We have all heard or read the phrase
"You have to get out of your comfort zone" advised by psychologists, coaches, gurus, managers, colleagues or even relatives, the result of a popular wisdom forged in assuming phrases and thoughts without due reflection. But let me ask the big question that I hope makes us all think: why?
Why should we get out of the comfort zone? And it is not an innocent question, but on the contrary. It is very provocative, since it comes to question something that we assume, repeat and advise without perhaps having delved too deeply into its meaning.
Let's start by asking ourselves what is the comfort zone. If we turn to Wikipedia, "comfort" is what produces "well-being". Why should we leave an area that produces well-being, with what it costs to achieve it and of course, the enormous enjoyment that we are supposed to have while in it?
Perhaps the confusion comes from defining what produces us well-being. For some it will mean doing nothing (hence the advice that you have to go out), but for others, their well-being depends on constant learning and personal evolution. Why should the latter come out? And I explain it with a personal experience. One day he was studying, reading some research, searching the web, looking for photos for a presentation, preparing a conference and, above all, learning. All this accompanied by a coffee, a wonderful view and good music. It was definitely my comfort zone. Why did he have to get out of it? Here's the problem.
Not all comfort zones are the samewith which this recurring statement should be qualified, or even redefined.
I add one more example. Enjoying a report on Netflix about Formula 1, one of its protagonists, Toto Wolf, co-owner and team manager of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, stated that this spectacle is pressure, stress, rivalry, overcoming and competition. "This is my comfort zone," he said. Eureka! We both agreed that we enjoyed aspects that made us evolve, surpass ourselves and improve. Why did we have to go out?
Allow me to build the reflection traveling together in the clarification of terms.
If we accept that "comfort" is well-being, convenience, enjoyment, it is time to compare it with another term that will shed more light on this inquiry. Is "comfort" the same as "conformism"? Here is the key. We associate comfort with conformism and although it may be part of it, it is not always. Let's go by parts.
I dare to differentiate three areas of comfort
1º.- Zone of "happy" conformism
It is that area (activity or inactivity) where I enjoy, I am comfortable and I am happy. And you may not want to get out of there. And it's OK. We all have areas where we feel comfortable, safe, and enjoying ourselves. It may be running our morning 4K run, our limited knowledge of a foreign language, or even our basic skill in a sport. But if a coach comes to tell us that we have to run 8 km, or read Shakespeare in old English, or try to go to an Olympics or Paralympics, we will surely look at him with the face of "could you leave me alone enjoying my comfort zone?" »?
We are in an area where we settle, but we enjoy it because we don't have the ambition or need to improve. We all have areas of this type. This continuous aspiration for more and better in all areas of our lives can be exhausting, stressful and harmful.
Now, there is a cost. If some unexpected change comes, we will feel unable to manage it. If our company has been bought by a multinational and now the meetings will be in English, my justified accommodation may now leave me out of those chosen to progress. Or in a dangerous situation, not being physically fit or dexterous enough may limit my chances.
In short, we all have areas where we settle and are happy and enjoy in that area. P
But we must be aware that in the face of a new situation, this accommodation will limit our possibilities of facing them successfully..
2nd Zone of "unhappy" conformism
This is where I think the problem and confusion may lie. This area is characterized by
being unhappy, disgusted, unmotivated or dissatisfied. But we settle. Terrible statement, but it is true and has its reasons. It can be a job that generates demotivation, that pays us very well. Or an unhappy marriage, but with several children that condition its breakup. Or a somewhat empty life, but with financial security.
I wouldn't call it a "comfort zone" at all. Quite the contrary. It is a zone of emptiness, sadness or discouragement. I would dare to call it "well-to-do discomfort zone" or "Groundhog Day" in reference to the movie "Stuck in Time."
La The point is that getting out of this "discomfort zone" can be risky, hard, expensive and not seeing ourselves with the tools or strength to do it. Leaving a high-paying job that sustains a type of life, with no possibility of being supported later, or a family breakdown with potential legal, economic, and emotional complexity due to children being involved, can slow down our breakup momentum. . This is where "conformism" arises.
It's not acceptance, it's resignation. And our soul begins to languish, to change our character, with a continuous tension or with an unhappiness that infects our body with some disease. We are not sick. Our soul is sick and its continent is being contaminated.
What are the benefits of continuing in it, in this state of "accommodating discomfort"? Simply security and control. Uncertainty scares us, what will happen if I change jobs or decide to be happy with someone else. We prefer the bad known to the good to know. And we cannot be harsh with this decision. Each person has a moment or a capacity, let's call it courage, or a previous training to overcome obstacles that will make up the decision to dare or not to leave the "discomfort" zone.
We can help them to become aware, to trace a path and even accompany them in the process. But I don't dare to blurt out the statement "you have to get out of your comfort zone" without first listening to their (sometimes limiting) beliefs and their reasons. It is an internal and personal negotiation. Perhaps there is no self-confidence, or the memory of having overcome obstacles due to having an easy life (whether professional or personal) is missing. Comfort generates fragility in individuals, teams, people, organizations and societies. And this entails a lack of confidence, courage and effort to face a situation of change.
Let's try to understand self-limiting beliefs or the ecosystem before giving advice such as “you have to get out of your comfort zone”.
3rd evolutionary comfort zone
In this area or areas of our life
we enjoyed ourselves, but on this occasion, learning, enriching ourselves and cultivating ourselves. Pleasure and well-being is produced by evolving and having challenges, either at a human and/or professional level.
When we observe a passionate researcher, scientist, musician or painter in their work, they are in their comfort zone, of enjoyment, but this activity enriches them, connects them to what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow". It is an internally motivated experience in which the person is immersed in what he is doing with a complete absorption that gives him pleasure and enjoyment.
The effects are joy and pleasure, where time disappears and oneself is the action. Even our ego stops judging the moment. We see it in the concentrated athlete, or in the musician in full performance. Should we get out of this comfort zone?
When we find this area where enjoyment and evolution, pleasure and enrichment, flow and overcoming, achievement and reward are mixed, it is advisable to cultivate it and it will grow by itself. It will mean expanding the comfort zone, because in evolution there is also the discovery of new pleasures far from routine. If we enjoy reading, researching, improving ourselves as athletes, musicians or artists, we will find new fields of enjoyment. And so life will be discovered in new enriching facets.
When we decide to face something new where we are not in control, we feel that we have left our comfort zone. But if we interpret it as a prelude to a pleasant activity, the interpretation itself changes our emotions. An example is athletes when they try new challenges. If they do, it is because even the mistake is part of the pleasant trip, it has meaning and meaning. And the same with an entrepreneur or an adventurer.
And here the question arises, could we apply this reflection to organizations? That is, to become aware if we are in an organization where there is a "conformism