Comfort zone

This week we are discussing comfort zones, the post initially came from the January ’07 edition of our newsletter, Perform. Personally I find this a very interesting post, I hope you enjoy it too! If you enjoy reading these posts why not sign up for the newsletter by visiting our website? (

What is a “comfort zone”? Simply it is what you feel comfortable doing.

You might wonder how you arrived at the “comfort zone” of your own. It is built on your mental map of the world. You start to build that map as a baby. Gurgling happily gets a cuddle, crying and wailing gets food. We all build our mental map with everything we sense around us.

This mental map has a high survival value. We are constantly judging our current perceptions against our mental map to detect inconsistencies. Inconsistencies spell danger. A blade of grass moving differently from its neighbours may be hiding a stalking tiger.

This mental map called instinct, intuition, gut feeling or sixth sense is well developed in us all over time. Inconsistencies that do not yield to analysis are painful to hold in your brain. Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance theory says that contradictory ideas can only be held for a short, disturbed time. Attempts to move out of our comfort zone are genuinely mentally uncomfortable.

I did some training a while ago where we were asked to do something to overcome our fear of embarrassment at networking events. We were asked to go into a shop and ask for something they didn’t sell – a glass of wine in a florists for example. Could you do that?

So why bother? Because some of the constraints we place on ourselves are not or no longer valid. They may only exist in our head. How do you stretch your comfort zone? Test it and learn where it is. Experiment by going just beyond it, a little more each time.

Look for the real world signals. not your mental map signals, telling you it is wrong. Who knows, maybe one day all dry cleaners will sell clotted cream!

Meanwhile all you have to lose is your shackles. All it will cost is a little embarrassment, a commodity in unlimited supply!


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