The Big Idea
Growth happens outside of your comfort zone.
Questions I Answer
- How can I make a big change?
- What is my comfort zone?
- How do I get unstuck?
- How can I get more comfortable with risk?
Actions to Take
- Asses and reflect: See if you’re in your comfort zone, and ask yourself the questions I’ve mentioned in this episode.
- Change your mindset by swapping OR for AND. For example, change “I am a mom OR I can chase my dream of owning a business.” to, “I am a mom AND I am building my business while my kids are at school or asleep.”
- This week’s questions for you: What is scaring you now, and where is it you want to go outside of your comfort zone?
Key Topics in the Show
How it feels to be in your comfort zone and why it’s not the best place for us to live long term.
Signs you should look out for to see if you’re stuck in the comfort zone.
The main reasons why it’s so hard to get out of our comfort zone, and solutions to each issue you may be having.
How to make yourself take the plunge by sculpting uncomfortable situations to make them a bit more comfortable.
What optimal controlled anxiety is, and how it pushes us in the direction of the life we want to live.
Welcome to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press, a podcast focused on finding success and happiness through the power of productivity. Each season Tanya focuses on specific strategies to help you discover your own priorities and purpose. Season five is all about investing in you. You can also join Tanya for more interaction and support in her free Facebook group at inkwellpress.com/group. Now here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host Tanya Dalton owner of inkWELL Press and this is episode 54. Today’s podcast is brought to you buy Audible. I’ll be sharing later in the show how you can get a free audiobook download. First I want to ask you a question, are you too comfortable? I’m asking this question because I feel like for many people we get into this level of comfort and it feels okay, it doesn’t feel amazing, it doesn’t feel fabulous, maybe it’s not terrible, but it’s kind of okay. I think that’s not really the life that you are wanting to live. As you know, this season is all about investing in you. I want to talk to you about stretching beyond your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is the space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and a pattern. It’s a state of mental security that provides low anxiety and reduced stress. The word comfort zone originated in around 1908. Psychologist Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance. In other words, living a life in relative comfort allows you to keep moving forward one day after the next.
It was later found that we also need a state of optimal anxiety in order to maximize our performance, in other words, to not live but to really push ourselves to live our best life. This is just enough anxiety to push us to work harder but not too much anxiety to cause the stress that makes us unproductive. It’s our natural tendency to return to an anxiety neutral state, which is our comfort zone. This is not a good thing or a bad thing, you need to recognize when you’re in the zone. I think this is the problem I really have with that idea of balance. I hear that term work life balance all the time in the productivity industry and it makes me want to pull my hair out because we don’t really want balance. If everything in life is perfectly balanced, you’re not moving anywhere, you’re standing still. In order to make strides in any area of your life, don’t you need to put in more effort? Don’t you need some imbalance? Think of it like a bike, you need balance to ride a bike right? That’s great as long as you want to keep moving forward in the same direction on that same line.
If you want to move in any real direction, let’s say you want to turn left or right, you have to shift your balance in order to move in that direction. You need imbalance to move in the direction you want to go. This imbalance this shift is what allows you to move. Then of course you have to shift back. If you continue to lean in that same direction, you’ll eventually fall over. You’ve got to counterbalance. In order to move in the direction of anything of importance, we need to lose that idea of balance. Lose the idea of comfort so we can move in the direction that we really want to go. How do you know if you’re feeling a little too comfortable in that comfort zone? Here’s a couple of signs that maybe it’s time for you to get out of your comfort zone. You’re unhappy but you don’t know why. Everything’s working as it should be but you want
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more out of life. You’re not happy because things are ordinary and you want something different. You doubt yourself. Doubt is not a sign that you’re on the wrong path. Often this means you need to go towards that idea. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you really try.
