Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. -Neale Donald Walsch
Google the words “comfort zone,” and the vast majority of results are all about getting out, stepping out, and crushing it. Over time, particularly in our Type A, high achieving, go-big-or-go-home culture, the idea of being in one’s “comfort zone” has been maligned and shamed. It’s seen as a place of stagnation and sloth. It’s certainly not a place where highly successful people hang out for very long, if at all.
Forgive my language, but I call BS. Our comfort zone plays a powerful role (especially for introverts) in our sustainability and happiness as entrepreneurs, leaders, colleagues, and friends.
The true definition of comfort zone is “a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.” For the introvert entrepreneur, our comfort zone is both a soft landing and a launching pad. I see value in honoring our comfort zone from two perspectives: it’s where we recharge, and it’s where we find our footing.
Our Fuel-Up Station
Our comfort zone is our recharging station. It’s where we replenish our energy. There’s space for bold ideas and new connections to take root and grow. Why? Because we’re not over-stimulated by the stress we feel when we are in unfamiliar territory. There’s a sense of freedom in our comfort zone. We’re not on high alert and can be alone with our thoughts, things, people, and places that feel like home. With the energy and ideas that are born in our comfort zone, we can then stretch without breaking.
Your recharging station is anywhere you feel free and relaxed. It might entail walking in the woods, staring at the water, spending time with pets, exercising, meditating, coloring, journaling, daydreaming or even napping. In our go-go-go world, these nourishing activities often take a backseat to being “productive.” My experience? I come up with my best ideas and amplify my courage when I’m in my personal comfort zone, minus the distractions, stress, and silly societal pressure to “go big or go back to bed.”
Our Launching Pad
It’s where we find our footing and take those baby steps everyone always says are so important. Here’s an example: you want to start a blog, knowing it’ll be a great way to engage with your clients and customers. So many questions, though! What platform to use, how often to post, what topics to write about, where to promote it, how to engage your readers… depending on your strengths, the entire endeavor can be way outside your comfort zone. It’s easy to become paralyzed by the discomfort and confusion. So the “start blogging” to-do item is recycled week to week, month to month.
This is where the comfort zone is your friend. Without the external “you should be doing this” messaging, there’s space to ask: what are you most comfortable with? What’s a reasonable, set-yourself-up-for-success baby step? It might be researching platforms. You could brainstorm a list of topics, without censoring or thinking about the details.
Many people find comfort in structure, so you could set some simple parameters: one post, 300 words, 60 minutes, one main point to make or piece of information to share, write with one person in mind (preferably your ideal reader). Remember: you don’t have to tell your life story, cover every possible angle, or write the next Pulitzer Prize-winning article. By stripping the activity down to its essence and temporarily suspending your emotional attachment to an outcome, you can increase comfort enough to break the paralysis.
When it comes to baby steps, I find comfort and inspiration in the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
A New Language
Perhaps if we refer to our comfort zone as “home base,” “base camp,” or a “rest stop,” it would remind us of the healthy necessity of spending time there. We would never go on a journey without taking timeouts to rest and refuel, so why do we send out messages that if you’re not “going big” or “living on the edge” all the time, you’re taking up space?
This does not mean we should avoid any and all situations that bring us fear, stress, or discomfort. The comfort zone should be part of the journey, not the final destination. However, we will experience more success in those stretch situations if we’ve first honored our introvert need to recharge and take baby steps within the quiet and friendly confines of our comfort zone.
In the comments, tell us: how do you define your comfort zone?
For more from Beth, check out her new book, The Introvert Entrepreneur. A practical guide to help introverts harness their natural gifts and entrepreneurial spirit.
Latest posts by Beth L. Buelow (see all)
- Claim It, Don’t Shame It! Shifting Your Relationship With Your Comfort Zone - November 18, 2015