What is the comfort zone and how can you escape it?

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Smiling eyes of a girl with curly hair from under a blanket

For a great percent of people, waking up early in a grey, muggy morning is a huge effort. However, some athletes are already at dawn on the track running despite drizzling rain. Were they born so tough or are they made from Lonsdaleite?
Moreover, what is the answer for the phenomenon that in a risky situation we can perform over our limits and we feel the power like the heroes do, however, after some minutes when the threat has gone we are powerless again? 
Why are we able to cram every detail in front of the exam room’s door, furthermore, be so creative in an escape room like MacGyver on the screen?
The explanation begins with the phrase: Comfort zone...

What is a comfort zone?

According to psychological terms: “The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.” (Bardwick, 1991)

To Summarize, you are in the comfort zone when you feel nice and comfy: there is no hurry around you; you are not under pressure; everything is smooth. Usually, we try to ensure this condition throughout our everydays to be able to fulfill our daily routine. Comfort zone is not necessarily equal to doing nothing and just relaxing under the palm trees. The sizes of different people’s comfort zones are diverse, furthermore, the boundaries of them are changing during their lifetime. We have gotten the ability to extend it, at the same time, we have the right as well to diminish it.

Independently on its expanse, in the comfort zone you feel good, safe and more or less relaxed. You fulfill routine tasks which do not require any challenges, even, once upon a time, these routine “exercises” meant difficulties. Meeting with new things, tasks raises our stress level and brings us out of our comfort zone. For instance, trying out ourselves in an escape game could take us out from this convenient behavioral state.

As often we can overreach the borders of it, we are expanding its territory. In practice it means that the more spacious our comfort zone, the more things, tasks, activities become commonplace for us, so we can solve them without elevated stress level.

How do I know that I am still in the comfort zone, or at the borderline, maybe already out of it?

You can realize it without doubt. As soon as you feel that something requires more effort from you, you are approaching the borders. It doesn’t have to mean a 200/minute heartbeat. If you just have to boost up your brain cells in an exam situation or you have to perform under time pressure in an escape room, you are broadening this zone. When the expenditure process has ended, you will be definitely filled with happiness and satisfaction thanks to hormones like endorphins.

It means that to reach this result, this victorious feeling, every time you should exceed a bit more. This is the intrinsic motivation of humankind to develop and perform always at a higher level.

Brown shoes at the start line

“For me that’s enough!”

As times go by, we are getting more experienced and so called tired to look for new challenges. After a while, we just admire the kids and youth who can run, play and face difficulties without any effort. Once we were able to do the same. To be honest, everybody can do it any time since it’s a matter of choice.

Expanding your comfort zone is a learning process at the University of Life. As younger somebody, as curious they are. Due to the fact that for kids and teenagers a lot of things are still inexperienced they don’t know how difficult, dangerous or maybe tiring something could be. Maybe they have fear but they don’t know exactly what. Therefore, these young people are industriously expanding their limits through the Fear and Learning zone until the Growing zone day by day. This process brings about the borderlines of the one-time Growing zone becoming the boundaries of the new comfort zone. It is an exciting, challenging, adventurous, at the same time, hardworking process.

More mature people are conscious about it, therefore, they usually refuse to broaden further their comfort zone, which is totally not understandable for the excited children asking them to play together in an escape room.

Girl with curly, black hair reading magazine with a cup of coffee in a bed in relaxing mood

Why do I need to force my limits?

In some cases it’s an external must. We have to work, run at the P.E class, make a presentation in front of a great audience because of duties, obligations, according to the rules. Other times, we have the choice: “Do I prefer a daily training to a chestnut cake?” It is up to us, however, we should be conscious about the consequences of our decisions.

The intrinsic need to accomplish better and more is a human genetic heritance. According to the Maslow-pyramids, at the top of it stand: “Self-fulfillment”. We could be satisfied with our life if we will achieve our full potential. This level of needs is usually not compulsory to reach, however, to lead a mentally healthy life it is more than suggested. Psychological studies show correlations between depression, dissatisfaction and inactive, monotonous lifestyle. Moreover, those without challenging themselves regularly are prone to decline mentally earlier and more rapidly than their active mates.

Silhouette of a girl at the top of the mountain

How to make me escape from my comfort zone?

It might sound like a huge effort, however, as soon as you do the first steps you will realise that it's easy-peasy!  First of all, convince yourself that it is going to be beneficial for you! Secondly, discover the fact that this new challenge won’t last forever and after that you can return into your (already expanded) comfort zone if You wish. Thirdly, ask yourself: “What are my dreams?” “Do I want to miss the greatest experiences, advantages of life?”

Maybe, these are ineffective, let’s have a look at the Maslow-pyramid! To reach the top, prior, You have to ensure that the basics are solid. In the case of wolf-hunger, only the existence is already out of the comfort zone. Be always clear and honest with yourself, judge your situation and choice!

Stone stairs leading up to the top of a bastille

Tips for broadening the area of the comfort zone.

To expand your comfort zone, you don’t have to jump off the cliff on a bungee-jumping rope!  The progressive zone-broadening is the most beneficial, otherwise, you may receive a massive dose of experiences which get your motivation back. Go further step by step!

A beginning step could be for example playing in escape rooms! Getting there is a new thing, so You are already approaching the borderlines. Inside there, you will be closed in a room which could indicate frustration in a lot of people. Moreover, you will be under time pressure. You have to face difficulties, solve complicated problems. You can feel responsibility for your mates and the importance of your decisions.

However, nothing happens if you remain trapped in the room, the greatness of this kind of game is its real-like feature. It is a simulator of life preparing you without realizing it; it expands your limits and teaches you how to do it without putting any hard burden on you.

Hurrying in the morning and running to catch the bus, brings us definitely out of comfort. Nevertheless, lying in the sand on the beach under a palm tree sounds more attractive to our soul. Two different life situations with diverse attitudes inside. Both are needed and essential for a harmonious life, nevertheless, we should know the appropriate timing and portion of them.