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Off the Couch | Why is the Comfort Zone so Dangerous?

26 June 2018

What’s wrong with living in your comfort zone? Why bother pushing past your limitations? I’ll answer that below.

What’s the danger in being in your comfort zone?

Not learning new stuff. If you don’t learn new stuff, you don’t grow. If you don’t grow, you get knocked over. This happens time and again, in business, in sport and in life… The reality is that we all gravitate very strongly to live within our comfort zones, where we can control the responses we get to behaviour. We think, “If I do that, then this happens. I’ll never know if that was a better thing to do, it might be a worse thing to do. But I’ll keep doing this thing I’ve done before, again and again.”

The trouble is that if we never try anything new, we never grow – we never learn. If I step out of the box and get a negative reaction, I learn something. And I grow – one step at a time. I want that sense of adventure and challenge in my life: I want to be constantly growing. Don’t you?

What if someone is too scared or tired? What’s the smallest possible step?

If I’m talking to someone who’s hit a brick wall, there’s one message I want to get across. I want to help them understand that the feeling of, “I can’t take another step or do another hour” is a defence mechanism in their mind. A subconscious decision that your mind implements to keep you safe. Once you know that feeling of, “I can’t do this”, then you’ll know that on the other side of can’t there’s usually a margin. You can always push further.

Take that feeling of deflation and overwhelm and turn it around. In my day job, I’m a sales guy. I get budgets and targets and think it’s not possible. Sometimes it’s my employees who encourage me and we figure out how to do it and attack it from that angle. But the mind is such a powerful tool. It’s designed to keep you inside the comfort area. That doesn’t mean it’s a decision: it’s natural. Only when you understand that can you figure out how you take a step into the unknown space.

What did you believe were your limitations, and what do you believe now?

I am not the inspirational speaker who says nothing is impossible, and if you put your mind to it, everything is possible. I hate that message: there’s a lot that’s impossible. Be realistic. Just believe that where your mind tells you the endline is, 99% of the time there’s quite a lot of safe margin on the other side, at least 30% further (in my and scientific opinion). The lessons in life that lie on the other side of that boundary are invaluable.

5 reasons to get out of your comfort zone

I know it’s hard. I know your comfort zone is comfortable – by definition. But don’t waste your life sitting around on the couch being comfortable. Here are a couple of reasons to get out there and do more.

  1. If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you won’t learn new stuff and grow. If you stop growing, you will get knocked over – particularly in business. Someone will do better than you. If you’re standing still, someone will pass you by, innovate, do it better, do it more inventively.
  2. Yes, it’s easier to do what we know. Yes, it can be intimidating to try something new. But if you always stick with what is easy, you’ll never know what you’re truly capable of.
  3. Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to mean being constantly uncomfortable and on edge – not at all. Sometimes it’s a matter of balance: I need to balance swimming, speaking, business, family. I want to be able to do the things I’m passionate about – I want to be free enough to jump on a plane and do an ice swim anywhere around the world. But I can only do that because I’ve practised getting out of my comfort zone.
  4. We are designed to believe in our own limitations. When you believe in your own limitations, you have no reason to challenge them. But challenging them is part of what we’re here to do.
  5. Whatever it is in your life, if you believe you can’t do it, you just won’t try. If you don’t want to do it because it really doesn’t interest you, no problem. But there are many things we veer away from because we’re scared to do it and our minds tell us we can’t do it. And that’s not a real excuse.