Ready-Set-Go! …Stretching Your Comfort Zone

“Ready-Set-Go!” How old do you think you were the first time you heard those words?  Probably 5 or 6 years old; they are a legendary trio of words in backyards and on playgrounds.   And, recently they found their way to the pool while we were enjoying a few days away on a Spring Break trip.  My 8 yr. old niece and her group of new best friends (she just met at the pool😊) were putting them to the test!  And it was working.

It’s not always easy to stretch outside your comfort zone.  The safe way is to not push the limits, keep doing what you’re good at and stay away from anything that may increase your skill set or knowledge in any way.   But with a little stretching we find we’re often able to do things we previously thought were impossible.  That was the case with my niece and her new friends.

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Ready –  

The older kids in this pack of friends were fearless and ready to jump.   The younger ones were a little more cautious and angled their jumps towards shallower water.  But they were all committed to jump even if it was stretching their comfort zone. 

The science behind comfort zones is simply that we all have activities and routines where we experience minimal stress and anxiety and unless we intentionally challenge ourselves or get challenged by an outside force we tend to stay there.  It feels natural and it takes less effort.

One of the best methods to step outside your comfort zone is to limit how far you’re stretching yourself when you decide to step out.  If public speaking is not in your comfort zone, don’t make your first step a keynote in front of 5,000 people for 2 hours.  Speak at a local community event for 10-15 minutes to build your confidence or join a group like Toastmasters.

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Set –

They all positioned themselves before they started their dash for the pool in their best “I can do this!” stance and waited for the final command.  But everything they had learned in life up to this point is all they were going to be taking with them when they left their comfort zone.

Of the three words, this one may be the biggest reason people don’t leave their comfort zone.  They keep waiting for the perfect moment when they think they’re 100% ready to go. 

And you know what happens?  100% ready never gets here.  

They might be 90% 95%, even 99% but there’s always another reason not to try something outside your comfort zone.  There is always one more thing you need to do to prepare.  Expanding your comfort zone usually isn’t a matter of life and death, it’s doing something that isn’t natural for you or part of your routine.  Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.      

If you want to stretch yourself outside your comfort zone, at some point you need to say “Set” and everything you have done up to that point is going to be all you need to safely stretch yourself beyond your current comfort zone. It’s a willingness to try.

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Go –

And they jumped!  Any fears that were making the younger swimmers anxious, quickly transitioned to smiles of accomplishment and joy when they popped up out of the water.   Both their confidence and comfort zones had just grown in the process.  

The safest way to try something outside your comfort zone is to think in terms of expanding it or stretching vs jumping completely away from it.  When your comfort zone is still nearby, you can easily return to it; you’re just stepping away from it for a given period of time.  It doesn’t have to be a 5 year commitment to something, the small leaps (like the young swimmers took) lead to the bigger leaps.  It’s Ok to start small, but you must “Go!”

Mentally and Physically there are lots of benefits to stretching your comfort zone

  • It increases self-confidence
  • It challenges you to improve yourself
  • It stimulates brain activity
  • It’s an important part of personal development

What about you?  What is outside your comfort zone that you would like to try? Learn? Experience?  Start small and work your way up.  You prepare for a marathon by first running a mile.   Then…Ready-Set-Go! 

Final thought: “Caution No Jumping or Diving” You may have noticed the sign on the fence.  A nonscientific unofficial survey has the adults noticing it 5 to 1 over the kids!  Comfort Zones. 

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

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