Letting go of old habits isn't easy. As my friend Byrd Baggett says, "You have to let go to grow." Comfort certainly has its advantages--your comfy chair in the living room, a comfortable routine at work, a comfortable relationship. With all the advantages of comfort, here are some things you should know about the comfort zone.
The comfort zone is where most of life is played. It is certainly where most of sports is played. Consider a football field: 90 percent of the game is played between the 20-yard lines. That's why they call anything outside that area the "red zone"--it's where the difference in the game is made. It's where we really grow personally and our teams score grows! Staying in the comfort zone too long can also get boring, and it stunts our growth.
But, it feels safe in the comfort zone, doesn't it? You know the boundaries, the landscape, and the other comfortable players in the comfort zone. There is little or no risk; a misstep here or there is not very costly. But like the football team that's trapped between the 20-yard lines, we cannot win in the comfort zone. Because the risk is small, so is the reward. Most learning and growth occur when you are uncomfortable. Think of the defining moments of growth in your life. Were you hanging out in your comfort zone? No, you were hanging over the edge.
Here are four comforting questions to encourage your growth.
1. Who else has done it?
You may think you're in unexplored territory, but it's unlikely that you're trying something that no one else has ever tried. Look around to find others who have explored the same edge that you might be anxious about. Whether your comfort zone ends at the edge of learning a new skill, speaking in public, making a financial investment, expressing your feelings, or quitting a bad habit, someone else has been at that very same edge. That person can help support you, prepare you, and encourage you to win.
2. Can I dip my toe in first?
You do not have to dive in head first into every new endeavor. Try it out first. Start small. When you reflect on the first time you tried anything new (leading, investing, speaking, a new technology, rock climbing) you probably remember how uncomfortable you felt. But you stepped out and did it, and you soon discovered that it wasn't as hard as you had expected, right? After a while, what was once in the red zone becomes your comfort zone as you build your competence.
3. How bad can it be?
Often, the fear in your mind paints a picture of things outside your comfort zone as being darker than they really are. Remember, the victory is in the exploration itself more than the success of your attempt.
4. How great can it be?
Your goals are usually bigger than your comfort zone. You must be so passionate about your goals that, instead of feeling that you have to leave your comfort zone, you are magnetically drawn into the red zone to claim victory.
Leaders who "grasp the past" are quickly left right there ... in the past. Inspiring leaders continually grow themselves, then their teams are catapulted into a brighter future.
-from Winners Always Quit by Lee J. Colan