Research Paper By Created by Sarah Viana
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Relishing in your comfort zone can feel relaxing, stable, and offer the predictability you need; like cruising on autopilot through a familiar neighborhood. In this zone, parts of your life can feel enjoyable, soothing, stress-free, and satisfying. Consider the following:
Visiting your regular grocery store, where you can navigate the aisles with ease. You enjoy the low stress of knowing where all the items are and it gives you time to focus on listening to your audiobook rather than where to find your favorite flavor of the tea.
Embarking on your yearly summer beach vacation. You experience the familiarity of visiting the special oceanside restaurant, relaxing in the morning on the porch sipping your cup of coffee, and spending days reading, carefree, by the ocean. This vacation repeatedly leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Choosing to continue to pursue your career-focused in one industry. You experience the benefits of attaining a significant depth of knowledge, developing performance efficiencies, having a heightened awareness of trends, creating an expansive network, as well as constructing a successful track record.
One can certainly see how this familiarity—remaining in your comfort zone—can serve you well. The frequency at which we stay within a routine and align with predictable experiences impacts our problem-solving and creative abilities, though has the potential to limit learning and capacity to reach our greatest potential.
It has become quite common for us to give and receive advice and encouragement to “step out of our comfort zone.” In concept, this movement can be met with excitement and willingness, appearing to be valuable; yet as one takes action, they may realize that it comes with a degree of discomfort. It can be puzzling; How do you overcome the ambiguity of where to begin? How do you prevent gravitating back to your old habits? Is this even worth it?
Research and studies support the ideation that when you embrace stretching outside the bounds of your comfort, growth happens. This is when we develop new skills, enrich our life by forming a new hobby, meet and connect with new people, as well as become open to saying yes to new experiences. We do this not knowing if we will love it, be good at it, or decide that was a one-and-done not, my ongoing thing. So much can shift in your life when you stretch beyond your routine, challenge your tendencies, and reprogram out of your default mode. The incredible discovery is that these often are not huge undertakings; they are simple moments in making a slightly different choice than you routinely would. It can be saying hi to the person sitting next to you in class, downloading a free app to begin to learn Spanish, signing up with a friend for your first tap dancing class, or visiting that new local restaurant. Cumulatively, these moments of new experiences and changes shape who you can become—your wisdom and legacy through new skills mastered and relationships nourished; ultimately identification of what makes you thrive.
Venture outside your comfort zone, the rewards are worth it. -Rapunzel, Tangled
As my curiosity has grown around stretching one’s comfort zone, I have researched and thought about the following concepts: What impact does pace have in one changing and growing as one stretches beyond their comfort zone? How can I, as a life coach, support others in opening up to embrace this aspect of life?
What I have been discovering, through these reflections of my experiences and reviewing research, is that the pace at which we embark on changing impacts success. Additionally, motivation and momentum are influenced by the support we surround ourselves with. The connection between defining the right pace and identifying support is key to stretching into a new zone of comfort.
It was during a coaching workshop that I was introduced to the Wheel of Life Tool. Later in becoming interested in the topic of stretching our comfort zones, I recalled some key takeaways. What stood out from this workshop was how our individual values, priorities, and mindset influence our degree of fulfillment in each aspect of our life. Our lives are multifaceted, with many roles (sibling, friend, parent, spouse, professional, volunteer), and interests (travel, health, faith, hobbies). Through mapping out these aspects of your life, clarity surfaces on where you would find the most value if you were to shift habits and thoughts—stretching your comfort zone.
Growth happens when you can focus on expanding and stretching at a pace that keeps you engaged and energized with a manageable amount of discomfort to avoid experiencing a sense of frustration or discouragement.
In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, he shares the Goldilocks Rule, which states the following:
Humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks That are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right. -James Clear, Atomic Habits
Adopting this rule can support you in keeping momentum and motivation high as you stretch beyond your comfort zone. Visualizing your personal North Star gives you direction, although it is in breaking down the journey by reflecting on progress, celebrating milestones, and gaining the confidence that keeps you stretching. Focusing on the importance of pace and working at an optimal level of difficulty was a component of research conducted by Psychologist Gilbert Brim. As he summarized, “one of the important sources of human happiness is working on tasks at a suitable level of difficulty, neither too hard nor too easy.”
Embracing seeking personal growth and reaching your potential can be obtained by departing from your habits of order and predictability. Since the 1940s and over the decades to follow Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has become familiar to us all. It’s in stretching our comfort zone that we experience the highest level of this hierarchy: self-actualization. At this level, an individual achieves their full potential and self-fulfillment.
Many find it supportive to have someone help them to stay motivated, to keep their commitment at the surface as well as to address setbacks as to not derail experiencing self-actualization. In coaching, there are many opportunities to support a client in setting the pace. Let’s set the stage with an example of how stretching one’s comfort zone can pace and unfold.
A client is focused on creating more time for her priority of wellness. She has a dream of running a marathon before she turns 40. She realizes that this aspiration comes to mind often as she evaluated her satisfaction in her life using the wheel of life tool; finding herself at a satisfaction level of 6, she desired to maintain a 9+ to feel fulfilled. She just celebrated her 38th birthday and knew she needed to make changes to achieve and enjoy running a marathon within two years. With her life coach’s support, she focused on defining realistic changes every week, flourished as she felt accountability for progress, made tweaks when things did not align, and found joy in mini celebrations along the way. Over the course of the upcoming years, some of her more significant shifts include:
- Commitment to eating more fruits and vegetables while still enjoying her ice cream. She discovered she liked planting a small vegetable garden in the springtime as well as visiting the farmers market each week over the summer and fall.
- While sharing her dream of running a marathon with a friend, this friend was excited to offer to sign up for a few 5k races with her. Not only did they run more than six races, but they also met up a few times each week to train and talk.
- She read that her daughter’s school was looking for running buddies for a program called Girls on the Run. Usually, she would take a should-have, would-have approach to this and read right past it, although, at this time, decided to say yes. The following year she joined in to be co-coach and continues to volunteer with this organization.
- She began to research a marathon that would keep her interested and energized. She decided to incorporate her life-long love for Disney into her marathon goal, signing up for the Walt Disney World Marathon followed by a five-day Disney Cruise with her family.
In summary, exploring beyond your current comfort zone will open you to the possibilities beyond your current state. It is through setting a pace with a manageable degree of discomfort that you experience climbing up to the peaks of your life. This Goldilocks Rule pace of not too hard, and not too easy allows you to simultaneously enjoy the view of what you have created, basking in the satisfaction of your thriving life.
The-pros-and-cons-of-comfort-zones. (2020, October 23). Retrieved December 09, 2020, fromhttps://www.waldenu.edu/programs/psychology-counseling/resource/the-pros-and-cons-of-comfort-zones
Infographic: The Wheel of Life. (n.d.). Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://www.the-coaching-academy.com/blog/infographic:-the-wheel-of-life-3072.asp
Clear, J. (2018). Chapter 19 – The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work. In Atomic habits tiny changes, remarkable results; an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. NY, NY: Avery.
Stillman, J. (2018, August 14). Science Has Just Confirmed That If You’re Not Outside Your Comfort Zone, You’re Not Learning. Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/want-to-learn-faster-make-your-life-more-unpredictable.html
Why comfort will ruin your life: Video from Bill Eckstrom at TedX. (2018, May 17). Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://universitywebinars.org/why-comfort-will-ruin-your-life-video-from-bill-eckstrom-at-tedx/
Rhimes, S. (2015). Year of yes. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.
Mcleod, S. (2020, March 20). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html