Comfort Zone – Why you should enjoy being pushed at work

A child elephant being pushed by its mum.
Why you should enjoy being pushed at work

High achievers in any field will often say that you don’t really make progress until you step outside your comfort zone. 

What do they mean and how can anyone do it?

What is a comfort zone exactly?

The idea of a comfort zone is nothing new. Back in 1908, a couple of psychologists, Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, conducted a groundbreaking experiment. They discovered that if we’re feeling relaxed and comfortable, our performance remains steady

If we want to boost our output, though, whether at work or on the sports field, we need to shift into a mental state called ‘optimal anxiety’. This is a mindset that’s just half a step away from our comfort zone.

Go too far and our anxiety levels soar and even routine assignments cause us to stress and worry so much our performance suffers.

Optimal anxiety is the space that’s between the two extremes: you’re relaxed enough to maintain concentration, but there’s a little voice that keeps urging you on to do just a little more, or go a little faster.

What happens when you move away from the comfort zone?

Fortunately, this is an aspect of human performance that has interested the scientific community for many decades, so there’s a wealth of research we can draw from. When we simplify the results, we find four key areas of change:

You become more productive.

In Psychology Today author and motivational thinker Ran Zilca said that being comfortable often prohibits us from chasing our dreams. A common trap at work is to pretend you’re busy to avoid the discomfort of pushing yourself to do more and to achieve more.

You’ll be more creative.

When you look for new things to do, new horizons to head for, you break free from the status quo bias. This is the natural tendency we all have to stay with what we know and maintain our feelings of safety and comfort.

When you break away, you’ll learn to view challenges in a different light. The world’s most creative people say that their best ideas come when they connect with their inner child, seeing things almost as it for the first time.

You can practice this yourself anywhere. Take an ordinary everyday object at home or at work. Now forget that it’s a pair of scissors or a child’s toy. Let your imagination run free and try to think of the most obscure and unexpected ways those everyday things could be used.

You’ll grow out of your comfort zone.

As you get used to stepping out of your zone, it gets easier and you’ll soon become used to it. Your state of optimal anxiety will soon mellow into what psychologists call productive discomfort. You’ll find you’re eager to push yourself further and to encourage others to push you too.

You’ll seek out more challenges where your newly discovered enthusiasm and curiosity will expand your thinking and broaden your experience.

You’ll lose your fear of change.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘the only thing in life that’s constant is change’. In today’s switched on, interconnected world you might think those words are from the lips of some digital marketer or social media commentator.

Actually, they’ve been traced to a Greek philosopher called Heraclitus who lived from around 535-475 BCE. So even in ancient times, people were suspicious and fearful of the inevitable uncertainty of change.

Living outside your comfort zone whenever you choose to will help you to prepare for the new directions in your life.

How to step out the comfort zone without going too far away.

Don’t rush it. 

Try the simple things first. Change your route to work, eat something you’ve never tried before, takes some classes, buy a few simple magic tricks and, without telling anyone, practice them until they’re good enough to show off.

It may sound too simple but changing the little things you do every day makes moving further more comfortable.

Be more decisive.

Consider your decisions like this: if it’s urgent and important you have to make a snap decision. Even experienced decision makers don’t get it right all the time so expect no better than a 50/50 result at first. You’ll get better as you grow more confident and you learn to trust your intuition.

Any other combination of urgency and importance can be ranked and addressed when necessary. Don’t be afraid to leave non-urgent, unimportant decisions till last.

Don’t be discouraged.

You’re exploring new territory here. Don’t expect that everything new that you try will turn out better than the old way. When something doesn’t go as smoothly as you hoped, learn from what went wrong and remind yourself that you’re pushing through the mental blocks that create your comfort zone.

Go back from time to time.

If you find that living in a permanent state of productive discomfort is stressing you too much, step back into your comfort zone for a while. You’re likely to find that some of your old ways can be abandoned but there will be some that are worth keeping.

When you’re ready, look for a few more things to do differently and, over time you’ll find your mind is more open to new ideas than it’s ever been. You’ll be more confident, more ambitious and definitely happier and more fulfilled.

If you liked, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for video content. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.

You will also like