Mary Schmid, Business Coach


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The Comfort Zone Trap

September 2012

The Comfort Zone Trap
comfort zone [com·fort zone]: a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress

“A man grows most tired standing still.”  Chinese Proverb

These last two months have been amazing with meeting lots of new people through presenting workshops, facilitating small business initiative groups, meeting with my mentoring group in California, and being a panelist on a television show.

When I think about these experiences, I wonder how did this all come about?   It came about because I was willing to get out of my comfort zone.  And I have some interesting learning along the way that I want share with you because often the reason for staying in the comfort zone lies with us. The only way out is our personal development and getting into action.

What is a comfort zone?  It is that place where you are comfortable with your work and life habits.  Experts define it as an anxiety-neutral condition.  (Like your favorite worn out slippers you go back to time and time again, even though you have new ones in the closet!)   The same behaviors give the same results, there is not much risk, and it is easier to “play it safe and not rock the boat. “ We all have our own comfort zone.  Our brains are wired in such a way that there are built in mechanisms that regulate our tolerance for anxiety, risk, and discomfort.  When events occur outside this safety zone we retreat back to where it is safe.  It’s human nature.

The problem with staying in the comfort zone is that it can be costly and dangerous.  This comfortable zone limits us from seeing possibilities and options of what is out there.  It insulates us into thinking good is good enough.  It limits our happiness in life and business.  By not stretching out of this comfort zone we will be in the same place tomorrow, next month, and next year.  That’s where I was at a few months ago.

Safe and secure, business and life was good, but that was not enough.  I was not stepping into exciting possibilities that were out there.

I am going to share with you the steps I used to get out of the comfort zone.

1.) Become aware of being in the comfort zone.  I reviewed the goals I had set and with the support from my mentor, took an honest look at the progress.  The set routine was good, but there was little progress beyond that!

2.) Made a list of activities that I was comfortable with.  No problem.

3.) Asked myself the question, what would be outside this comfort zone, things that I have been avoiding or delaying because it involved risk.  Risk to me was doing something I had not done before and I actually got anxious even thinking about it!

4.) Cleared the BS.  The Blocks to Success.  That was taking an honest look at my own fears, my limited thinking, and the crazy assumptions I was making about getting into action.  Seriously, how can we say something will not work (the assumption) when you have not even tried it.

5.) Told other people what I was doing it.  Once the thoughts got out into words, there was no avoiding it.  And the support and encouragement from others helped me stay on track.

6.) Worked with the end in mind.  Once I took the leap to commit to doing it, I wrote down one thing I would do everyday to edge me out of the comfort zone, and moved forward.  What I discovered, it the big project I had avoided doing was now manageable.

7.) Feeling confident about little steps makes it so much easier to step into the next activity, project, or goal. 

8.) Working with a mentor.  I needed help to stay on top of my game, and hired a coach. Someone who has my interest and progress as their top concern, and holds me accountable when I slip back into just doing the easy stuff and staying in the comfortable zone, because it happens.  We are all human!