If you’ve ever done an internet search on the term comfort zone, you’ll find statements like this:
Life only begins at the edge of your comfort zone!
Nothing good ever grew in a comfort zone.
If you’re not outside your comfort zone, you’re not learning anything.
In other words, comfort zones get a really bad rap. But is it really true that nothing good ever comes from being in your comfort zone? And that you need to step outside your comfort zone to do or learn anything? From the research I conducted for my book Reach, I don’t necessarily think that this is the case. And here’s why:
1. If everything were outside your comfort zone, you’d likely be overwhelmed (and ineffective). You need focus, energy, and attention to grow and develop successfully. And if you’re stretching in every possible direction – you won’t have what you need to succeed and will likely suffer from poor performance. Instead, pick a few “stretch” activities at a time to focus on. And balance these with other tasks you’re comfortable and competent at, and then allocate in a sensible way how you dedicate your time and energy.
2. Timing matters. Many of us have busy personal lives outside of work. So, it’s essential to consider this too when considering something outside your comfort zone. If you’re expecting twins, considering an addition to your house, or have an ailing parent, it might be best to stay right inside your comfort zone in other areas of your life until things settle down.
3. Consider your own personal threshold. Some people thrive on being outside their comfort zones? And others don’t. And then some people are in the middle. Consider where you are on this continuum and then recognize how much you can handle. Don’t avoid things outside your comfort zone out of fear, but also know yourself and when something is simply too much for you to handle.
In the end, there’s no magic recipe for determining when to stretch outside your comfort zone, but there are key things to consider – the most important of which is to know yourself and what works for you.
Andy Molinsky is the author of the new book Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence (Penguin Random House, 2017).
Originally published at www.inc.com