Who doesn’t enjoy being in a comfort zone, feeling safe and settled down?
But is staying within your comfort zone good for your personal or professional development? Or is it accompanied by some severe disadvantages? The reason why people like staying in their comfort zones is that they don’t even acknowledge the fact that they have stopped thinking about development.
They have satisfying jobs, get acceptable results, and don’t feel any urge to make an effort and stay out of it. However, these short-term positive effects can turn into damaging ones in the future.
Still, even if being in a comfort zone doesn’t have any benefits for our personal development, sometimes it might be better for our mental health.
Therefore, a comfort zone is accompanied by specific pros and cons, and you should understand when you should use new opportunities and when you should remain in the same place.
In this article, we’ll describe the psychological meaning of the comfort zone, discuss its pros and cons, and give you some tips about switching into the growth zone.
What Is the Comfort Zone in Psychology?
We often hear the phrase “get out of your comfort zone,” but rarely do we fully understand the true meaning of this phrase.
In psychology, a comfort zone can be defined as a state where we feel comfortable and familiar with things we do, and where we can fully control our environment and related circumstances.
As a result, people experience less stress or anxiety in their comfort zone. The psychological definition of a comfort zone is that it’s a “mental and behavioral state when people perform only a limited range of behaviors and receive satisfying results at the expense of reducing anxiety.”
Considering this, staying within a comfort zone is almost equal to avoiding risks. The first psychological experiments about the comfort zone go back to 1907 and belong to famous researchers Robert Yerkes and John Dodson.
Even though they didn’t plan to study the comfort zone necessarily, they examined the link between performance and anxiety and found that the law plays a huge part in understanding the psychological mechanisms of the comfort zone.
In fact, according to the Yerkes–Dodson Law, there is a significant relationship between pressure and performance. Specifically, performance increases our mental and physiological arousal up to a certain point.
And if the stress becomes too excessive, the performance begins to decrease (Yerkes & Dodson, 1907). That’s the main reason why people prefer to stay within their comfort zones at the expense of their growth.
9 Ways to Leave and Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Even if you feel that staying in your comfort zone helps you prevent upcoming mistakes and saves you from possible dangers, it might actually be dangerous for your long-term career and personal growth.
Besides, according to Forbes, there are specific reasons why you shouldn’t stay in your comfort zone. Therefore, if you want to focus on development and move on, you should start thinking about getting out of your comfort zone.
Change your routine
Did you know that changing your daily routine might lead to increased productivity? Still, many people prefer to perform exactly the same actions every day. We wake up, drink coffee, get dressed, and go to work.
Although that’s just one scenario of possible daily routines, most people have a specific set of actions they perform every day. However, doing everyday things differently is the first step to leaving your comfort zone.
Think about challenging yourself throughout the day and forget the old habits, both good and bad ones. For instance, you can just start your day by drinking water instead of coffee or tea.
You can avoid scrolling through social media while having breakfast, or get up earlier to take a walk before arriving at work. These small changes will help you break your routine and get out of your comfort zone.
Start working on your professional skillset
When was the last time you tried to learn something new and improve your professional skills? If your answer is something like “a month ago” or even before, then you should definitely try to expand your skillset.
Developing new skills will help you become more creative and more confident in yourself. Besides, upgrading your skills will indeed improve your career prospects, meaning that the more professional skills you have, the better the chances are to leave your comfort zone and find a new and more fulfilling job.
So, try to focus on developing some professional skills such as public speaking, leadership, flexibility, or problem-solving.
Improve your diet
All of us have our specific “comfort foods.” Some of us realize that it might be dangerous, while some of us try to eat healthily. In either case, changing your food habits will help you stay out of your comfort zone.
Consequently, if you want to leave your comfort zone, changing your food habits and improving your diet could be a good idea. Try to include new but healthy foods in your diet and think about preparing different meals each day.
Although it might be challenging in the beginning, you will likely feel satisfied later.
Expand your workout schedule
Most people who take care of their personal development try to include at least simple workout activities in their daily routines. However, sometimes sticking to the same exercises over and over again might not be enough.
