Where do you go to my lovely
The Comfort Zone gets some bad press these days. “Life begins at the end of the comfort zone”, and there are countless articles that encourage us to get out of our comfort zone to experience success. But do we need to?
The comfort zone is “a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment”
It goes on to tell us that “Bardwick defines the term ‘Comfort Zone’ as ‘a behavioural state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position.’”
Is there anything actually wrong with being at ease and in control of my environment, of being in an anxiety-neutral position? Is the Comfort Zone such a bad place to be?
I visit my comfort zone in two ways. The first is when I am doing something I am familiar with and enjoy doing. I love to play bass guitar in my local band; I love to play my violin, either in my local orchestra or as a soloist. I love to travel and visit family.
For these to actually be in my comfort zone I need to know the music and I need to have practised of course and to travel I need to have the tickets ready and the route all planned out.
The other way I enter my comfort zone is when I have been in a stressful or otherwise unpleasant situation and I resort to another side of my comfort zone. That’s an area which involves doing something I find comforting. It’s said that girls cry and guys drink. Others find an outlet with “retail therapy”, or binging on snacks.
Where do you go to my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head
~ Peter Sarstedt
The song is apparently about a girl named Marie-Claire. She is a poor fictional character who grows up on the backstreets of Naples, and who subsequently becomes a member of the “jet set”. Sarstedt sings about the idea that we go somewhere in our head when we’re alone, whatever our circumstances and situation.
The retail therapy, an occasional drink, tasty snacks; these things aren’t intrinsically bad things in the right circumstances, but they can be unhelpful when they form a temporary (or sometimes less temporary) escape route. This is the unhelpful area of the Comfort Zone.
I have come to know these as my Strength zone and my Weakness zone. Both areas exist in my Comfort Zone and I visit each from time to time. Maybe you do too?
If we look back on times spent in these two areas I know which I would rather have found myself in, and it’s not the weakness zone; however to find my way into the Strength Zone I need to stray outside the place where I am being at ease and in control of my environment. I need to step outside of my Comfort Zone.
However, too long spent outside of my comfort zone is likely to drive me back into the weakness zone, so it’s wise to be cautious out there. For me it conjures up an image of a soldier returning to base after a short reconnaissance mission and saying “it’s a jungle out there captain”, and I am reminded of the theme tune to the TV series “Monk” which goes:
It’s a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care …
… You better pay attention
Or this world we love so much might just kill you
~ Randy Newman
I like to think of the place outside of my comfort zone – the discomfort zone – as the Inspiration Zone. This is somewhere I visit when I am inspired to expand my comfort zone. Before I can play a new tune I need to learn it. If I am going to play without music then I need to memorise it too. For me, the learning and memorising take place outside of my comfort zone, but the result is a new piece that I can play comfortably. I have expanded my comfort zone.
However, I find that it is also the place that can cause me to retreat into my weakness zone if I spend too long there. Rather like staying in a swimming pool too long until you start feeling cold, and you should have got out sooner.
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a Leadership specialist and uses the PRIZE Winning Leadership model to help leaders improve their effectiveness and that of their teams, through remote and on-site delivery of keynotes, group training events and individual coaching sessions.
He is the author of several books including "PRIZE Winning Leadership" and “Personal Productivity Planner”, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Director of the Global Leadership Network UK with extensive experience in Project Management and Sales.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Roger also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.