Beyond the Comfort Zone – Stepping Outside Our Old Programming
We all have a Comfort Zone. The boundaries are defined by our beliefs, values, expectations and habits of thinking & behaving.
These are limitations which we have learned, through our culture, families, schools, peer group, social media etc. etc. Whilst there can be some comfort in the familiar and predictable, the comfort zone can become a prison – a barrier to learning, trying new things, as well as setting and achieving our goals.
Whilst they may seem real, the barriers do not exist in reality, they are mental constructs. The good news is, that since we have learned them, we can unlearn them.
A Story about Baby Elephants
This is a story about elephants and their owners in Africa. Look at an adult elephant; it can easily uproot huge trees with its trunk.
When an elephant living in captivity is still a baby, it is tied to a tree with a strong rope or a chain every night. Because it is the nature of elephants to roam free, the baby elephant instinctively tries with all its might to break the rope. But it isn’t yet strong enough to do so. Realising its efforts are of no use, it finally gives up and stops struggling. The baby elephant tries and fails many times, it will never try again for the rest of its life.
Later, when the elephant is fully grown, it can be tied to a small tree with a thin rope. It could then easily free itself by uprooting the tree or breaking the rope. But because its mind has been conditioned by its prior experiences, it doesn’t make the slightest attempt to break free. The powerful elephant has limited its present abilities by the limitations of the past.
Human beings are exactly like the elephant except for one thing—We can CHOOSE not to accept the false boundaries and limitations created by the past…
How our Comfort Zone determines how we behave
When we learn anything new, or are faced with a challenge, we are being asked to step outside our known world, into the unknown.
A common challenge we have all faced at some time is starting a conversation with a stranger. We take in information about them through our senses. This sensory input is then filtered through our existing programmes in order to give it meaning. If we have beliefs such as:
- I am a dull person
- People don’t like me
- I’m no good at speaking to strangers
- He/she won’t like me
Then we are going to have a negative physiological reaction, we may blush, get tongue-tied, break out in a cold sweat, or stat to have palpitations as our heart rate speeds up. This will produce behaviours that are not conducive to a positive interaction – we may even run away! Even worse, we have now collected another piece of evidence to strengthen our belief that we are no good at talking to strangers.
Contrast this with someone who is great at talking to strangers. What do you think they believe about themselves and other people? What are their behaviours likely to be as a result?
How can Coaching Help?
Coaching is one way to help ourselves and others to grow and develop beyond our comfort zones. Setting goals and planning small steps towards achieving them is just one way to avoid triggering anxiety.
If you are interested in learning how coaching can be used in the workplace, why not join us for our next free Introduction to Coaching in the workplace session.
If you would like to develop yourself, we have our new ACT course, a 10 week evening class for those who want to identify their vision for the future, set (and achieve) goals and overcome any limitations.