Updated: Nov 13
“Comfort zones are overrated. They make you lazy.” Melina Marchetta
When we talk about “the comfort zone” it is often in a negative light. It can’t be something that we consider “positive” because we keep talking about how important it is to get out of it!
Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be a misconception about what the “comfort zone” really is and the way we think of it.
When we talk about the “comfort zone” what are we talking about? Whether it is related to teaching in the classroom, starting a business, taking a chance, starting a new health regime – we are told to get OUT of our comfort zone(s).
We tell our students that they need to get out of their comfort zone when we tell them to speak more in class, to challenge themselves, to choose the high level AP English/Math class, etc.
We tell ourselves to get out of our comfort zone when we need to make a presentation, talk about a difficult situation, ask for a raise or a promotion, etc.
Coaches and mentors tell us to get out of our comfort zone to achieve results. You know this if you have ever tried to change your health habits, learn to play an instrument, start a business, run a marathon, etc.
This does not make ANY sense to me!
For something that inherently means enjoyment, happiness, ease, etc., it would make more sense that we would want to GET INTO, BE and STAY in our comfort zones of life, love, profession, health, business, etc. rather than perpetually trying to get out of them!
So, what does it really mean when we (and experts and coaches around the world) talk about getting out of our comfort zone(s)?
It seems like the comfort zone has become the place where we are NOT achieving what we want. Where our dreams and goals are withering away while we wait to action on them. And therefore, we need to get out of our comfort zone when we are striving for more, for better, for change – so we can get to the next level.
But being in a zone that you are constantly trying to get out of is highly discomforting and NOT very comfortable!! It’s more like a DIScomfort zone.
When you’re in your DIScomfort zone – the feelings of needing to DO something are constantly with you! Even when you are not doing the things you “should” be doing.
In this DIScomfort Zone, the “shoulda, coulda, woulda”s run rampant!
You know what you should be doing. You know what you could be thinking. You know how you should be feeling. You know how you would be acting.
And yet you keep NOT doing the things and keep yourself in the DIScomfort zone which you are perpetually trying to get out of. It is a constant feeling of
It is a nagging reminder.
It is like wearing a shirt or dress that is a size too small. You are constantly aware and reminded that it is NOT a comfortable fit! You can’t escape the feeling. It’s there every time you move your body!
So, when you think about it, when people talk about getting out of the comfort zone, they’re actually talking about getting out of the DISCOMFORT zone and moving in a Zone of EXPANSION.
I would even go so far as to call it the DISCOMFORT ZONE OF INACTION because this is the zone where you know what needs to be done, but you continue to NOT take action.
You continue to NOT take action on what could, would, or should
· Be good for you
· Change your circumstances
· Push you forward
· Make you happy
· Even change your life.
When we are in the Discomfort Zone of Inaction, we live in uncertainty because we cannot predict the future. We can’t know for certain whether the actions we should be, could be, and want to be taking will actually pave the way for the results we dream about. We worry about whether we have chosen the right path, the right program, the right approach, the right mindset. We struggle with changing our habits to make the differences we want. We spend a lot of time marching in place while knowing we should be, could be, and want to be marching forward.
The Zone of Expansion
The Zone of Expansion is where all the work takes place. This is where we learn new habits, new methods, new techniques, new mindsets, etc.
Whatever that was causing us discomfort is being broken down, turned around, revamped, fixed, and managed in the Zone of Expansion.
For every step you take towards your goals, desires, and results, the more your expand your awareness, commitment, and confidence. Seriously!
Think back to any time in your life where your worked hard for something and could feel the improvement happening. If you ever tried a new sport or new instrument, you know the importance of practicing and perfecting. This takes place in in the Expansion Zone.
Learning new teaching methods takes time and practice too!
The True Comfort Zone
The True Comfort Zone is NOT something we want to get out of! It is something we want to get INTO!
Being in the True Comfort Zone is not being safe and content, it is being charged and excited! It is feeling truly comfortable in your own being! When you are doing the things that excite and challenge you, are thinking the things that make you clear and focused, feeling the things that bring you strength and pride, you are truly COMFORTable – at ease, joyful, happy, etc. in who you are, what you do, and what you give to the world!
Remember the shirt or dress? When you have a shirt or dress that fits PERFECTLY, you feel like a million bucks, but even more importantly, you feel amazingly comfortable!!
That’s why it makes perfect sense that your True Comfort Zone is where you feel True Comfort!
Okay, so maybe it’s all semantics. What others commonly refer to as the “comfort zone”, I prefer to call the Complacency Zone. It’s the zone where you are safe and content with how things are. You live your life without notable stress, anxiety, or pressure. You are more or less in charge of what happens and have a certain structure to your life. You are aware that there are possibilities outside of your zone, but do not feel compelled to pursue them. This is not a bad zone to be in. And it is not a zone that you “need” to get out of.
That is … until you start considering the possibilities that lie outside of this zone.
Some of these will be like heavy bricks or loud shouts and/or have a sense of urgency.
This class is out of control! I should learn new classroom management skills – now!
OMG – I’ve gained 20 lbs! I should lose them – now!
We’re moving across the country! I should find a new job – now!
Others may be like soft feathers or whispers.
I read about this new classroom management method. I wonder if that could work for me.
I don’t feel comfortable at this weight. I wonder how I could get healthier.
There’s a new school opening in our district. I wonder if I could have a job opportunity there.
As you start discovering new opportunities and start contemplating how to achieve them, you enter the Discomfort Zone of Inaction.
And until you start taking action and thus moving yourself into the Expansion Zone, you will either stay in the Discomfort Zone or retreat back to the Complacency Zone until the “shoulda, coulda, woulda”s start creeping up on you again.
So, what we really want to do is get out of our Discomfort Zone of Inaction and into our Zone of Expansion on our way to our True Comfort Zone.
What do you want?
It’s all up to you! Getting out of your Discomfort Zone of Inaction can be daunting, scary, uncertain, with unknown results. HOWEVER – it can also be invigorating, exciting, eventful, and lead to incredible results!
Imagine that your movement from Complacency through Discomfort can lead to a sustainable level of True Comfort and even launch you into the AWE-INSPIRING ZONE!!
How would you feel if you woke up every day feeling truly comfortable in your life in and outside of the classroom?
What could you achieve if you pushed past the resistance and stopped living in complacency?
Who would benefit from the focus, momentum, and exhilaration that comes from being in the True Comfort Zone?
But there is no quick fix (sorry!). You need to have a clear direction, actionable steps, and grit! It will indeed take time to get into the True Comfort Zone and even reach the Awe-Inspiring Zone!
how long it takes is up to you!
If you are ready to take actionable steps to get out of your DIScomfort Zone and into your True Comfort Zone either inside or outside of the classroom, rediscover your passion and become reEnchanted with your teaching, I'm here to help!
Not sure you are in a Discomfort Zone? Are you feeling
out of balance
ready to throw in the teaching towel?