Contradictory to what most people might tell you, the comfort zone as it’s called has a purpose. It has been serving that purpose from the beginning of time – making sure that only the fit survive.
The name of that purpose is evolution.
The comfort zone is a state of safety. We are content with our environment because it provides everything we need to sustain our current situation without much hassle. But what happens when the environment changes? What happens when our needs are not being met?
Our early ancestors faced a huge climate change 2.5 million years ago. They couldn’t secure enough energy and nutrition from the plants available so they changed their diet and started consuming meat. That required a whole new set of skills that pushed our ancestors outside of their comfort herbivore zone and changed their nature to fully-fledged omnivores.
Those who evolved became the active, sociable, intelligent creatures we are today, those who didn’t can be found in your local university’s fossil records department.
How did they do it? How did they get out of the comfort zone to survive?
1# Necessity and circumstance
The worst (and still most efficient) way to get out of the comfort zone is by giving someone else the power to kick you out of it. When there’s no other choice, we face the music or break.
Let’s take the “getting fired is probably the best thing that ever happened to you” cliché. The cold hard truth is that you are now without a job, searching for a way to make ends meet. On the one hand, this looks pretty grim since your livelihood is at risk. On the other hand, you might treat it as an opportunity to evolve and do something else, totally different.
If you’ll succeed, you may have a lifestyle that other people dream of and a nice story to tell the folks in the nursing home. If you’ll fail, you’ll probably end up with debt looking for openings as a guard at the nearest mall.
Not a safe way to get out of your comfort zone. But then again, nobody said that doing something great is not without its price…
2# It didn’t happen at once
Oops, no more vegies to eat, now what? Our ancestors didn’t’ start to be hunter/gatherers immediately. First, after losing the luscious green environment, they starved a bit, hanging to what greenery they could find. Eventually they wondered the land in their search for food. Then desperation hit, and they started to scavenge for meat, consuming it from dead animals because they didn’t know how to hunt. Only after many years, they developed enough to go on hunting trips with the required tools and techniques for that highly sought after hunter/gatherer lifestyle.
Like our ancestors, you don’t need to change your habits immediately. If you have a hunch that you’re in need for change, or your environment is about to change, don’t wait until the last possible moment.
Go out of your comfort zone little by little. Manage the risk involved in getting out of your comfort zone using baby steps. The idea is taken straight out of the world of finance but can be applied to an unstable work environment. For instance: you can take night courses and ease yourself into a new profession instead of waiting for the “pink sheet” that will send you to the unemployment lines.
Take the phased approach out of your comfort zone…for increased comfort :)
3# It’s a work in progress
Once established in their new environment and developing tools and culture, our ancestors continued to explore, invocate and evolve. They never dwelled on picking only the low hanging fruits because those disappeared too fast; they had to constantly reinvent themselves to survive otherwise they were left behind.
To make sure that you won’t get left behind you need to develop constantly. Failure should never deter, it should motivate. You are that much closer to success. Today, if you stand still, or are happy with the status quo, you are actually getting left behind.
The human race never stopped exploring and challenging its boundaries. So, don’t fix it if it ain’t broken – Keep exploring!