In the world of personal development, the phrase “step outside your comfort zone” (usually proceeded by the words “you have to”) shows up so much, I’ve decided never to use that phrase again.
After all, why would I want to step outside my comfort zone? My comfort zone is filled with dark chocolate, naps, kitty cats, my BFFs, spending a quiet evening at home and reading in my comfy chair. It’s a cozy place where, according to those who want me to step out of it, I can turn into an indifferent blob of unchallenged humanity, complete with cobwebs and a layer of dust.
Telling me to “step out” of it is telling me to do something scary. I can imagine doing the scary thing, and just like stepping on a hot summer sidewalk with bare feet, I see myself bouncing back over to the cool, comforting grass at the first opportunity.
Since telling me to “step out” has always felt admonishing (“get your rear in gear!”), I’ve taken to saying “expand” your comfort zone. Use each new experience to make the circle a little larger, to encompass more experiences. That’s felt comfortable. Until now.
Man’s mind, stretched by a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
What’s wrong with “comfort” is that judgment has been wrapped around it (it is wrapped in my favorite blankie, of course!). To most people, being in the comfort zone = bad/safe, being out = good/scary.
Now I look at my comfort zone as something I need and want. It’s a safe place that recharges me. Maybe it’s my introversion coming through loud and clear :-), but I think my comfort zone is fine just where it is, thank you very much.
Recognizing that there’s still a need for an expression that indicates we’re growing, I propose stretching our CAPACITY zone. I want to expand what I’m capable of doing and being. By using the word capacity, I’m acknowledging that I have certain skills and gifts. It recognizes that I have inherent strengths. I’m perhaps not using them to full capacity, and that’s where expansion can happen.
The context shifts: instead of moving from bad/safe to good/scary, I’m moving from good to better. I’m moving from a place of power to expanded power, rather than from weakness to relative power.
The phrase “step outside” or “expand your comfort zone” might speak to some people. It’s stopped speaking to me. I’m going to start focusing on what I want to grow, building on what I already have, and adding new experiences that expand my capacity. As long as there’s dark chocolate where I’m going, I’m good.
To Consider: What strengths fall within your current Capacity Zone? Which ones do you want to expand? And what’s in your Comfort Zone that you want to enjoy more often?