How Your Comfort Zone Is Holding Your Organization Hostage

“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” -William Shedd

Our comfort zones are protective boundaries we construct over time. Most of our boundaries were imposed long ago for self-protection and have become coping strategies. We all use the coping strategies we have personally designed to keep us safely in our comfort zones. We do the same thing in our organizations.

Unfortunately, our comfort zones can hold us and our organizations back from realizing our potential.

Your comfort zone determines your ability and willingness to adapt to change and deal with uncertainty. Pushing past what is known requires great self-awareness and courage. Naturally, there are obstacles that stand in the way and hold us hostage in our comfort zone.

3 Obstacles To Breaking Out Of Your Comfort Zone

1. Fear

We have physical, emotional, and psychological comfort zones. When we approach the top edge of one of our comfort zones and become increasingly uncomfortable (because we are about to leave our “Known Zone”) we tend to offer up lots of excuses, reasons, and justifications.

We rationalize giving just a little bit less than our very best because we’re scared so we play it safe. We get to look good to everyone else, and we get to maintain our image – the part we want others to believe of us that we don’t believe of ourselves.

2. Instincts

When we get close to the edge of our comfort zone, there are discernible physiological effects. These are the symptoms of stress, created by our bodies in fight or flight. Have you ever felt your heart rate increase when you were under stress, felt your hands get cold or clammy or your face become flushed? These are the same universal symptoms that we discussed in the previous chapter. We cannot avoid, escape, or quash these symptoms. We cannot outrun or outsmart them. They are our body’s way of warning us that we are about to leave the “Known Zone”. Remember to BREATHE!

We can pay attention to when and why they occur, learn from that, and methodically and intentionally, stretch our comfort zone.

3. Emotions

There are also emotional results when we near the edge of our comfort zone.

We may become angry, withdrawn, scared, or sad. Some of us use humor to relieve the tension. Intellectually, we respond with excuses and reasons why we can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t do something if it is outside our comfort zone.

A Comfortable Prison

These protective barriers become our prisons over time. Our patterned responses go to work to help us deal with the discomfort. They kick in at unwanted moments. We don’t think about it; it just happens!

Some of us have built iron fences in our lives, holding us captive and preventing us from achieving the things we desperately want but are afraid to venture out to claim. If you could break free of your comfort zone, think of what you might discover, accomplish, become. What’s waiting for you outside your self-imposed fences?

These are your dreams, your hopes, and goals.

Being comfortable isn’t a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with feeling safe. It only becomes an issue when you let your comfort become the reason for your lack of fulfillment.

You can’t have it both ways.

How To Break Free From Your Comfort Zone

Fear can be a powerful motivator. If you are relying on fear to push you, you are using the bottom of their comfort zone. This method of motivation may be effective in the short term, but proves exhausting over time and threatens your ability to develop resilience.

There is a less stressful and a less costly motivation than using fear, and that is to stay focused on what you want, long term.

The only thing that will get us beyond the discomfort of our fear-based boundaries is a very clear sense of what you want and why it’s important to you. Knowing and holding tight to your purpose is the only way to break through the top of your comfort zone.

The same is true for your organization. Every day, organizations are pushed outside their comfort zone. It is critical to recognize when this happens because there is only one way out. An organization and its leadership team MUST be in complete alignment with a clearly articulated purpose if they are to make the kinds of shifts required in today’s market. They must be able to quickly identify when they are approaching the boundaries of their comfort zone, so they can “double down” and focus if they need to break out of it.

Don’t let your comfort zone hold you or your organization back from realizing your potential. Endless possibilities are waiting on the other side of your comfort zone.

If your leaders or organization can benefit from learning to recognize the boundaries of comfort zones and the path to break out of them, call us. It’s what we do!