Take Care of Your Comfort Zone: Stop breaking and start stretching it instead

How often have you been told to break out of your comfort zone to achieve your goals and dreams?

But when your confidence has been knocked, doing something outside of your comfort zone feels daunting and scary. After all, you’re being asked to step into the unfamiliar, to take a big risk. Most people, understandably don’t want to do this.

My view is that comfort zones are for stretching not breaking out off! Breaking suggests force and damage, stretching gradual and controlled.

Breaking out of chains. Like breaking out of your comfort zone

What is your comfort zone?

Your comfort zone is the place where you feel safe and confident. Here you have the skills, knowledge and experience you need. You’re not concerned about the risk of failure, being embarrassed or making a fool of yourself by your actions. So why would you want to leave it?

Because you know the downside to your comfort zone is it has limitations. If you only ever do what you’re comfortable with, what you know and trust, your life experiences are going to remain the same. However you want to fulfil your potential, live a life of purpose and move on from feeling stuck. For this to happen, you understand that you have to do things beyond what you know and are comfortable with.

Increase the size of your comfort zone

Imagine your comfort zone as flexible rather than rigid. Being flexible means you can stretch it rather than having to break out of it. You could use visualisation here to give your zone a colour, size and shape.  It doesn’t have to be a container either. Like a stretch in yoga, listening to your body, you take it to the limits of feeling comfortable. You don’t force it, but you’re stretching enough so your body is challenged but not damaged.  Before long, you realise you’re able to touch your toes without bending your knees!

Two women doing yoga. Stretching their comfort zone

Thinking of your comfort zone like this changes your perspective on taking on new challenges and doing the unfamiliar. We’re now saying you’re going to increase your existing capabilities. So you’ll be drawing on your current skills, experience, knowledge and qualities. Those things that already exist in your comfort zone. This is really empowering as it removes the fear of doing something entirely unfamiliar. Instead, you recognize the strengths you’re bringing with you to the new situation or challenge.

Carol’s story

I worked with a woman who’s leaving her job and relocating to another county, moving in with her partner. She felt overwhelmed at the thought of breaking out of her comfort zone, leaving everything behind and starting over. I encouraged her to view it as a stretch instead. We talked about what would remain familiar. Including the connections she’d maintain and the ones she’d established in the area she was moving to. Carol had also been preparing for a number of months. She chose to visualise it as rolling out a red carpet. Pushing it out a bit at a time, so it got longer and longer. This particular image also helped her recognize, she had everything she needed in her personality to make this transition a success.

Now it’s your turn. What is it you want to do that feels like breaking out of your comfort zone? If you visualise it as a stretch what image comes to mind? Next consider what existing knowledge, skills, personality traits etc. you can draw on to achieve your success. Remember every time you do this, your comfort zone gets larger and your confidence increases.

Food for thought

The language you use is very powerful, it both reflects and affects your views and subsequent behaviour. In this post I have made a single word change, substituting the word break for stretch. In this case the words break and stretch are metaphorical. Read their definitions below and decide for yourself which one you will use in future?

Break: into pieces as a result of a blow, shock, or strain.

Stretch: be made or be capable of being made longer or wider without tearing or breaking.

Andréa WattsYour author is Andréa, founder and facilitator at UnglueYou®
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