Words to Grow By

Growth often happens when you are challenged and choose to leave your comfort zone.

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “get out of your comfort zone?”  Hopefully the context was coming from a supportive friend or loved one and not peer pressure or manipulation.  I’m sure we can all come up with great reasons for intentionally choosing to be uncomfortable in order to achieve some gain.

The concept of comfort zone emerged in the mid 90’s, and puts language to how we make choices whether or not to engage in challenging situations.  Comfort Zone describes that happy place where you are relatively at ease, peaceful, and well, …comfortable.  Knowing what makes up your comfort zone is helpful when you need to find peace and tranquility.

However, if we become addicted to comfort, then can easily become stagnate or bored.  Take a couple of steps beyond the comfort zone and you are entering what’s known as your growth zone or challenge zone.  These are areas of life, decisions, situations, perhaps difficult conversations that are well beyond your typical day to day comfort inducing situations and relationships.  It might be a new experience or stepping out into a career change.  For someone dealing with mental illness, it may mean trying a new type of treatment or deciding to pursue treatment for the first time.

There are many things in life that one can accomplish in the growth zone that can’t be done otherwise.  If you have a significant other, think about the time you were dating.  It probably wasn’t just a bed of roses was it?  How about asking him or her out for the first date?

Boundaries For Pushing Yourself

When pursuing challenging situations in the scope of our growth zone, it’s important to remember that the boundaries between comfort and growth are not static, they are ever changing, typically growing the more we challenge ourselves and shrinking if we choose not to leave the comfort zone.

The outlier in the comfort zone model is the panic zone, which is a perimeter outside of the growth zone.  When someone is in the panic zone, they are more concerned with fight or flight than growing and learning.  Although some productive things may happen in the panic zone, chances are long-lasting results are not being achieved because of the extreme stress that is experienced.

Knowing how to manage your own personal growth, set goals, and overcome obstacles by choosing to leave your comfort zone on a regular basis will empower you to take control of mental illness rather than allowing it to control you.

Consider the following questions:  What are the people, places, and things that compose your comfort zone?  When was the last time you made a choice to enter your growth zone in a relationship, in your career, or with other personal goals for your life?  Do you have a solid support structure if you find yourself in a panic?