Blog: What is your comfort zone? And do you really have to step outside it?

Marion Nicolson, the teacher in Room 5, has written a super blog all about a subject that might make some of us cringe with the very thought of doing it. Let us know how you do it, if you dare!


It’s one of those phrases that’s used a lot. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it. Wikipedia describes your comfort zone as “a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”

We each have our own comfort zone, our own behavioural state which is anxiety neutral. It’s that space where you coast along, you feel happy, you’re content, you’re doing your thing, and you are anxiety neutral.

And then someone comes along and suggests that you step out of this zone, that you challenge yourself, that you do something different. In short, they want you to increase your anxiety level so that you are no longer anxiety neutral. Why would you want to do that?!

Maybe you don’t want to. Maybe you are happy in your anxiety neutral state, thank you very much. My question to you is – is that really living or is it just existing?

When you do step out of your comfort zone what actually happens? If being in your comfort zone means that you are in an anxiety neutral state, stepping outside of that implies that you raise those anxiety levels. Surely increasing your anxiety sounds like something that you should avoid. Could that increase my blood pressure? Could that make me ill? Surely that’s not the right thing to do? However, doing that can actually have a positive consequence. When our anxiety levels are raised it can cause an enhanced level of focus and concentration. We achieve more by pushing ourselves. Of course, the danger is that if we push ourselves too much the anxiety levels and stress rise too much and so it has a detrimental effect. But pushing ourselves just the right amount can have amazing consequences. If people never pushed themselves just think of the theories, inventions, cures, performances, decisions, discoveries that would never be made. The list could be endless.

Of course, not everyone will want to go outside their comfort zone. It can be hard work. It’s pretty scary.

It can be done passively – going to the theatre to see Shakespeare when it’s not really your thing (done to keep your partner happy!), watching a movie that you think you’ll have no interest in (because someone you know wants to go but has no one to go with) and other such events.

You can also be an active participant in stepping outside your comfort zone when you have little choice in the matter – chairing a meeting at work because a promotion means that you have to, organising a conference as part of your work, speaking in front of colleagues, writing letters to people regarding their employment, confronting people whose work is not up to standard. These could be seen as the necessary evils of our jobs. We have no choice if we wish to still be employed.

Your children are put in that kind of position, usually on a daily basis. We challenge children every day to go one step further, to reach the next goal, to take the next learning step. They have no choice. We push them, cajole them, guide them, teach them. Whichever way you would like to phrase it, we push them outside of their comfort zones. Every day. Maybe that’s just part of their and our job.

Of course we could choose to step outside our comfort zones. Just because we can. Just because we feel that living means challenging ourselves. Just because it’s a way of showing that you are more capable that people give you credit for. Just so that we can simply experience what it’s like to be outside our comfort zones. Just so we can then identify with, and understand, those who are pushed outside of theirs.

What is your comfort zone? Step outside of it. Go on, you know you want to.