Your Comfort Zone is Killing Your Potential
Though your sophisticated mind continuously keep telling you that you are about to leave the comfort zone in order to achieve something great (or maybe to ‘make the world a better place’), are you really being able to do that? Trust me, it is a question that is worth asking yourself. You will never regret checking with your own gorgeous self a thousand times a day if you are really leaving the comfort zone enough times, or are you just deluding yourself by saying things like ‘Oh! This is what I do best! I do not need to explore anything else – I will do fine being an expert on this.’ If that is the case with you, you are, my friend, simply plotting against your own potential. You will probably never be able to make it to the next level just because you are not willing to risk getting out of your comfort zone. There is a saying that without taking any risks, you cannot expect to gain anything. Take my word, that saying is one hundred percent true.
The Root of Comfort Zone
Since my introduction already made it sound like that your comfort zone is a bad enemy for your self-development (which is absolutely true, by the way), it has now become my duty to define comfort zone in the context of this note. And what is that context? The context is pretty much the core life issues that you are dealing with in your everyday life. Am I confusing you? Okay, let me put it in this way – you are certainly aware of the fact that no matter how much you love to be comfortable or how much you want to entertain yourself without doing anything in your life, there is this urge inside you to make yourself a better person, to achieve something in your life and to make your life a purposeful one, no? Of course, you are aware of it! And that is exactly the context for this note. I know what are you thinking! This guy still hasn’t defined comfort zone.
Let’s say, for example, you are working in an office and you are very good at what you have been doing. Your boss certainly was pleased with you and planned to engage you with something different so that it might give you a chance to explore other areas outside what you have been proving yourself in already. Now, you might feel that this ‘change of track’ was completely unnecessary because you are already serving the employer with your expertise pretty well. Since you believe that, it is very difficult for you to stop doing what you have been doing and start trying to do something different. If you are like me, maybe you will not only try to do something different, you will try to be best at that, too. However, deep inside, you are feeling this urge to turn down these new assignments that fall under a different category. Why? Because not doing anything else other than what you have been doing for the first few months (and received applause for) has now become your comfort zone. Your mind is struggling against you in order to keep you within this deadly zone that will eventually make you handicapped in terms of skills, learning, and growth. Yes, those three elements of your career that you would ever want to keep working for. Why else would you want to work for, after all? Just to make money? I’ll pass, every time.
“Do Not Lie to Yourself! We have to be honest about what we want and take risks rather than lie to ourselves and make excuses to stay in our comfort zone.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
As famous author Roy T. Bennett justly pointed out that lying to ourselves and not having enough courage or will-power to be honest with ourselves are one of the causes that we keep failing to leave the comfort zone. I not only agree, but would strongly state that this is the root cause of staying inside that deadly boundary forever. Are you having a hard time to believe that? If yes, how about you take this simple litmus test – ask yourself if you are really working for simply making money, or do those three words i.e. skills, learning and growth mean anything to you? Whenever anyone asks about these magical flowery concepts in a corporate career discussion, we do not think twice before agreeing that we are indeed working for these rather than simply earning money. Asking this question to ourselves, however, is quite a different story! Most of the time, we avoid asking ourselves this question, because we know that to achieve any of these, we definitely need to get out of our comfort zone more often than we ever imagined.
What on Earth is Potential!
If you do not know what potential is, do not kill yourself. We all may have a very good reason for not being able to define this word properly, because your potential practically has no limits whatsoever. And not knowing the definition of something limitless cannot be so bad, right?
“Do not let the memories of your past limit the potential of your future. There are no limits to what you can achieve on your journey through life, except in your mind.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Thinking too much about what happened in the past can be one way of limiting your growth and exploring new opportunities. Exploring can also simply mean doing something other than what we have been doing on a regular basis. Trying out things that are new – not necessarily in this world, but to ourselves. Even if something has already been done by someone else, giving it a shot by yourself can open new possibilities because each and every one of us was born with unique set of abilities. We just need to find out what we are good at and then get on that train. But just because we have found something that we are good at does not mean that it has to be the only discipline that we will manage to be good at. In fact, your growth demands that you become good at more than one things, without losing your focus on what you want to be or what you want to achieve in life. Your goal of becoming something can be narrowed down. As a matter of fact, it should be narrowed down. But to become successful with your goal, you may need to master more than one skills! You always will have to learn more than what you already know, and last but not the least, you cannot afford to let your growth come to an end. You have to realize that it is a journey, not a destination. You are an ever lasting journey towards perfection, where the perfection may never be achieved but that is not your goal anyway.
Therefore, potential is simply pushing your limits. That may sound like an oversimplification but it necessarily boils down to just that. We often think that pushing our limits means sharpening the skill that we are already good at, while forgetting the fact that to become better in what we are currently doing, we need to add more tools to our bag no matter how discomforting or tiring that may seem.
