Comfort Zones

Comfort zones as defined by the esteemed Wikipedia are:

“a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk….A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security.

Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside their comfort zone, a person must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that occur within their environment.”

While business experts suggest we regularly step outside our comfort zone, in my experience very few do. After all, most of us aren’t comfortable with ambiguity. We’d rather stay in a bad situation than take a chance that the next one might be worse. When we choose to only play within the boundaries we’ve created for ourselves we deny ourselves growth, new experiences, and opportunities. The irony is that, as the definition above noted, we’re doing so because we believe in “an unfounded sense of security.” A comfort zone is just a mirage we’ve created to provide us with a sense of order, security, and risk-free living.

When you really think about it, isn’t everything you really want outside your comfort zone?

I’m not suggesting that routine isn’t important. It can provide a sense of security and be an efficient use of time. But when routine is the entirety of your life it can become a problem. Inertia is very powerful. Instead why not consciously recognize the box you’ve put yourself in and take regular small steps towards what you really want? Then you can take comfort that you’ve done what you could to live a life with no regrets.

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life (www.ourcorporatelife.com) to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company, CNBC.com, and Monster.com. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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