Very few things have changed my life for the better like my experiences in Bulgaria.
I couldn’t have said that upon arrival the first time I visited. This little town of Tryavna was partially recreated to represent an earlier period of life in Bulgaria. And it was seriously cool. Part of that experience was the people I was with. Part of it was the incredible uniqueness of the town. I’ve never experienced anything like it. And it was all about leaving my comfort zone in a big way.
If I had to guess, I would guess that I write and talk about the Comfort Zone (as well as the Familiar Zone) about as much as anyone. In a few weeks the definition of a comfort zone will change. But for the moment we stick with the comfortable definition…
The Comfort Zone is a particularly misunderstood & important part of life. It’s time to look at your Comfort Zone and find out when you want to step outside.
“Get out of Your Comfort Zone.”
I hear it all the time, but NEVER have I heard ANYONE specifically delineate WHAT TO DO when YOU are outside of the comfort zone.
The other puzzle piece missing from the pop psychologists is knowing precisely when that comfort zone can be very necessary.
The problem with Facebook sound bites is that they generally don’t mean anything. They aren’t actionable. They aren’t meaningful. Most of the time… they are BS.
First, know that I do like the two circles here! They are helpful in making a point. Obviously there is a LOT of missing information.
The first implication of the picture is that the Comfort Zone is a location in physical space, like Wyoming.
Typically the comfort zone is not a location, though it can be.
More often the comfort zone and where the magic happens, are first a state of mind.
Second, the magic happens over time while creating new habits and performing new behaviors.
The third implication is that being inside of a Comfort Zone is always bad.
Remember, it’s a state of mind. There are definitely times you are best off being comfortable.
Question 1: When do you want to leave the comfort zone and what will you do?
Proposal: The state of mind you want to evolve within you is that of growth. When you do walk out and move toward the magic it is going to be UNcomfortable so you need to have your battery charged so you can REMAIN in the magic for an extended period of time!
The FOURTH implication is that leaving the Comfort Zone causes success.
Leaving the comfort zone does NOT cause success.
If you are parked in the garage in your home in Los Angeles and you leave the garage, you don’t instantly arrive in New York because you left the garage. You could have wound up anywhere from the grocery store, to the ditch on Highway 5, to San Diego, to Las Vegas….to anywhere.
Leaving the CZ assures you of no result.
Leaving your Comfort Zone assures you an OPPORTUNITY to DO something NEW and attempt to get a NEW RESULT.
Key Point: There are many more fresh and new “failures” and “risks” outside of a Comfort Zone than there are successful destinations.
It all sounds a little disheartening.
But, wait a minute.
If you wish to arrive in New York via your car, you will pretty much need to leave your garage in L.A.
It’s also going to take you a week to get from L.A. to N.Y. The trip requires food, gas, planning, a maintenance check, a spare tire, GPS and a map!!
Remember this metaphor forever.
Let’s get very clear about how your Comfort Zone relates to achievement or success.
1) To ACHIEVE (“win”) you MUST leave your Comfort Zone.
2) Leaving your Comfort Zone does not CAUSE achievement, success or anything else except a circumstance that is different than comfortable and familiar.
The picture really needs to look like something more like an image where the magic happens, the comfort zone and three other circles where nothing good or bad happens but it was uncomfortable.
3) Leaving your Comfort Zone is very uncomfortable and that discomfort continues for as long as you attempt to grow. When you stop attempting to grow, you experience your (new) Comfort Zone.
Expanding your comfort zone or completely moving into a new state of mind and set of actions can become the new reality. And it can become comfortable. And that is a good thing.
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has shown the world that your Self is as fixed as you want it to be.
She’s also put the research out that shows that people who know they can change/evolve can do just that if they wish.
Today you find out how to get out of the comfort zone.
You find out when you SHOULD return to your CZ.
You find out what to do when you are outside of that place of safety.
You get the final answer on where the magic happens in YOUR LIFE.
You can successfully grow in many different ways.
- You can become resilient.
- You can develop self regulation and mental discipline.
- You can generate more revenue.
- You can change your behavior.
- You can perform in a superior fashion.
