This is a guest post by Marcus Taylor of The Musician’s Guide.
Becoming great at anything often requires going beyond what others are prepared to do, setting new limits, and discovering new territory within your field. Over the past few years, I’ve become fascinated by the concept of comfort zones, and how growing your comfort zone impacts your success over the long-term.
“We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present.”
– Thomas Edison
What is Your Comfort Zone?
Scientifically, your ‘comfort zone’ is a form of mental conditioning that creates mental boundaries, which determine what you believe you can or can’t do, but fortunately it’s something that can be changed.
Two months ago I built what I call a ‘comfort zone calculator’, the project (WhatisMyComfortZone.com) is an attempt to measure and analyse the thing we call our comfort zone. I built this tool for two simple reasons, first of all to heighten people’s awareness of their comfort zone, and secondly to help me learn more about the unexplored topic of comfort zones.
What I Learned from 5,000 Comfort Zones
Last month I had the luxury of being able to look at over 5,000 people’s scores from the comfort zone calculator, and do some data crunching. I found that on average, males have a larger comfort zone than females, but when you break it down by ‘comfort zone types’ it’s clear that while men have a larger professional and adrenaline comfort zone, women have a larger ‘lifestyle comfort zone’.
In other words, men scored higher when it came to challenges such as ‘starting a business’, ‘writing a book’, ‘public speaking’, and ‘skydiving’, whereas women scored higher on things like ‘living abroad’, ‘learning a new language’, and ‘starting a family’.
I was also able to chart the proportion of men who have completed different challenges compared to women (e.g. 1 in 5 males have started a business, whereas only 1 in 7 women have). You can see a more extensive list of these statistics in an info graphic here.
Growing Your Comfort Zone
When it comes to expanding your comfort zone and being able to accept and complete new challenges with greater ease, you need to be progressive. I like to think that any challenge falls into one of three ‘zones’ – our comfort zone, our growth zone, or our panic zone.
If you constantly do challenges that are within your comfort zone, you won’t grow. On the other end of the spectrum, if you try to do challenges in your panic zone, you will be equally unproductive, as the experience will most likely heighten your fear towards that challenge. The optimum zone to work is your ‘growth zone’, where challenges are beyond what you’ve previously done, but not so challenging that they terrify you.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone this Week
From a genetic perspective, we do have different sensitiveness to adrenaline, dopamine, and various other body chemicals that effect how receptive we are to getting out of our comfort zones. Introverts, for example, tend to have shorter and more sensitive D4DR genes, which mean they get their dopamine fix easier than extroverts.
However, this doesn’t mean that introverted people don’t need to get out of their comfort zone, it just means they will probably prefer to get out of their comfort zone in different ways.
I personally am a natural introvert, and while I do enjoy skydiving and other adrenaline sports, I also get out of my comfort zone in far more relaxed ways – reading 50 books a year, trying yoga, scuba diving, amongst other things.
The point is, whoever you are, what ever you’re working on, spend some time thinking about what you’ve done recently to get out of your comfort zone, and think about what you can do this month to keep on growing. Remember, our comfort zones only expand – they never shrink.
“A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.”
Your turn: What makes you uncomfortable? What things do you think are outside your comfort zone?
Let us know in the comments below this post.