Misconceptions about Comfort Zone
Often times, we tend to think that being in the comfort zone means wanting to sit back and relax, abandoning the tasks at hand or sleeping more in the morning etc. But defining comfort zone like that only creates more problems for us since the problem is much more complex and widespread. You can work your buttock off 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, and still you might be the one who never really left their comfort zone. Why? Take, for example, the following list that shows how comfort zone manifests itself in our lives:
- Delusion of Mastery: Too many people in the corporate world have successfully deluded themselves thinking that doing the same thing over and over again will turn them into a master. This is only partially true if you are ignoring learning new things besides the field that you are working on continuously. For example, if you are very good at writing, but not so comfortable in meetings or presentations, no doubt that you have a value to add to your organization, but lacking in those two things will eventually block your growth and stop you from being a master.
- Idea Explosion: Being an idea bank is good to a certain extent only if you do not let them disorganize yourself. Working on too many ideas, or even thinking of too many ideas at the same time can be quite detrimental to your success. By doing this, you are only making sure that you will end up achieving nothing. In other words, none of your mesmerizing ideas will see the daylight, ever.
- Pushing the Limits: This one is my favorite. We are more than happy to push ourselves to the limits staying well within our comfort zone. In fact, we do it all the time! However, this actually limits our point of view. We start seeing things only from one angle, while seeing the same thing from different angles might just open new doors of possibilities. For example, the young and talented Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford is comfortable and effective playing as a striker attacking through the middle. Wing-play has not really been his thing. But because of the presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and also the squad lacking genuine in-form wingers, manager played Rashford as a winger in most of the matches during 2016/2017 season. For Rashford, that worked like magic. He could not become a great winger – true. But playing in different positions and attacking from different angles made him an even better central striker towards the end of the season.
Comfort Zone vs. Potential
Since we have established the fact that our potential is limitless, every aspect of our life has potential to improve. We can be a better person with our family, with our coworkers, and most importantly, a better slave of our Creator. Perhaps at this point, I do not need to mention that our comfort zone is the most obvious obstacle on our way to becoming a better human being.
Let me tell you a story. A person leads a comfortable life. He goes to work in the morning and then spend time with his friends and when he comes back, it is almost 9 pm. His wife naturally do not smile at him anymore since after coming this late, all he does before sleeping is watching news or sports channels on TV. Though he could make things better by meeting his friends once a week and spending time with his wife and children by coming back home a bit early on other weekdays. He could smile at his wife when she opens the door for him, even if she doesn’t. A series of changes simply needs to start somewhere and the first episode creates a chain of reactions that has the potential to bring about a noticeable improvement in our life. But that first step is often the most difficult. It is difficult if you are not willing to get out of your comfort zone. Going out of your way is another name for breaking the shackles that your comfort zone has put on you. It is limiting your potential to become a better husband, a better father, a better son.
To become a successful coworker and an asset to your organization that you are working for, you must develop skills, keep learning new things as and when necessary, and last but not the least, make sure that your growth as a resourceful person doesn’t come to an end. You cannot develop new skills or improve on your current skill-set if you are not willing to get out of your comfort zone. No one is going to come and show you how to improve yourself. You need to figure it out by yourself by trying out different approaches i.e. breaking free from the chains of your comforts. Similarly, you need to invest your time and energy to keep learning new things that are useful for achieving your career goals and make you strong in other areas that can be supplementary to your core role, even if you are an expert in what you do. This also requires getting quite uncomfortable at times! When you ensure skills development and continuous learning, the growth is inevitable. That can only be made possible once you are willing to give up your self-imagined ‘comforts’.
If you are a Muslim or a non-Catholic Christian, you are most likely familiar with the concept of struggling against your own soul. Our soul desires and it knows no bounds. But it is our duty to channel those desires so that our actions do not transgress the limits set by our loving Creator. Struggling, by definition, is uncomfortable. You cannot possibly be within a comfort zone that your mind created for you and at the same time struggle to be a better slave for your Creator. Time is the most valuable asset that God has given us. It is limited. We do not have a lot of time to get all comfy with our life. There is a lot to do to serve our Master and we need to get out of our ways to put the necessary amount of effort on a regular basis.
“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” ― Shannon L. Alder
Now it is time for a little disappointment. If you are expecting to see solutions or suggestions on how to get out of your comfort zone, you are not going to get it in this note. That is mainly because of two reasons. First, the scope of this note does not cover discussing the solutions or strategies that might help you do so. Second, the strategies, in most cases, need to be tailored for each individual. However, I have a plan to write another note to cover some of the strategies that might be considered general and therefore, might help some people to a certain extent. As for this note, look at the bright side! We have identified a big problem. And as we all know, problem identification is the first step towards solving the problem.