The Comfort Zone and Change

Photo of a woman in business attire, long dark hair, on the phone, and crammed into a very small box with a laptop on her lap and a full trashcan beside her.We’ve all heard it.

“Get out of your comfort zone!”

And (absurdly), “Get comfortable being out of your comfort zone!”

It’s considered the bare minimum, Captain-Obvious-level advice for anyone who wants to change, grow, and succeed.

(As a side point, I consider the second directive to “get comfortable” outside the comfort zone to be ridiculous. If you’re comfortable, then by definition you’re not outside the comfort zone. Yes, I have a certain nitpicky approach to language.)

Anyway. What I’m really getting at is that the so-called “comfort zone” is often anything but comfortable.

Yes, it’s where we’ve been for a long time, and because we’ve been there for a long time, it’s familiar. It might be uncomfortable and miserable, but it’s familiar and therefore safe, as opposed to the uncertainty of the unknown. Even when we suspect that the unknown might be a whole lot better than where we are today.

Change isn’t comfortable. Change pushes us into unfamiliarity, uncertainty, and all the anxiety that comes with that. Change requires us to step out of the familiar zone and into unknown territory. Because even when the change is meticulously planned out, it’s still uncertain and unknown – i.e., unfamiliar.

This shift in perspective, from “comfort zone” to “familiar zone,” is important for change leaders and their teams. It resets expectations, and draws attention to the fact that “how things are today” may not actually be all that … comfortable. 

And the trite admonition to “get out of your comfort zone” is more likely to inspire eye-rolls than active participation in your change initiative.

Clearly, this is only one piece of a much larger picture when it comes to creating successful, sustainable change. But it’s an important piece, and one that change leaders often overlook.

Curious about this – or anything within that “larger picture” of creating change? Contact me and we’ll set a time to talk about it!