Is it true? Should we always be leaping out of our Comfort Zone?
There’s a lot of internet hyperbole about the Comfort Zone and how we really need to get out of it.
But how do we even know when we’re in it?
Or how far out of it do we need to go?
The Psychology Behind Zones
In fact there are three kinds of zones that we can be in:
1. Comfort Zone
The idea of the comfort zone goes back to a psychology experiment back in 1908.
Psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson discovered that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance.
The mental security of the Comfort Zone means we experience a reasonable level of happiness accompanied by a low level of anxiety and stress.
Not surprising, then, that we like to hang out in the Comfort Zone. It’s the path of least resistance!
The downside is that our mind and body has already adapted to all possible situations inside this zone. So hanging out here too long can start feeling downright dull.
It’s no use having goals right within our Comfort Zone because they won’t be hard enough to feel rewarding when we achieve them.
Without the unease that comes from having deadlines and expectations, we:
- do the minimum required to get by
Not to say that we should demonise our Comfort Zone without value. We need to hang out in this relaxed head-space to process the benefits we get when we leave it. But to challenge ourselves and move towards the next level, we need a state of relative anxiety.
We need to go into the...
2. The Stretch Zone
This lies just outside our comfort zone. Here our stress levels are slightly higher than normal because we’re going beyond our previous capabilities but the stress is compensated by the fact that we experience a thrill.
The Stretch Zone is where we want spend a good chunk of our life. We need to set our goals within the Stretch Zone, so that when we accomplish our objectives we have a sense of achievement.
But the Stretch Zone is not all about stress! Doing something which feels harder makes us grow. We actually become accustomed to this state of “productive discomfort” and, as it becomes more normal to experience it, we become willing to push even further. And by doing something repeatedly in the Stretch Zone, it not only becomes easier, but becomes a new habit.
By taking risks in a controlled fashion and challenging ourselves to do things we wouldn’t normally, we experience insecurity in a controlled, manageable environment as opposed to pretending fear and uncertainty don't exist.
This helps us be better prepared for when we have no choice but to enter...
3. The Panic Zone
The Panic Zone is a state where our mind/body is not sufficiently prepared to cope with the situation, or the strain of the experience is too much to handle.
In the Panic Zone, we’re too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply.
Being in the Panic Zone causes a negative result because it reinforces the idea that challenging ourselves is a bad idea.
Yet sometimes life will push us kicking and screaming into the Panic Zone of major life changes. If we’ve regularly experienced the Stretch Zone, we’ll be able to cope better.
But, it’s not a healthy place in which to choose to be habitually!
Which zone are you in?
So that's an overview of the three zones you might find yourself functioning in.
As you go about your life over the next week, pay attention to whether you're swapping between zones, and which zones they are. Which zone do you spend most time in?
In the next post we’ll look at how we can accurately hit the Stretch Zone without triggering our Lizard Brain!