Think about the most formative season of your life – the last time you learned a worldview-shaping lesson and made strides toward growth. Were you comfortable? Were you surrounded by the familiar? Or were you pushed past your boundaries into uncharted territory?
Merriam-Webster defines the comfort zone as “the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity.” In the comfort zone, there is little adversity. There is little stress.
And there is no growth.
John Maxwell’s definition of the comfort zone clarifies why it’s a dangerous place for those who want to experience personal growth: “doing the same things in the same ways with the same people at the same time and getting the same results and then asking the same question—‘Why?’”
It’s natural for us to seek the security we find in our comfort zone. But security sabotages our efforts to grow. Development begins when we step outside of our comfort zone and into our growth zone.
Principles to Help You Grow Out of Your Comfort Zone
Let’s take a look at a few principles that will help you understand how to grow when you find yourself out of your comfort zone, as well as some reasons to purposely put yourself outside of it.
DON’T LOSE THE TENSION
One of John Maxwell’s 15 invaluable laws of growth is the Law of the Rubber Band: Growth stops when you lose the tension between where you are and where you could be. Rubber bands only fulfill their purpose when they are stretched.
In the comfort zone, there is no conflict to overcome. We lack an incentive to grow. When there is tension between our present and our future, we pursue new heights – and then, our comfort zone expands.
STRETCH WITH INTENTION
Growth requires you to stretch, but that stretch must come with intention. We often endeavor to grow in areas of weakness. But when we are stretched in areas of weakness, we get intimidated. When we are stretched in areas of strength, we get challenged, motivated, and inspired.
Stretching in your areas of strength will leverage the skill you already have to compound your growth.
MAKE IMPORTANT CHOICES
Our choices lead directly to our results, and consistency compounds. Consistently choosing bigger, better, and bolder than our own comfort zone yields growth.
Make those choices in advance. When you know what you prioritize – comfort or growth? safety or progress? – you take the weight of decision-making off of the moment when you’re confronted with the thing that “scares” you.
Any choice outside of your comfort zone can seem unmanageable – but big changes are just small changes made over time.
Start with one thing that gets you to step outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be extreme. It can be as simple as looking someone in the eyes and saying hello or asking a question you’ve never asked before. An easy way to start this is by making a list of things that scare you, interest you, challenge you, etc. Then add actions to each item that will add a bit of growth-defining tension.
FIND YOUR PURPOSE
In the book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl documents his time in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. He observes that the difference between those who perished and those who survived was a sense of purpose. The survivors usually had a clear purpose or goal that they were striving to achieve. His account conveys that life is always more compelling when we have something to live for.
This is true even today. A sense of purpose, and knowing that purpose, is like fuel to keep you living—and even thriving—outside of your comfort zone.
MOVE FROM SUCCESS TO SIGNIFICANCE
Once you’ve tasted significance, success will no longer satisfy. The true key to significance is to live for others. Once you get beyond yourself (and live beyond yourself) by helping others achieve their dreams, you’ll never want to go back. Involving other people in your growth is always an exercise in living out of your comfort zone.
Looking for daily help stepping outside your comfort zone?
Growth can’t happen until you take the first step outside the safety circle. Maxwell Leadership wants to equip you to take it. The Maxwell Leadership app is free to download and full of leadership insights and practical action steps to help you stretch from today into tomorrow.