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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.

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  • Joined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’  Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_jamesJoined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’ Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_james
  • “When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio  #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible“When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible
  • Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.
  • The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.
  • @khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️@khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️
  • A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.
  • @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" > @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" />Can you watch The Octopus Teacher and still not want to do all you can to help protect our ocean and it's incredible, mysterious, peaceful tenants?This Documentary really touched me…I can't compare to Craig Foster, but I’ve been so blessed to swim with so many beautiful Ocean creatures – from mammoth whales and smaller ones too, countless playful dolphins, plenty cheeky seals, weird anti-social sunfish, penguins and yes, sharks too.I have even had yellowtail fish follow me for kilometres when I was swimming between continents, Europe to Africa’s Gibraltar Straits. They would inquisitively look directly into my goggles with their big round, penetrating eyes. When you share each other’s space in this way, something creeps into your core, into your soul and you’ll intuitively know you’ve been tasked by the creatures of the sea to help them. Follow -> @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject
  • Laying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_saLaying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_sa
  • Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻
  • When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.