Have you dared to stay in your comfort zone lately? I have. Then I got into the sucking hole that is social media. And at the end of this hole I wasn’t sure at all if, as an entrepreneur or as a human being in general, I am even allowed to be there. It seems to be the taboo word du jour of hustle culture. But as with a lot of hustle culture buzzwords, the definition of the comfort zone is a very narrow one in a lot of the discussions.
The picture of comfort zones you mostly see is that of a circle that we must step outside of in order to grow. We constantly have to push ourselves to the limit, take risks, try new things. The moral of the story is that only then can we achieve personal growth. But what happens when we step outside of our comfort zones? While there is some truth to this idea of growth by discomfort, I do wonder if this is actually the whole picture or even if circles are the right picture to choose.
I imagine comfort zones more in the shape of a breakfast egg, sunny side up. Different people may have different levels of comfort and discomfort. Even I myself have different levels for different areas of my life. What may be outside of one person’s comfort zone may be well within another’s. What may be out of the comfort zone in one area might be completely comfortable in another.
When did comfort become such a bad thing in the first place? We book first-class seats in trains because the added comfort on the journey allows us to arrive at our destination in a more relaxed way. When travelling for business we invest the money, because we know we can perform better afterwards. The term “comfort zone”, though, seems to carry a negative connotation only. It implies that only if we leave our comfort zones we can achieve personal growth. Comfort is not a bad thing, and it is not something that we need to be driven out of.
So maybe, instead of thinking of comfort zones as circles that we must step outside of, we can start seeing them more as houses. Just like our homes, there are different areas with different purposes and thus different interiors. Comfort zones are places where we can take care of ourselves, recharge our batteries, and process the world around us. We need to clean and tidy them up from time to time and bring stuff to the landfill. But most importantly, they are there as a safe haven for us. They are safe spaces that provide us with security and familiarity.
Sometimes, we need to move houses. Our new home may not feel like home yet, and we may not feel quite relaxed. But with time and effort, we can make it our own and feel comfortable again. In the same way, we can expand our comfort zones by breaking down the walls and barriers around them. We can identify the areas that are holding us back and work to expand our comfort zones in those areas.
Expanding our comfort zones is not always easy. It can be uncomfortable, and we may experience fear and anxiety. So it is important to remember that growth does not always mean jumping head first out of our comfort zones. Instead, it starts with breaking down the barriers and walls around them. We need to take care of ourselves to grow and expand our comfort zones. It’s just like the oxygen masks in the airplane: Put your mask on first before jumping out of your comfort zone! Only when we take care of ourselves, we are well equipped to face the challenges that come with expanding our comfort zones.
Growth is a journey, not a destination. It is about finding joy in the journey and embracing the ups and downs. It is about breaking down the walls and barriers that keep us from living our best lives. And sometimes this means just taking a step back, snuggling into the blanket and having a good tea while being hit by the realisation that not all growth happens outside the comfort zone.