fear of the unknown. This is what drives us to stay as long as we can in our beloved comfort zone. But we must accept once and for all that uncertainty is part of life, just like change, so do not try to control everything, let yourself go and let go from time to time..
Often leaving our comfort zone on your own can be complicated, but if there is someone close you trust (a family member, a friend ...) you can explain what you are trying to do. Surely he can help you and will give you a cable when you need it. Do not despise the help of others, remember that people are made to interact with each other and to support each other!
It takes a lot of courage to get out of our comfort zone. And believe it or not, the same benefits are obtained if we go fast as if we do not do it little by little, so do not be afraid to start slowly, the important thing is to take the first step and not back down. If, for example, you are socially anxious, don't assume you have to muster up enough courage to ask someone out on the first try, just say hello and start a little conversation. Identify your fears, and then face them step by step.
There are many things you can do to test your personal limits. You could learn a new language for example. Learning a language has multiple benefits, especially if you have limited yourself to observing the world from afar, because perhaps this is the way to start traveling to more distant and unknown places. Visiting new and different places is one of the best ways to broaden our perspective of reality, and it doesn't have to be expensive, there are many ways and places to travel. The experiences we have can be mind-boggling or regrettable, but that doesn't matter. The point is that we will be doing it, and that we are pushing ourselves beyond the mental blocks that tell you to do nothing..
Trying new things is difficult. If it weren't, stepping out of your comfort zone would be easy and we would do it all the time. It is just as important to understand how habits are formed and how we can break them, as it is to learn to force ourselves to go outside of our comfort zone by doing specific things..
Optimal anxiety is that place where mental productivity and performance peak. Still, "higher performance" and "higher productivity" just sound like "getting more done." But what do you really get when you are willing to step out of your comfort zone??
Staying in the comfort zone kills productivity, as without the uncomfortable feeling of having deadlines and expectations, we tend to do the bare minimum necessary to get ahead. We lose the vision and the ambition to do more and learn new things. On the other hand, falling into the trap that "we're too busy" for change is one more way to stay in our comfort zones and avoid doing new things. Pushing our personal limits can help us grow, do more, and find the smartest way to work..
In an article in The New York Times, Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, explains that one of the worst things we can do is believe that fear and uncertainty do not exist. By taking risks in a controlled way and doing things that we wouldn't normally do, we will realize that uncertainty can also be manageable. Learning to live outside our comfort zone on a voluntary basis prepares us to face with more courage the changes that life brings us.
Once we start to get out of our comfort zone, it will get easier over time. As we spend more time outside of our comfort zone, we will get used to that optimal state of anxiety. The "productive discomfort", as they call it, becomes more normal, and that we will be willing to go further than before each time..
The search for new experiences, learning skills unknown to us and opening the door to new ideas inspire and educate us in a surprising way. Trying new things can make us reflect on our old ideas and see where these new insights "collide", inspire us to learn more, and challenge prejudices. Even in the short term, an uncomfortable positive experience can help us brainstorm, see old problems from a new perspective, and meet challenges with new energy..
But you can't live outside your comfort zone all the time. It is necessary to return from time to time to process our experiences. The last thing we want is for what's new and interesting to quickly become boring commonplace..
This phenomenon, called hedonistic adaptation, is the natural tendency to be impressed by new things only to become ordinary after a short period of time (this phenomenon also occurs with shopping; we want something desperately and when we have it, it begins to lose its value. value). That is why although today we have access to the largest repository of human knowledge ever created (the Internet) and it is at our fingertips (on our smartphones), we get bored more than ever because we achieve everything extremely quickly, almost effortlessly. This prevents us from appreciating subtle and everyday things sufficiently..
Take it easy, take the time to reflect on your experiences, so that you can take advantage of the benefits acquired and can apply them in your day to day. Then go back to doing something new and interesting. Try something new every week or every month, not every day.
Similarly, don't limit yourself to great experiences. Perhaps meditation pushes you out of your comfort zone as much as bungee jumping. The goal is not to become addicted to adrenaline, what you are looking for is to learn to recognize what you are capable of doing. That is another reason why it is important to return to a state of comfort and relaxation sometimes. But do not forget to go in search of those moments of inspiration, creation and production, which are also a bit uncomfortable, from time to time..