The reason is that, over time, your body gets used to specific exercises, and you need to add some weights or change exercises in order to receive satisfying results. Even more.
Not changing your workout schedule could be one of the reasons why you’re not seeing results from working out. So, try to expand your workout schedule and take your exercises to the next level.
Boost your creativity
Leaving your comfort zone is almost impossible without some degree of creativity. Creativity is the quality of being able to generate original ideas and create something innovative.
Creativity will help you get out of your comfort zone as it involves some risk. However, even if you can’t manage to inspire people with your innovative ideas, it’s always worth a try. So, exercise creativity and train yourself to develop a creative mindset to let go of your comfort zone.
Challenge your values
Are you completely aware of your values and beliefs? If so, have you ever thought about challenging your current values and exploring your inner self more deeply? Actually, as time goes by, our values and personalities transform.
However, sometimes we don’t even notice we have new preferences and beliefs and just stick to the old ones while describing ourselves. Keep in mind that challenging your values can be uncomfortable in the beginning, but it will definitely help you grow and stay out of your comfort zone.
Practice being honest
However strange it might seem, practicing honesty plays a huge part in personal growth. And everything that helps you develop personally is beneficial to leave the comfort zone.
Being honest means speaking sincerely about your feelings and inner thoughts. So, make a private journal or tell people around you how you feel. Expressing feelings will help you become more honest. And honest communication will help you understand yourself and your preferences and leave your comfort zone.
Interact with risk-takers
People often act the way other people around them do. We often adopt others’ habits and get inspired by the creative people around us. That’s why hanging out with people who enjoy taking risks is a good idea.
That way, you’ll acknowledge that facing risks isn’t that hard after all, and it even leads to positive consequences. Also, risk-takers will influence you to start taking part in new activities, and as a result, you’ll quickly get out of your comfort zone.
Face your fears and failures
The main reason why we prefer to stay in our comfort zones is that we’re afraid of failing. And we’re so afraid that we refuse to face our fears. However, taking part in activities that you’re afraid of will help you grow.
You might fail in the beginning, but this failure will help you get closer to your goal. Keep in mind that taking small steps and doing something is better than doing nothing. But if you want to leave your comfort zone all at once, you should face your biggest fear.
This strategy is called “flooding” in psychology. So, if you’re afraid of public speaking, gather people and start speaking in front of them. If you’re afraid of spiders, catch one because that way you’ll leave your comfort zone quickly.
8 Benefits of Leaving the Comfort Zone
Leaving your comfort zone will allow you to become more confident and discover new opportunities. You will not only become more creative and more open to new experiences but also feel some less direct effects, such as bundling resilience and better psychological well-being.
Let’s discuss the eight proven benefits of leaving your comfort zone.
- More advanced mindset
- Resilience and well-being
- Greater confidence and self-efficacy
- Increased creativity
- Enhanced productivity
- Getting more adaptable
- Discovering your inner self
According to the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow, achieving self-actualization is the main purpose of our lives (1943). But what exactly did he mean by the term “self-actualization”? Is it really possible?
In fact, self-actualization means realizing our full potential. And realizing your potential is only possible if you get out of your comfort zone, take risks, and face challenges. Therefore, leaving the comfort zone might lead to self-actualization.
More advanced mindset
Leaving your comfort zone can also help you develop your mindset. People often tend to have a fixed mindset, which means having established attitudes about everything. However, our attitudes usually change.
Therefore, our midwest also changes, and we need to develop a more advanced mindset in order to achieve personal growth. Working on developing your mindset means focusing on your basic abilities and improving your skills and abilities.
Resilience and well-being
Being resilient means having the ability to adapt to changes in life and face risks without any negative consequences. Resilient people have adaptive coping mechanisms and find it easy to deal with everyday stressors, traumas, threats, or adversities.
Leaving your comfort zone is related to resilience as it helps people face difficulties and adapt to them. As a result of getting out of your comfort zone, you’re likely to develop resilience, which usually leads to improved psychological and subjective well-being (Rodríguez-Fernández et al., 2018)
Greater confidence and self-efficacy
One of the significant benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone is indeed increased confidence. In fact, the main reason we tend to refuse to leave our comfort zone is that we’re not confident enough.