- You can have greater intellectual skills.
- You can learn to manage your emotions.
- You can change your interpretation of time in space orientation from past to future.
- You can manage your reactions to others.
- You can be more influential in the fields, niches, and in the parts of life you choose.
The Growth Mind Set
The Growth Mind Set as Dr. Dweck refers to “it,” is … a State of Mind. Growth in any area requires a solid understanding of the strange concept of Comfort Zone.
Most top performers learn this from trial and error and an outstanding coach.
So will you.
Let’s get something straight.
Learning to “get out of your comfort zone” does NOT mean…
- to become action foolish
- to make unwise decisions
- to take uncalculated risks
- to behave in ways that alienate or harm the people you love or those you wish to influence.
- to abandon those you love and head out on a path to enlightenment.
There is a significant and dramatic difference between “getting out of YOUR comfort zone” and placing yourself and others at risk.
There is an obvious and simple logic to Gradient Risk Acceptance.
Gradient Risk Acceptance means that if one begins UFC style fighting today should NOT get in ring with the champ tomorrow.
Yes, you leave the Comfort Zone but…
Just because something is outside of your Comfort Zone does not imply that it is good for you or something that you should attempt.
“Here’s the comfort zone, here’s where the magic happens.”
It sounds cool. The artist began painting but didn’t have time to complete the picture. The point is made but it is missing all the remaining key components of getting Real Life Results.
Leaving the comfort zone has many characteristics.
First leaving that which is familiar or comfortable, is fully anxiety provoking to the individual.
Secondly, because the comfort zone is a state of mind and not a physical location, the evidence for the comfort zone being breached is experienced internally.
Example: You decide you need to start a workout program. You haven’t worked out in 20 years.
Today you do 20 pushups. 20 crunches. 20 dips.
It hurts. It’s not uncomfortable, it’s painful. It has no obvious reward. It’s definitely not comfortable.
You ventured outside of your comfort zone.
You put your foot in the water of another circle.
You come back to your comfort zone, with intentions to do it all again tomorrow.
But you don’t. And you won’t.
Obviously the workout story is a metaphor ANY situation where you hop out of your comfort zone then hop back in.
Leaving the comfort zone is not difficult.
Staying outside of the comfort zone is the hard part.
The 30 Day Plan: Completely Evacuating My Comfort Zone
The last few years I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe and a number of one month personal trips to Bulgaria.
99% of my trips abroad are for business.
On business trips, there is an interpreter on call every day.
There is a manager assigned to take care of the day to day stuff of the trip.
You stay at a 5 star hotel or the best the city has to offer.
You do your training or presentation.
You fulfill your obligations to meet with dignitaries and VIP’s at the event.
It’s all in the contract.
You go home.
That’s my traveling comfort zone.
Not the Bulgaria trips however.
One trip was one month of travel to a country of which I had 3 days with an interpreter. And the language of Bulgaria like a lot of Slavic languages is unforgiving.
One month in a noisy apartment. (Hadn’t done that since I was a kid.)
My comfort zone was a million miles away.
Every day the anxiety was there.
Don’t get me wrong. There were a number of awesome experiences!
3/4 of the days I was on my own, most of the time. That’s familiar back home but on the road? Not at all.
On the days I was working, writing articles for Coffee, I reminded myself that I needed to get out and explore. You can’t just travel half way across the planet and not be able to describe where you are.
Sometimes I’d head here in Sofia for a few hours and walk around and “feel” the city.
I got out and did just that.
Each day I’d trek just a little further away from the noisy apartment. (I will never stay in an apartment again…)
I learned about the culture, the people. I even taught the lady at the local convenience story some English words so she could do business with me… and so on.
By the end of the trip she was saying, “Thank you very much,” instead of bloggodaria mnogo. (Thank you very much in Bulgarian)
I’m not a fan of traveling in general. There are exceptions. I do like to give myself the best possible environment when I do travel. I like a beautiful suite with space to pace.
By staying out of my comfort zone, I learned an enormous amount about the country, it’s history, the citizens incredible pride in their nationality. I learned about their religion. I wanted to understand why they have the beliefs they do.
