What a nasty term … ‘Comfort Zone’ – it sounds so nice, and yet its negative connotation is hefty: “how dare you be comfortable?”, “don’t settle!”, “stop being lazy and get going!”, “what are you waiting for?” … and so on. Loud and clear!
So … what’s wrong with it? The short answer is: nothing … per se – if you are absolutely ok with where you are in life. You wake up, reality kicks in … and you are happy with your life as it is, you wouldn’t change a thing.
That’s not me. I certainly have many parts of my life working well and parts I even love and am happy with (yes, my dog would be one, which is completely beside the point, sorry). For the most part, though, I am curious about and eager to explore what else life has in store for me.
And yet, again and again, when reflecting on situations and my (non-)actions, I find myself realizing that, even though I am envisioning a given situation differently, I have in fact accepted certain situations as they are, whether it’s the level of income, other people’s behavior, my career, what I have accomplished in life (and what not) … the list goes on.
Wikipedia defines Comfort Zone as
“A comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and (perceive they are) in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.”Wikipedia
Note that it does not say “… a steady level of high performance …”
So then, why is the negative connotation bugging us so much? Because we know that we can do better. When I know that I can do better and I don’t do anything about it (i.e., accepting the less than desired circumstances) I am left unfulfilled and disappointed about myself. And who wants to admit that?!
In the same article quoted above, Wikipedia defines the “Optimal Performance Zone” outside the Comfort Zone.
Yes, the Comfort Zone is not necessarily a good turf for high performance. We get our stuff done and that’s about it. We get by. Period. Nothing spectacular happening in the Comfort Zone – which is why it really should be called Mediocrity Zone (*)
Every athlete knows this concept. You don’t get in shape by going to the gym when you feel like it (in my case that would be once or twice a year, max) or doing just the same standard program every time. You become an excellent skier by skiing over and over again. Pushing yourself to try those moves again, every time you fail or lose a race.
Business is no different.
The real problem with the Mediocrity Zone is that life kinda works in that zone. Kinda. Just not great, spectacular, or outrageous. Habits are mostly running the show.
I’m not encouraging you to go out now and start “fixing” every area of your life which you don’t experience as spectacular. What I suggest is simply to look and reflect. Be honest with yourself. Where have you accepted mediocrity in your life – and make peace with it.
Why is this critical? Making peace with how things are in those areas that are not important to you leaves you space and energy to focus on those areas that actually are important to you and where you want to excel, whether it’s finances, sex, your house, your travel experiences, etc.
Since this is a business site, let’s focus on that for the remainder of this article.
Take a piece of paper (or a whiteboard) and write up a list of areas that make up your business. That list is a very individual view. Your list most likely will look very different from mine. The most important aspect of that list is that the items should be specific, i.e., “Finances” would be too generic as there are many, many aspects that make up finances, e.g., revenue, profit, the financial reporting, etc.
Then draw two columns and title them in a way that empower you. The areas in the first column you leave alone. The areas in the second column are the ones you want to focus your energy and activity on.
You can do that exercise by yourself or with your team.
Comment below about your findings, questions and/or feedback
(*) I was introduced to this term recently by a friend, i.e., long story short, I am not the originator and I don’t know who is.