WARNING: This blog contains material some readers may find contrarian in nature
People always talk about getting out of your ‘comfort zone.’ Stretching your capabilities and horizons. Going further than you thought you could. That’s all fantastic, right?
I’ll admit it. Some of my most memorable moments, and greatest achievements, started with straight-out fear and trepidation. And I tell my kids how important it is to take chances on themselves. Do things they don’t necessarily think they can. Get out of their comfort zone once in a while. Explore new things. Meet new people. Go new places.
But in this blog, I want to explore the flip side of the coin, too. In a nutshell – “What is so wrong with staying in your comfort zone, once in a while?” Operating from a position of comfort and strength?
Comfort is a great thing … just look at the definition! It’s what the animal kingdom thrives on and it could be key to our, and their, evolutionary health and survival (if you want to get deep about it).
As humans, we benefit ourselves – and the people and world around us – when we bring our unique talents and characteristics to the proverbial table.
Don’t you feel great when you can use your skills to help others? Doesn’t it build your confidence and build up those skills even more? Doesn’t it bring happiness, even bliss, to be really good at something, then use it for good?
They say your energy flows where your attention goes … so why would you always want to focus on your areas for improvement?
In today’s crazy, fast-paced world, I think calm and comfort are things people are aching for. It’s part of what meditation and mindfulness are all about – being purely comfortable and content with who you are, where you are, right now, in this world, at this time. Being ‘comfortable in your own skin’.
Again, it can be great to venture on to new things and experience great new adventures. But people will sometimes try to tell you that you need to do things differently – things that go against who you are, what you stand for and/or what you thrive at. Remind them of this …
Animals thrive in their natural habitats for a reason. You wouldn’t ask the lion – King of the Jungle – to go reign over the ocean or the desert. You wouldn’t say, “You’re great at hunting, so let’s have you fish.”
Animals, of course, have their own struggles in the wild, but nature has equipped them to survive as best they can IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT, THEIR COMFORT ZONE.
Not to beat a ‘dead horse,’ but the expression ‘a fish out of water’ may be the perfect example of the dangers of someone – or something – coming out of their comfort zone for too long!
We humans seek comfort all the time – in movie theaters whose seats feel, more and more, like recliners in our living rooms. We look to eat comfort food, watch comforting TV shows at times, listen to soothing music. We shop for comfortable clothes and shoes. Many of us long for the comforts of home, after a busy work day, even after a long vacation.
I think about sports too. The coach of the New York Giants wouldn’t ask talented new running back Saquon Barkley to play quarterback, while Eli Manning takes a wide receiver position? (Ok, the Giants may not be the most successful current example in the National Football League, but you get the picture.)
If someone’s really good at what they do, maybe you leave, trust and count on them to do it – for the benefit of the whole team or organization.
Being ‘In the Zone’ – like being in the moment – is something athletes and non-athletes alike strive for all the time. It’s when all your talents and skills come to bear. The basketball hoop feels like it’s five feet wide. All the practice you’ve done to perfect your skills and yourself is paying off. You can’t miss. It’s a great feeling, right?
So definitely keep moving, improving, excelling and bettering yourself. But take some time to enjoy what you’re already good at – and grow within your comfort zone. Play to your strengths.
And when you can’t control the situation – try to become as comfortable as you can, any way you can. Call it resilience. Call it adaptability. But if someone consistently asks you to come out of your comfort zone, you may want to call them out on that.
[By the way, this blog is based on a PowerPoint my former coworker and great friend Avi put together with me for a recent Toastmasters presentation.]