“You need to step out of your comfort zone”.
“You never change your life until you get out of your comfort zone”.
“It begins at the end of your comfort zone”.
“Everything you ever wanted is one step outside of your comfort zone”.
These are some popular quotes you might have come across. I call them the typical buzz. I can go on and on with many of such quotes in this article.
But lucky you, I am in a good mood today . Thank me later.
Why are people so obsessed about this?
I packed my bag with just 5 US dollars and embarked on a trip to wonderland.
Just realized that I have no money to book my flight back. Guess I would make do with living here until further notice.
OK, back to business. Why are people obsessed about always telling you to leave your comfort zone? Come to think of it. This is where you are most safe. You are in your element; you are calm and always at ease. You can perform whatever task you are given pretty well here.
So why on earth do I want to leave wonderland and go back to land of no wonder?
A land where I am challenged.
A land of the unknown where you have no idea what you are doing and in some extreme cases, where you start feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed and maybe even burn-out?
To me this sounds like bollocks.
No way on earth would I want to do this to my life. No way!
OK, let’s take a pause here a bit and explore the image below.
From the image above, you can see three different categories.
I call it the land of the known. No surprises here. These are those items I listed above. The place I am so reluctant to leave. Why would I want to leave the known to an unknown?
Stretch or Learning Zone
You know all those people that tell you that everything all begins at the end of your comfort zone? This is what they meant when they told you that.
See for yourself.
These are all less glamorous compared to those in the comfort zone box.
You push yourself to achieve more.
Status quo? Not in your dictionary.
Challenge? Bring it on.
This is where you grow.
This is where you expand.
This is where you develop.
The key takeaway here is you are stretched but you LEARN.
Ok people. I know we are all obsessed about leaving our comfort zones. But this here is the red zone. Keep off at all cost.
In the panic zone, you are scared, overwhelmed and in many cases even non-productive. Your performance starts decreasing and in worst case, you might have a burn-out.
So, stay off!
But how do we know when it is becoming too much? How do we gauge that it is starting to get into the red zone?
Remember that the aim is to move into the stretch zone but to stay away from the panic zone (illustrated by the two black arrows in the image above)
Finding the optimum level
Where is the optimum level?
This is million-dollar question. I guess if you had a million dollar, you would not be reading this 😊
But how do you find that optimum level, where you achieve peak performance? The image below illustrates where these concepts are coming from.
We know that before the red box (maximum point) we only ramp up and after the red box, we start declining until we fall into the panic zone. So, what do we do?
I really want to find that magic formula.
Oh, I think I know what the magic formula is.
You need to take the derivative of a quadratic function and then equate the resulting linear equation to zero to solve for x. That x, given that the shape is concave in nature would give you the maximum / optimum level for your peak performance.
I got you there, right?
Ok. But how do we find this mix?
I like how Matt Prior puts in his article.
Again, see the buzz word? “…this is where the magic happens.”
So where are we now?
We have established three facts.
- We need to move out of our comfort zones.
- The stretch zone is where to be
- Avoid by all means the panic zone
We, however, are yet to figure out how to avoid the panic zone. There is no one size fit all but one thing that is important is that we are aware of this.
Ute Limacher in her piece: why comfort zone and stretching can be (almost) one, gave really great tips on how you can work on keeping the balance as illustrated in the image below (source: Ute Limacher).
You need to set small attainable goals that requires you to regularly stretch yourself instead of aiming for the sky at one go and falling right into the panic zone.
By stretching yourselves in a healthy way, you give yourself enough time to recover, rest, and ready for the next adventure. She went on to say that as you continuously stretch yourself, you start to feel more at home and comfortable with situations that were initially challenging.
Your confidence level grows, and you start feeling more competent and good at what you do.
Key take away
If you have space in your bag for just one shirt, then let that shirt be one with an inscription on it that says: Avoid the panic zone by all means (if you can).
Till then, Dan