The Advice to Leave Your Comfort Zone is Wrong
Comfort zones get a bad rap. If you’re dedicated to a path of growth, you are constantly being admonished to leave your comfort zone.
That dot just beyond the perimeter of your safe circle is where the magic happens. It’s where the breakthroughs are. It’s the place where people are having fun. Where dreams come true.
Look at the drawing. Does it look like this is where everyone is hanging out? That dot looks sad and lonely. It wonders why it’s been left out of the circle. It longs to belong.
I previously wrote about how the common wisdom that “growth happens outside your comfort zone” violates basic common sense.
First, it contradicts human nature. The longing to belong is a fundamental human need and a key driver of happiness. Leaving the comfort zone sets up a dynamic that feels to us like being outcast from the tribe.
Second, when we leave our comfort zone, we risk breaking the structure that helps us feel safe in our experience. When we don’t feel safe, we don’t take action. And it is action that catalyzes growth.
Trying to push too hard too fast creates a slingshot effect. If it fails, you end up further behind than when you started.
To grow sustainably, you must stay within your comfort zone.
How to Grow Within Your Comfort Zone
Before you get all comfy in your comfort zone, take heed that just because you’re staying in your comfort zone does not mean you get to escape the fear and growing pains that typically accompany growth.
All growth involves change, resistance, and growing pains.
The key to sustainable growth is not to push outside our comfort zone, but to expand its perimeter. That dot on the map where the magic happens is, indeed, where the magic happens. But instead of going outside to get it, we’re going to bring it to us.
We do this by stretching the perimeter.
The Hair Band Theory of Growth in Your Comfort Zone
Let’s return to the metaphor of the rubber band.
You might wonder who uses rubber bands anymore. I use them every day, in the form of hair bands. I have long hair, which I need to keep off my face when I’m working and when I’m working out. Over the years, I’ve noticed a few patterns.
Welcome to the Hair Band Theory of Growth in your Comfort Zone.
A New Hair Band Has Little Give
When I secure my pony tail with a new hair band, the band wraps around only twice. If I try to wrap it three times, it will snap and break. But after a few uses, the hair band stretches. Eventually, I can wrap it around my ponytail three times.
You might think that a stretched-out rubber band is less effective in its job. In fact, the opposite is true.
A new hair band secures my hair well enough if I’m working at my desk or doing other light activity. But it won’t hold my heavy hair for more vigorous activity. When the band wraps around my ponytail three times, my hair stays in place even during more intense workouts.
The stretched out hair band creates a more secure container for my hair, giving me the freedom to take action without thinking about fixing my hair.
As we use a rubber band more, it stretches to accommodate more.
This is exactly what we want to do with our comfort zone. When we stretch our comfort zone, it can hold more of our experience. The more we take action, the more life we live and the more we grow.
As we stretch our comfort zone, we bring that magic place to us.
How to Stretch Your Comfort Zone
The key to stretching your comfort zone lies in finding your edge and pushing it consistently and persistently over time.
Life’s big moments tend to happen at the edge of our comfort zone, rather than at the end of our comfort zone.
The more time you can spend at the edge of your comfort zone, the more you will grow..