You probably know them, quotes like: ‘Life starts at the end of your comfort zone’ and ‘great things never came from comfort zones’. They advise you to get out of your comfort zone. The idea is that you grow by doing new and exciting things. But what happens if you continuously operate outside of your comfort zone? If you keep striving for better performances? Constantly crossing your boundaries? Do you still find the way back to your comfort zone? Or do you lose yourself? To be honest, I get annoyed by these well-meant quotes and pictures.
Stay true to yourself
Of course I understand the essence of those nice quotes. For me, I regularly have to step outside of my comfort zone to make my company successful and to grow. Yet I always try to keep doing what feels right to me, exciting or scary; it has to fit me. A while ago, for example, I gave a presentation at an event. I doubted whether I would want to do it; why should I do something that I am not necessarily good at and really don’t like? Yet I did it because I knew it would bring me something: visibility for my company and a learning experience for myself. And it fits me because I could tell about my passion! Mission accomplished.
Comfort zone and burnout
Last week someone told me that she got out of her comfort zone for her work. She had to do things that didn’t fit her, but she thought she should do it anyway because it came with the job. She had too much work. In addition, the nature of her work was in itself quite stressful. This exhausted her emotionally and physically. She didn’t know anymore who she was or where her comfort zone had remained. Even at home and in her private life she began to feel rushed and uncomfortable. Eventually she got a burnout …
Sports and your comfort zone
During my work as a running therapist, I pay a lot of attention to listening to the body and indicating your limit. With running and exercising it’s all about pushing your limits and stepping outside of your comfort zone, to get better and faster. And with running therapy, we look for that boundary very consciously, what is still comfortable and what is not?
Try this yourself. Be aware of your body, ask yourself the questions: what do I feel? Is it difficult or is it still comfortable? What happens in my body, with my heartbeat and my breathing? Put a ‘mental flag’ on a difficult moment, that’s your boundary! Then examine what you can do not to cross that limit. For example: slow down, start walking or breath consciously. It’s not about getting better or faster (that will come naturally, step by step, really!) but about investigating what you can handle.
Very often I notice that participants in daily life do the same as when running: not listening to what their body is trying to say (fatigue, flu, shortness of breath, excitement, insecurity), but they are going out of the comfort zone continuously, until they lose it. With all its consequences. Do you recognize this?
I believe that growth is being conscious about your boundaries and respecting that limit.