“Before anything great is really achieved, your comfort zone must be disturbed.”
– Ray Lewis
Speaking is the utterance of words, communication is the delivery of words in a way that they can be understood by the listener in the way it was intended by the speaker.
Which one are you? A speaker or a communicator?
I constantly see “influencers” on social media discussing the following basic idea:
“Do something that scares you” or “Be uncomfortable”.
These are very important lessons, but like all lessons, they have their time, their place and their rules.
And like many other lessons, taken the wrong way can do more harm than good.
Meaning and Purpose:
The best way to answer this is with a story.
Pretend that you are just over a year old and your parents are trying to get you to learn to walk for the very first time. You don’t like this idea so much. You are used to crawling on all fours, limiting yourself to just your legs sounds uncomfortable.
Dad stands you on your two legs and lets go. Mom is about three yards away. Her arms are outstretched. She is begging you to walk to her and get a hug.
You want that hug more than you want anything else right now.
You want the comfort of being in mommy’s arms.
Slowly you take that first step, then the second step. You wobble a bit but never fall. It takes so so long, but eventually you walk that far distance and are now in the comfort of your mother’s arms.
The place where you want to be.
The place where all is safe.
The place where there is no growth.
You see, it was during those uncomfortable moments, that time when you were walking, you are growing. You were building new skills.
That stopped when mommy picked you up.
That’s the meaning of “leaving your comfort zone”. It means do things that add new skills to your repertoire.
Eventually the level of “scared” will become lower each time. It might even disappear.
Should I do everything that scares me?:
Doing something that scares you should be something that is goal oriented. The idea should be that you should develop a skill that you don’t yet have.
Therefore, when choosing to do something that scares you, make sure you ask yourself the following:
1. Am I hoping to attain anything from this, or is this just something to check off of the bucket list?
2. What skill/comfort am I hoping to attain from this and is this something I want to attain?
3. Am I starting at too high a level?
Example of Question 1 in action: skydiving.
I have a fear of heights. Skydiving scares me. Going skydiving won’t stop my fear of heights. I don’t want to work in any industry as a skydiver. So what will skydiving accomplish for me? Just that I told people that I once skydove. Nothing more, nothing less.
Not a very good return on an “outside your comfort zone” investment.
Example of Question 2 in action: illegal activities (let’s use arson as the example).
Being an arsonist scares people. They’re scared of the police. They’re scared of jail. They’re scared of their name being broadcast that they’re an arsonist.
Here, it is best to stay inside of their comfort zone, as the fear here is ok. The fear is what keeps them out of trouble.
The last thing one should want is to lose the fear that is stopping them from hurting property and people.
Another example of Question 2: firefighters.
Firefighters wear masks, oxygen and other equipment in order to protect themselves from the smoke, heat and fire.
To fight a major fire without equipment would be tremendously negligent.
Working with the equipment is comfortable, working with it on is not.
It would not be wise for this fireman to do something that fears him (i.e. working without his protective gear) as this fear is what motivates him to work responsibly.
Example of Question 3: e.g. learning to drive.
This is probably the biggest mistake I see people make when leaving their comfort zone.
They go too far away from it, too quickly.
Here is the example: You are learning to drive. You know how a car works, you’ve seen plenty of people use them. But this is your first time on the road. You don’t know how the car responds to your maneuvers. You have no experience using your mirrors.
This is will be your first time ever driving, and you’ll be driving in NASCAR’s signature race, the Daytona 500.
If you take the uncomfortable to the extreme, it will backlash. It will be more traumatic than educational.
So go ahead, increase your skills by doing uncomfortable things, but wisely choose WHICH things and HOW you will be doing them.
Stay away from uncomfortable things that will lead nowhere, that will lead to recklessness or will lead to more fear.
Finally, when spreading the message of expanding horizons by doing things that scare oneself, make sure your audience both knows what you mean and the above rules.
It could easily be the difference between life and death.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.
You can email Yisroel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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