For the past decade or so, I have been hearing and reading about the dangers of being in The Comfort Zone.
“Step out of your Comfort Zone “, we are advised ” Growth and achievement do not live there. Get out! “
I can, of course, see why it is important to stretch and challenge ourselves to take risks and try new things and encourage others to do the same. After all, more often than not, if we choose to stay cocooned for too long, the Universe will find a way of catapulting us from the comfort place into foreign territory anyway. Better to make a choice for change than have it foisted upon us, right? Yes, I get all that.
What’s concerning me is that a place of comfort seems to have become somewhere that none of us would want to be caught dead. And, if we find that we are, well, feeling comfortable, I’m not sure this, in itself, doesn’t create an uneasiness that causes the devil on our shoulder to whisper something about not doing enough or being enough or living up to our potential.
This perspective suggests neutral territory.
Judith Bardwick, who wrote Danger in the Comfort Zone (first published in 1991), refers to it as a place where our sense of entitlement hangs out. Dr Bardwick’s book discusses our habit of expecting something for nothing and our tendency toward righteous indignation when we don’t get it.
This perspective suggests complacency and inertia.
If you subscribe to the latter perspective, it is easy to see how being in the comfort zone can send some pretty negative messages, and for some pretty compelling reasons.
On the other hand, if we were to view it as a place located in neutral territory, it could very well have its benefits. Here’s what occurs to me from that vantage point:
1. The Comfort Zone can be a place of planning and reflection.
Often, when we are in the middle of change, there is internal noise that eclipses our ability to fully grasp what we are learning. We simply want to get through it and come out the other end relatively unscathed.
I think though, when the turmoil created by change dies down, the neutrality of our more comfortable place allows for the opportunity to reflect on what we have learned and to plan for what comes next.
2. The Comfort Zone can be a place of respite
We all know that the pace of change can be unrelenting. In many ways it is exciting to be part of it. On the other hand, sometimes we simply need to step back and take a deep breath. Giving ourselves a short break from the pressure and risks of unrelenting “newness” just might, in the long run, help us to re-energize and go back in with greater enthusiasm and focus than we otherwise might have.
So, to me, the danger does not lie in being in the comfort zone, not if you look at it that way. The danger perhaps lies in staying there too long. The question is, how long is too long?
Anais Nin once said, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Perhaps that is when we realize that being in the comfort zone is no longer serving us, or anyone else ; when comfort is in danger of morphing into pain.
What do you think?