I learned what was loved and disliked about Americans. (I was referred to as “the foreigner” quite often. There aren’t a lot of American’s in Bulgaria. Blessedly, English is at least spoken at some level by younger people.
Now that I think I’ve made my last major trip to Bulgaria, I’ve come home understanding a small nation and what makes it’s people tick. I think I succeeded. Mostly because I asked a lot of questions, often very uncomfortable ones. But I learned.
Each day was like an experiment which made it more comfortable. (The experimental frame allowed me to have an illusion of control. We’ll talk about that another day.) I found it VERY uncomfortable to be without a phone for a month. I have phones. You have to answer them.
But I was very uncomfortable running around without one. Fascinating. I had no idea!
By the end of the month I had become tolerant of many of the challenges I had with unmanaged and non- 5 star travel.
I don’t plan on replicating the experience…no… but I did become familiar enough with the surroundings to enjoy the days, often a great deal. BG has a loveliness that is unique to itself. I met so many wonderful people there that today I’m biased to say it’s somewhere I’d like to go back to someday… and stay at the Raddison Blu.
Change your environment for long enough and you begin to adapt.
Practicing being in uncomfortable situations is helpful to change strategies that will work…!
Breaking a comfort zone ecologically means you MIGHT have a BREAKTHROUGH in life.
If you do decide you want to break out of a comfort zone, it all begins with “authenticity.”
Authenticity is about becoming who you want to become in an ecological fashion. It’s about recognizing your current selves, feelings and behaviors and knowing what you will do relative to those selves, feelings and behaviors in the future.
Authenticity is very much a BREAKTHROUGH concept. Authenticity means you are projecting an honest image of you forward while (if you so desire) CREATING something new as you evolve as a person. You aren’t necessarily growing at something you are ALREADY good at.
The Growth Mind Set is at the opposite end of the spectrum as The Fixed Mind Set. This is how Carol Dweck illustrates the point: (original graphic can be found at http://qedfoundation.org/fixed-vs-growth-mindsets/).
The growth mindset and fixed mindset are BOTH states of mind and nothing more or less. They can BOTH be changed!
Being authentic can become your experience of starting from ZERO (or close) and growing a new thread within your identity. In most cases it isn’t ecological or desirable to create an entirely new identity. That will make for the subject of another article on another day.
And whatever it is you do that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable for you, it is something at which you might “fail,” and almost certainly will, early on.
Making a breakthrough in life is making SOMETHING NEW within yourself.
Another example …
I’m a bit shy. I don’t go out a lot. I’d always wanted to get out but I wanted to do it in a way that made sense to me.
One way I made one breakthrough in reference to shyness was to become a professional speaker. I was careful to do it ecologically.
- It benefited me.
- It benefited my family in a dramatic fashion.
- It benefited the people I worked for in a significant way.
- I LEARNED an enormous amount about business, negotiation, influencing audiences and on and on.
- I went home at the end of the night to be part of a family that benefited both long and short-term.
That’s a break through.
Speaking is one example of one way to be ecologically authentic, make an impact on people, face a personal fear then go home and take care of the people you love.
Most people feel they are authentic. There is no measurement tool for authenticity or honesty, for that matter. There is no real tool for measuring integrity or even happiness. Such things don’t exist because the words mean different things to different people.
With that in mind, I’ve done therapy with and personally coached and consulted with a large number of people for a long time.
Most people, in my frame, are mostly inauthentic.
At first it was a startling revelation. Later it would become apparent why and I’ll share that with you next week.
“How are you?”
“Oh he’s good.”
“Oh they’re great.”
All of which is 100% inaccurate and closer to untrue than true on a spectrum of what is “real.”
Next time we’ll look at how to make this conversation more authentic, more real, more rich, more meaningful, very respectful, and all within the bounds of keeping your personal life private.
Then we’ll look at the more detailed economics involved in moving in and out of a Comfort Zone in a wise and well crafted fashion.
Comfort Zone Economics: Setting the right target, making the right choice and having the full support of those that matter most.
Reserve your spot now!
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