The phrase “comfort zone” is a commonly used term relating to development and growth. We often hear people saying something is either in, or outside their comfort zone. If something is in the comfort zone, the person is working within their established level of skill, undertaking routine and familiar activities. Life is easy, relaxed, without stress, but also without growth and change. I remember a nervous driver saying “I only drive on roads I know”, this clearly has a very limiting affect. To learn new skills, to take a new job, to become a different person, to live a dream, to achieve a courageous goal, a person must move out of their comfort zone and into an uncomfortable zone. Anything new or any change requires stretch, moving into the unknown and the unfamiliar. To do this a person must be prepared to be vulnerable and accept that they are not an expert. Stepping into this wilderness is the Hero’s journey.
I met a friend for coffee on Monday and he told me about some voluntary work he was preparing to undertake in September. He is in the final stages of planning and preparing to go to Kenya, and for a week he will work in a remote village and help build a sand dam. As he told me of what he was to do, I listened in admiration, he was describing a real courageous goal which he recognised would definitely move him outside his comfort zone.
This is the first time this person has undertaken anything like this. His family holidays have been to the usual places, and he has held the same senior corporate job for about 6 years. He is not an adrenaline junky, and so the courage of this adventure is significant.
When describing why he wanted to do this, he said that he wanted to do something different, something for himself, and to challenge himself.
This is a great example of someone moving out of their comfort zone to achieve a courageous goal.
I’ve represented this process in the diagram below (which is very similar to the ZOUD diagram). The comfort zone is a protective layer surrounding the uncomfortable zone. In the centre is personal growth and the achievement of a courageous goal. Often a person either remains in their comfort zone, or experiments and moves into the uncomfortable zone. However, tension rises significantly and they exit back to their comfort zone before achieving the goal.
So how can a person remain in the uncomfortable zone and so move towards achieving their courageous goal? This can be through developing resilience, so the discomfort diminishes over time and the tension reduces to a manageable level. Or by working with a coach, who can encourage and say “it will be OK, I know you can do it” in a very supportive way. Also the coach can challenge to help the person drive towards their goal and challenge them to be bold if they faulter and have doubts. Alternatively, the person can say to themselves “sod it, I’m going to do it…” and they take the risk. Part of managing this risk and making change possible is by having a very tangible image of the destination, what the world for that person will be like once the courageous goal is achieved. This is the vision of success, the motivational and attractive force which pulls the person forward. The more detailed this vision of success is the greater the chance of success, so this can include images, pictures, thoughts, feelings, smells, sounds, etc to engage all the senses and more.
The key to success is to recognise the feelings of vulnerability and accepting them as a natural part of the process.
There is a clear role for a coach in this process.
What can you do this week to move out of your comfort zone? We’d be interested to hear from you on the Challenging Coaching Linked In group