Everyone must have heard it at least once in their lifetime. Business strategists talk about it. Motivational speakers talk about it.
Countless numbers of books have been written about it. Even preachers have preached about it. What is it? It is the comfort zone. We have all been told to get out of the comfort zone. But how realistic is this?
The journey of life is a battle between the old and the new. What does it take to renew the human mind enough to know there is a need to change?
A person can attend hundreds of seminars on disruption and still not change or listen to the wisest counsel on earth and remain the same.
What does it take to develop a mind flexible enough to be progressive? What does it take to see the comfort zone as a limitation?
Where is this comfort zone that has dominated conversations and lectures for years? Is it a physical location somewhere? Is it somewhere you can go to and leave at will?
The simple definition is that the comfort zone is that place where we feel comfortable. Yes. It is as simple as that, and this definition will reveal why it is so difficult to leave it. Why on earth should a person leave that one place where they are comfortable? It could be a relationship, a job, a house, a city…
The ability to leave the comfort zone is a personal choice. It is a decision that is conceived in the heart and executed in the mind.
People can talk all day and night about leaving a comfort zone, but in reality there is a bigger rush to enter into comfort zones than to come out. As such, a person who has spent the better part of their lives trying to get into the comfort zone will not be eager to get out.
This is why the concept of coming out of the comfort zone has not worked despite the fact that people hear it and talk about it all the time.
When a person in a state of discomfort, they work hard to move to a place of comfort. Once they arrive at that place, they intend to stay there.
No amount of lectures, seminars, books read or wise counsel can make them change. Sometimes an intelligent person is given sound counsel but they won’t see it no matter what you say because they are victims of comfort.
I have seen extremely outdated and conservative business leaders talk passionately about people leaving their comfort zones while they are desperately holding on to theirs.
If your comfort zone is a position that you struggled to get to in order to be comfortable, why on earth should you change anything now that you are comfortable?
It can be a product that you developed that is finally making a lot of money for you. It has made you comfortable. Why then should anyone remotely suggest that you think of something else?
Comfort will never let you go freely. You will have to fight for your independence. Once the brain senses comfort, it will do anything to keep you there.
Any attempt to get you away will be seen as an attack and will be violently resisted by all the faculties of your mind.
No one will move out of the comfort zone until it becomes uncomfortable. Only discomfort can motivate a person to leave that which was once comfortable.
The great leader is therefore not the one who makes you feel comfortable but the one who is skilled at inducing discomfort. Great mentors are not those who give their protégés a feel good factor. They are those who are able to create an atmosphere of discomfort.
New information is a challenge to comfort. It’s like someone who has consistently been in a dysfunctional or abusive relationship.
When given the opportunity of a different kind of relationship, they will resist it because the consistency of the abuse or dysfunction has created a zone where they are actually comfortable. No matter what you say concerning the relationship, they will defend it because it is what they know. Again, they are victims of comfort.
There have been many reported cases of prisoners who, having served lengthy prison sentences, when released did not know how to deal with the outside world and so they deliberately committed a crime to return to their comfort zone. In their case, freedom became the discomfort while captivity was the comfort zone.
How then does one get out of the comfort zone? Is there really a way out? Is there hope for the comfortable?
To be continued...
Dr Wale Akinyemi is chief transformation officer, PowerTalks; e-mail: [email protected]