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Comfort zones

How can comfort be a bad thing?


If you ever watch the vile bully Alan Sugar in full flow on his game show, The Apprentice, he talks a lot about taking the contestants out of their "comfort zone". The man is clearly an obnoxious bully but in this regard he may actually be on to something in terms of the virtue of shaking things up a little.

The comfort zone is defined as that place you go to mentally that can be triggered by a certain meditation or experience of something that induces a sense of calm. In a work situation you can see how the comfort zone could be regarded as a bad thing as it is or could be akin to complacency. Certainly Usain Bolt would not be the fastest man in history if he was in a comfort zone 5 minutes before a race. A Polish psychologist called Catherine Wesolowska studying this from the university of Warsaw has written an article based on her on-going research that is quite arresting in that it breaks down the 2 aspects to the so called comfort zone. There are essentially two strands and both need to be recognised for the value they bring.

The strands are the unconscious and the conscious. It's actually the unconscious that has the most value and includes the simplest of things like positioning yourself in your office or home where you feel most relaxed, or how you are sitting, how well or generally content you are in a moment in a passive sort of way that contributes to your state where you can think and act pro-actively. Maybe you have your favourite warm drink to hand while you work. Its these tiny factors that keeps you better equipped to apply yourself in a way that assists development.

The other comfort zone is of course the conscious one. Here you are essentially in a form of auto-pilot and content in a way that you are very aware of, it may encompass being with people who make you laugh or entertain you to some degree, or anything that makes you overtly happy. The problem with this is its simply not challenging if you spend too much of your time in this state. This was tested extensively and those people who were given the chance to spend time on facebook or actually engage in an activity that was new or challenging, and was strongly linked to how successful they were in other aspects of their life in terms of education and earnings. Sounds ominously like common sense but the research continues and is now analysing the time spent proportionately to ones level of success and ones time in the comfort zone.
The point here is not to discourage people from their comforts but perhaps more to point-out that too much time spent listening to the same music, films, soaps, or being with the same people does erode one's ability and opportunity to develop as a person. Which is something which may not have occurred to some people.


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