Our comfort zone is our natural state, where most of us clutch to the metaphorical security blankets we should have grown out of. Comfort kills productivity, because without expectations we do the minimum required to get by. We find change daunting, using excuses like “I’m too busy” or “I have no time” – both of which make us stay in our ‘c zone’.
But by pushing our personal boundaries we find smarter ways to work, and build our confidence. It is counter-productive to pretend that fear and uncertainty don’t exist, and learning to live outside your ‘c zone’ prepares you for life changes that force you out of it. It is easier to deal with new and unexpected changes by taking risks in a controlled manner and challenging ourselves to do things we normally wouldn’t. If you’re wanting a change, but don’t want to take leaps and bounds, start with simple things, such as trying a different outfit, sitting alone for a coffee, or waiting at the bar for your friends instead of outside the venue.
By doing this, it becomes easier to push your boundaries, and you start stepping out of your ‘c zone’. Researchers call this ‘productive discomfort’ – as you challenge yourself, your ‘c zone’ adjusts, making something that was difficult and anxiety-inducing easier as you repeat it.
When I moved away from home, I found it difficult to go anywhere in my new city. I suffered from panic attacks and even nose bleeds! One day, when I thought I was going to town with my aunt, I got ready, only to step outside and be locked out, with one of my relatives shouting from the window: “You have three hours starting from now in which you must go to town alone and return home all by yourself without any company”.
I was terrified and sweating, thinking “what am I meant to do around town by myself for that long?!” I was used to hanging out with friends I grew up with or siblings. I made it into town by bus and went to the shopping centre, bought myself a meal deal and went to what I called the ‘Pigeon Park’ – a place I’d usually go with my grandma. It was a sunny day, so I sat there in peace until one of my aunts rang saying she’d finished work and was coming through town, suggesting we meet up and go home together. It turned out they had planned this whole scenario and weren’t being as cruel as I’d initially thought.
Now you may be thinking, how do I step out of my ‘c zone’?:
Try easy tasks – Go somewhere you haven’t been before. Take a different route to work; cycle instead of drive, if it’s not too far. Perhaps style your hair differently or wear a new bracelet.
The key is to change the way we do things on a day-to-day basis.
Don’t rush to make a decision – You have to think, not just react. Take your time and evaluate the situation, observe what’s taking place and interpret what you see, then act. You need to feel through your intuition that it’s the right decision for you.
Small steps can take you further – We all have the courage to do what we want. You can start slow. Remember: it’s only hard or nerve-wracking if you conjure those feelings up yourself.
We are never too old to learn new skills or a new language, and I’m a great believer that more of us should connect with people who inspire us. Travel more, whether it’s venturing to another neighbourhood or going across the globe. You can’t live your life staying in one place for too long, as you’ll miss out on new experiences that could make you a better person.
Words: Ravinder Rai
Image: Shaun Butler