We need to spend more time IN our comfort zones.
There, I said it.
In the self-improvement culture we live in, we're constantly advised to shore up our weaknesses and do things that are out of our comfort zone. It's apparently the magic path to success, riches, and enlightenment.
And I think it might be robbing the world of the best we have to offer.
Of course there is a pearl of wisdom in this adage. Trying new things is a great way to grow, build courage and collect wonderful experiences. But it also has the potential to lead us astray. Here are a few pitfalls:
It can trick us into thinking that we can be self-sufficient.
Its easy to get caught up believing that we can achieve anything, provided we're brave enough to step out of our comfort zone and take it. But we were designed to rely on each other. That means nobody is great at everything. Each person is great at some things, okay at most things, and terrible at others. Although it goes against the myth of the self-made hero, we're most efficient when we're using our strengths to help others achieve their goals while relying on other people's gifts to achieve ours.
It can subtly send the message that we're not good enough.
No matter how big our comfort zone is, it's always too small. There's ALWAYS something else we're afraid of, uncertain about, or uncomfortable with. I could spend all my time running on the treadmill of expanding my comfort zone, trying new experiences that scare me. I could go streaking. I could sky dive. I could eat snails. I could go deep sea diving and play pinochle with sharks. I'm sure I'd collect some cool stories, but at the end of the day, what have I built? What value have I added to the world?
It can downplay our strengths.
We have a level of comfort with the things we kick butt at. Give me a paintbrush, some tubes of paint, and a blank canvas, and I am in my comfort zone. Slide me under a car to change the oil…not so much. Sure, I could step out of my comfort zone and learn how to fix and maintain my own car. But try as I might, I'll never be more than a mediocre car mechanic. The world's all stocked up on mediocre, but it could always use more greatness.
I believe that we're called to be great. And the only way I know how to be great is to spend a LOT of time doing something you're already pretty good at. There are no shortcuts. Spending a lot of time expanding your comfort zone is an excellent way to collect stories, but it can also be distraction that keeps you from focusing on what it takes to become great.
I'm not convinced that the comfort zone is the enemy we sometimes make it out to be. Perhaps it's there to give us a clue as to how we should be really spending our time. Maybe we should actually be spending more time IN our comfort zones.
What do YOU think?