A few years back, I bought my mum a tiger moth flight for her 50-somethingth birthday and to my horror she absolutely hated it. She let the voucher expire. A whole year passed and it was still a sensitive topic amongst us. I knew it was not to her usual taste, but that was the whole point!

I’d read that experiences with loved ones leave a more meaningful mark in our memories than tangible presents received as gifts- this was my bargaining tool, a point which I argued. After about 15 months we called the company, explained the dilemma and mum went for a scenic flight over the Hunter Valley with my dad. She loved it, despite pushing her far beyond her comfort zone. It very nearly didn’t occur though!

So, where or what is our comfort zone?

The comfort zone will be different for each of us, but in essence it is the theoretical sweet spot of security that we spend most of our time in. We tend to value familiarity and security over almost anything else in our lives. Which can lead us to tolerate imperfect careers, maintain unhealthy lifestyles or hold onto toxic relationships, living unquestioningly in our predetermined safety zone.

In terms of personal development and growth, if we imagine our comfort zone as a two-dimensional circle, should we?

  1. Nestle comfortably inside it?
    B. Leap clear out of it, leave it far behind and experience exponential growth in the process?

In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink describes why we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get too comfortable;

‘If you’re too comfortable, you’re not productive. And if you are too uncomfortable, you’re not productive. Like Goldilocks, we can’t be too hot or too cold’.

So, where does this leave us? We have all heard the quote, ‘life begins outside of our comfort zone’. I even have it written above my desk, together with ‘life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all’. I love these quotes but I’m starting to think there is more to it than that. Perhaps before we take massive action towards our dreams of success, that life goal to run a marathon, or for those of us into extreme sports- plunge ourselves from the stratosphere like Felix Baumgartner, what if we could take smaller daily actions to push the boundaries towards growth?

“If you’re too comfortable, you’re not productive.”

Fear of change and a longing for security is eloquently described by Warrel in her book, Make Your Mark, ‘Millions of people got out of bed this morning and went to work to do a job they feel little or no passion for beyond the money it provides…with no real plan to change their situation. They’ll do the same tomorrow. And the day after that’. She goes on to describe how we sacrifice our deepest longings for status and security. What if instead we danced along the edges of our comfort zone, often? What if we broke free from fear?

Take home message…

As humans, we are both driven towards success and away from failure or pain. By stretching ourselves out of our comfort zone, we open the limitless potential for growth within each of us. This however can be scary! I nearly completely blew my mum’s birthday present by taking too much of a leap on her behalf!

As with goal setting, tiny steps will create great leaps over time. Push yourself daily, often throughout each day and in ever changing ways. This way, each stretch won’t seem like a giant leap, but you’ll still be growing, gaining new experiences, inflating your comfort zone and unlocking potential along the way.

Why not try to:

  • Smile at a stranger, strike up a conversation
  • Put your hand up at work
  • Join a professional committee to expand your network
  • Volunteer for something you’re passionate about
  • Organise a mini adventure for the weekend, camp outside
  • Try a new restaurant, a new dish, or go the mocha instead of your usual latte….

Live life on the edge.

By Alex Hardy