Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: My Journey Towards a Growth Mindset
“Get out of your comfort zone.” How many times have you been given that advice? Probably a lot. I know I have. It’s good advice and I heed it often. In my personal and professional journey, I’ve learned that it’s not only good advice, but it’s a bit more dynamic than you might think. I’m going to use this article to develop the concept a bit.
If we need to get out of our comfort zone, we need to define the term and the problem. What is a comfort zone, what is wrong with it, and why can’t I hang out there?
What is your comfort zone?
Everyone has a personality comfort zone. I’ve analyzed my personality before on this blog, so for the sake of this point, I will just use one example. I have an introverted personality. It is very easy for me to be alone. I can engage in very extroverted activities such as business networking or public speaking, however, doing so drains my energy.
Everyone also has an experience comfort zone. Generally, things you’ve done before several times are in your comfort zone, and things you’ve never done are outside of it. For example, the first time I visited a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, I felt like a fish out of water. Now, I consider that type of experience an exciting adventure.
Finally, everyone has a skills comfort zone. These are the activities you are already awesome at. If you can crochet a scarf while watching TV, then crocheting is in your comfort zone, but wakeboarding might not be. A while ago, I was a proficient technologist, but not great at negotiating deals. I learned the skill of negotiation, practiced it, and am now comfortable at the negotiating table.
What is wrong with hanging out in your comfort zone?
There’s really nothing wrong with spending time in your comfort zone regularly. This is a place to rest and recharge. However, if you spend all of your time there, you can become confined to it. Some people cannot effectively move outside their comfort zone at all. In that way, your comfort zone is like being on house arrest. We all like our homes, but we don’t want to held there against our will. Spending too much time in your comfort zone limits your freedom.
Growing your comfort zone
The best thing about your comfort zone is that it is not static. It can expand. I used to be afraid of public speaking. Now, after a lot of experiences, I can speak in front a group of people without much trouble. I used to only feel comfortable leading technology disciplines that I fully understood myself. Now, I can comfortably lead technology areas where my knowledge is only high-level.
By adding experiences and pushing the boundaries of my personality preferences, I have not only “gotten out of my comfort zone,” but I’ve actually expanded it. What was once very uncomfortable, became moderately uncomfortable, and finally became included in what I find comfortable.
It’s as if I built an addition on my house. I have more room to roam, all while feeling completely at home.
All of this is related to a concept commonly referred to as a growth mindset, popularized by the book, Mindset by Carol Dweck. Check it out if I’ve piqued your interest. The next time someone tells you to “get out of your comfort zone,” I want you to realize that the uncomfortable feeling is only temporary. Before long, what you once found uncomfortable will become comfortable.
After enough of these comfort zone expansions, you will be able to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s the ultimate goal. In what ways have you expanded your comfort zone? What was once outside of your comfort zone, but now inside it? Most importantly, what’s your next opportunity to expand your comfort zone?