My comfort zone is where I used to live. It was safe, it was easy, and it was comforting. Anytime I was asked to take on a challenge or to try something new or different, I would consult my comfort zone and its response was ‘no thanks we like it here’. So many of us feel like that, we like our comfort zones and we don’t want to leave.
However, as soon as I took my first baby steps outside my comfort zone, something strange happened. I didn’t need to consult my comfort zone anymore for my life decisions; I became braver, more confident and more assertive in leading my actions and achieving my goals. I felt alive and it felt good. I had broken free to the other side and all it took was one little step.
Think about your own life. Where are you; are you in the ‘comfort zone’ or ‘where the magic happens’? We all want to be where the magic happens, but we are often too afraid to take that giant leap to get there. However, in my experience, it’s not a giant leap but more of a gentle step in the right direction, gradually moving away from comfort towards magic.
Wikipedia describes your comfort zone as ‘a psychological state in which a person feels familiar, at ease, in control, and experiences low anxiety. A person in this state uses a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk’.
It all sounds very boring, doesn’t it? One word stands out for me here; limited. It makes me think of a comfort zone as a prison, rather than a shelter. It’s keeping us captive. We need to be challenged instead of comforted. We should be limitless instead of limited. We don’t want a steady level of performance, we want to be the best and to better ourselves in every way.
So how can we break free? By setting goals that force you to get out of your comfort zone. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Do that next sales presentation, take on a new role, call that scary sales prospect – do something that scares you and do it well! With each time you try something new, you’ll develop and learn, and you might even end up liking it. No comfort zone can match that feeling of elevation, joy and determination when you achieve something you didn’t think you could. That’s when you start to feel the magic.
And it doesn’t have to be a big bang approach. You don’t decide to take up running and then say tomorrow I am running a marathon. Take baby steps. Instead of sprinting out of your comfort zone, take small but frequent steps. Push the walls out rather than trying to knock them down. Yes, it’s scary stepping out your comfort zone, but as the good book says ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t like it? Fine no worries, back into the comfort zone but at least you tried it and probably learned that it wasn’t as terrifying as you imagined. Knowing that you tried is an accomplishment in itself – you had the courage to take a risk and make it happen.
By Laura Ryan, member of EMC Ireland Toastmasters Club in Co. Cork, Ireland. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 313,000 in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are nearly 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7000 members. Find your local club. Follow on Twitter.