We imagine possible negative scenarios and believe that we’re not as self-sufficient as new challenges require. However, you will definitely experience at least some success after leaving your comfort zone, meaning that you’ll become more confident and your self-efficiency will increase.
Getting out of your comfort zone means that you’ll have to develop new strategies and ways to adapt to your new lifestyle. And all of these require a great deal of creativity. Even though leaving one’s comfort zone doesn’t lead to creativity directly, they are closely related to each other.
Consequently, if you’re a creative person, leaving your comfort zone will help you realize your creative potential. But if you’re not, then you’ll either learn about your hidden talents or become more creative.
Surprisingly, leaving the comfort zone also leads to enhanced productivity. However, chances are high that you won’t see this result immediately after breaking out of your comfort zone. The reason is that once you leave your comfort zone, you might feel a bit lost or confused.
Considering this, it’s not very easy for everyone to adapt to changes. However, in the long-term perspective, leaving your comfort zone will teach you how to become more productive and experience less stress.
Getting more adaptable
Remaining in the comfort zone restricts people from being adaptable to changes and challenges. Considering this, it’s not a big surprise that breaking out of your comfort zone will help you gain more effective coping skills and adapt to changes or adversities.
Being adaptable means being flexible in new situations. As a result, you’ll become more open to new experiences, and changes will no longer cause anxiety.
Discovering your inner self
And most importantly, leaving the comfort zone will help you get closer to your inner self. You’ll understand your strengths and weaknesses, and what you’re good at, and what you need to work on.
As a result, you’ll have more chances to try something new, reveal your skills, and feel better about yourself.
How to Leave Comfort Zone and Step in Growth Zone
However beneficial leaving your comfort zone might seem now, it doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, there are some specific stages you need to overcome in order to step into a growth zone, which is the main purpose of leaving your comfort zone.
Let’s compare the comfort zone with the fear zone, learning zone, and growth zone and see if these stages are necessary.
Comfort Zone Vs Fear Zone
The first zone you’ll move into after leaving the comfort zone is the fear zone. While you feel safe and sound in your comfort zone without experiencing any anxiety, the fear zone will immediately cause stress and fear.
However, it should not block you from stepping into the learning zone. Although the fear zone is anxiety-provoking, it will help you develop new skills and get prepared to switch to the learning zone.
Comfort Zone Vs Learning Zone
The learning zone is one step closer to the growth zone. Moving to a learning zone will help you understand your current abilities and develop new skills that you need for personal or professional growth.
Similar to the comfort zone, the learning zone is sort of like a Plato zone because here you don’t experience stress or anxiety. However, you get ready to step into the growth zone.
Comfort Zone Vs Growth Zone
And finally, after overcoming the learning zone, you’ll switch to the growth zone, which differs from the comfort zone the most. In fact, in your comfort zone, you feel comfortable, but you’re frozen in one place.
You don’t learn new things, you don’t think about new perspectives. You just keep doing whatever you did before. On the contrary, the main purpose of being in the growth zone is to develop new skills and start realizing your real goals and dreams. A growth zone will help you to succeed.
Comfort Zone FAQs
What are the types of comfort zones?
Most people believe that there is only one type of comfort zone. However, there are multiple distinct types of comfort zones. Every individual has a unique comfort zone, but the two major types of comfort zones are action-related comfort zones and thinking comfort zones.
An example of an action comfort zone is always eating a certain food or never trying something. Thinking comfort zones could involve always feeling strange after a certain act or always faulting others for the consequences of your behavior.
What is your comfort zone?
A comfort zone is a set of activities and environments where you feel comfortable. It involves the emotions, psychological outlooks, and behaviors that make you feel comfortable and calm.
Usually, these behaviors are familiar to you and relate to your daily routine. This is why individuals find their comfort zone revolves around their daily habits. Comfort zones also decrease stress and anxiety, but they limit personal growth and exploration.