Home > Leadership and Management > Moving beyond comfort zones


By G. Balasubramanian

I was quite thrilled by the powerful message the following story conveyed:

A farmer went on throwing seeds of a plant all along his farm. For a couple of days, the seeds were lying quietly in the farm. One day, one of the seeds just broke its shell and started peeping out.

“Hey,” accosted the seed nearby.

“What the hell are you doing? Trying to get out?”.

The first seed replied “Yeah, I just want to see what is lying outside.”

“Never do that mistake. You are in the best comfort zone. Once you get out you will have to face the weather. There will be rain and shine. You might have to brave a hot weather or you may run the risk of being drowned in the flood. Lie where you are wisely. The world outside is very bad.”

The first seed did not listen. It saw a rainbow in the sky. “Wow” It wondered. “How did appear there?” It had a question. Its curiosity triggered. It peeped out a little further and put its head out. It grew to become a tendril. It started dancing gently with the breeze.

“I told you, isn’t it?” The second seed shouted from the soil. “You will have to dance to the tune of the weather. You will have to work hard to sustain your life. You may not know what will happen tomorrow.”

The first seed didn’t listen. It braved the weather, became a plant, started flowering and led a beautiful life. The second one, lying inside the soil, had timely food, timely sleep and lived in the comfort zone until one day, a hen passing by, saw it and just picked it up and swallowed.

Comfort zones appear good, but are not always the place where we are supposed to remain. They make the future life uncomfortable.

Vikram was a sales executive in a multinational company. He was excellent in his communication skills. His customers were extremely happy to do business with him. But in the month of October, he was sitting in the office and relaxing. “My job is done for the year. I have finished my target in September for the current year. I can now relax for the next three months.” When countered with a question why he could not improve upon his performance, he replied “What for? I am happy to be in my comfort zone rather than to prove to people that I could do better.”

Vikram is not an exception. He has a large number of friends in every field of activity. A lot of them love to be in comfort zones.

Sheetal often yields to self-pity. Though she holds a Master’s degree in Business Management, she tells herself that she should avoid taking risks. “Why risk, Julie?” she argues. She is never enterprising, lest she could have established herself as a great women entrepreneur. Her conditioned life style doesn’t let her move beyond a comfort zone.

Swar is indeed a people’s person. He is a doyen of his clients. But he works in the low-paid job in his town. “Sir, life is comfortable here. My own home, nearby malls, temples, and the family. After all, you need to draw a line for yourself somewhere.” His priestly outlook has hindered his possible growth and complete utilisation of his potential and competencies. He may not be wrong in his perception, but certainly his definition of a comfort zone has blocked his learning curve.

Comfort zones may be designed by individuals depending on their own personal and social priorities. They have a pragmatic consideration. Nevertheless, many tend to seek asylum under the comfort zones for some type fear that is haunting them from inside. Some do so, because they do not want to run an extra mile to maximise their potentialities. Life is indeed a process of discovering the self in all its facets and that calls for a journey beyond the comfort zones.

Barwick defines comfort zones as “a behavioural state where a person operates from an anxiety-neutral position.” Fear of the future, fear of uncertainties. learned helplessness, absence of motivation, fear of competition and compromise with mediocrity are some of the traits of people who enjoy living in a comfort zone. They are their own mentors telling their doped mind that “all is well” This feeling may just be a perception and oftentimes could be far from reality. But they give up all they have in their life, just to live in this mythical zone of apparent peace.

1. Comfort zones are often tempting but not rewarding

Comfort zones offer us an impression or a myth of a sense of security. They try to tell you that they are the caretakers of all your fear. They often compare you with people who sweat out or fight a dying battle and warn you of a miserable life, thereby controlling all your might, skills and talents. They tempt you to a life where you give yourself to a routine and you become a sheep in a herd. They celebrate you with a sense of misguided achievement and live on your self-pity nourishing it with their untruth.

2. Comfort zones steal one’s potential

By blocking your urge to grow, they keep your mind under their control. You become an addict to listening to their lullabies and force you to articulate your movements on a sleep mode, slowly transforming you to a non-performer and showcasing your non-performance as pursuit of your personal excellence. They blind your vision and certify your myopia as your best qualification; they make you a fire-fighter training you to put off the fire in the belly as and when it sparks. It holds you as a prisoner in an illusory universe of safety. The people who live in comfort zones, often tend to keep their eyes closed to reality, because comfort zones offer them a guardianship for life. Thus, your potential to grow is slowly engulfed by its octopian approach.

3. Comfort zones rob your time and space

By living in comfort zones, one tends to enter into a contract with survival rather than growth. Hence one loses an urge to explore, expand, experiment and experience. He becomes stagnant and static in life. The possibility of his outward mobility to grow rich in knowledge, skills, experience, relationship and in the holistic wealth is lost. Thus, they rob you of your time and space for expansion in life. They make you the frog in the well and thus denying the experience of scaling the real time experience of a vast ocean of knowledge, skills, experiences of a world that is ever surprising. The loyalists to the comfort zones live in a safe haven of belief tents that offers them a smoky vision of the beauty of the twinkling stars in the canvas of the sky that hosts opportunities unlimited.

4. Comfort zones disengage you from your belief and faith systems

Living in comfort zones, for whatever reasons, people tend to lose faith in their own skills, talents, competencies and slowly start feel living a retrograde cycle of life. They disengage from their own beliefs and faith systems, and declare themselves as outlaws of an active world of activity. They start declaring and demonstrating their own inefficiencies and ineffectiveness as their passports for travel to world of work and seek a visa from the gates of “learned helplessness.”

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zones” says Niele Donald Walsh. It is important for the people holding passport in their comfort zones, to make a sincere attempt to step out of the same, lest they will be negotiating their survival with every breath they inhale.

What lies outside are only challenges, not fear. Fear is something what we give unto ourselves. Once a person walks out of the doorsteps of the fear, they are able to make a reason. The first step against fear gives the power to take the remaining ninety-nine steps.

“A ship is safe in the harbour, but that is not what a ship is built for.” Says William Shedd. It is true of our lives. It is meant for a voyage and not to be anchored on a harbour of inactivity. “It is never late to be, who you might have been” says George Eliot.

Discovering oneself is indeed a game we play in life. It is entertaining. It is challenging. It is rewarding- be it a pain or a pleasure. The only person who can certify whether one had been successful in this journey is the self. “It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop” – The words of Confucius have an eternal value.

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