Maybe your life feels stagnant, you’re not growing and you don’t see growth in your future. Even though everything’s working for you, you’ve basically become bored with your situation. You can’t remember the last time you tried something new. When was the last time that you were challenged? When did you last have an adrenaline rush from chasing something that you really wanted? You’ve become so laid back that you let the world pass by. You say no when you’re asked to do something new or inconvenient. New things seem risky and uncomfortable for you so you automatically turn down any new experience. Maybe you procrastinate often. You keep waiting for the perfect conditions, which never come so you never take any action. Something’s holding you back but you’re not really willing to do anything about it, everything will happen someday. The last sign, you’re constantly using words like if and when. You also use words like can’t and won’t. The way we talk can have a large impact on us actually taking action and they can limit us because here’s the deal, situations that are important to us professionally but are personally uncomfortable, they’re everywhere. Speaking up in meetings, expanding your network, making small talk with strangers, trying new things, unfortunately these can feel a little bit unpleasant because they’re out of our comfort zone, but they’re so necessary.
Comfort kills productivity especially without a bit of that optimal anxiety that we talked about from things like deadlines and expectations. That’s when we tend to do the minimum required and we’re not really living our life to the fullest. I get it, leaving your comfort zone is difficult. It feels well uncomfortable right? Why is it that leaving our comfort zone is so difficult? First of all, we fall into the work trap and that makes ourselves appear busy so that we can stay in our comfort zones and we can avoid doing new things. The work trap is a procrastination technique that allows you to stay in your comfort zone while feeling or at least seeming productive. You fall into it because you have so much work to do so you say no to other activities that might be beneficial. This can include things that are new or scary like meeting someone new, going to a group meet up, putting off replying to important emails. Doing work and staying busy is easy in comparison to these activities that would actually push you towards your goals. It’s familiar and the biggest trap is that it’s time consuming and it feels productive when really the new scary things could be more beneficial to you in the long run, that could be the investment in you.
Recognizing when you’re falling into this trap to stay comfortable as opposed to truly driving to get something done can really make a difference. Here’s the key thing that I want you to take away from this, busy is a four letter word and it doesn’t mean productive and it certainly doesn’t mean happy. Take action, do the hard work but make time to pause and appreciate the little moments too. Life is about being present and in the moment not necessarily anticipating each block of time on your schedule, which is budded up one after the other. Eventually, you’ll wish you had spent less time worrying and rushing through life and more time appreciating what you have and being mindful of the little joys in life. Be honest with yourself, are you turning down opportunities because you really don’t have time or are you scared to
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take the risk? Are you avoiding the conflict? Figure out the excuses or loopholes you’re giving yourself to avoid these situations outside of your comfort zone. Are they truly legitimate? If a friend of yours was giving the same excuses, would you still see them as legitimate?
The second reason it’s hard to leave our comfort zone is you feel the need to be perfect. When you hold too tightly to this idea of perfectionism, you’re missing out. This can happen because you’re focusing on failures instead of opportunities. Even if you have failed or been hurt in the past, you cannot continue to carry that weight with you. It’s better to have a life full of failures that you’ve learned from than a lifetime filled with regret of never trying. Failure is learning opportunities. The past doesn’t have to define the future. Here’s the greatest news of all, right now you have a 100% survival rate of all the things you’ve done that you were scared to do. Don’t let your challenges or insecurities get the best of you. Start making small steps towards your goals. The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you feel like you can only do a little. Doing a little is where we start. Taking risks in a controlled way and challenging yourself to do things you wouldn’t normally do helps you experience uncertainty in a manageable environment. Brené Brown explains that one of the worst things you can do is pretend fear and uncertainty don’t exist.
Learning to push yourself out of your comfort zone when you choose to can prepare you for life changes that actually do force you out of that comfort zone. Getting out of your comfort zone gets easier the more you do it because you get accustomed to that state of optimal anxiety. Remember optimal anxiety is not getting so stressed out that you’re unproductive but that little bit of stress that helps push you towards your goals. The third reason why it’s hard to get out of our comfort zone is we worry too much about what others think. People are going to judge. It doesn’t matter what you do, someone is going to judge so you have to stop living your life based off that fear. People often judge others based on their own experiences, from their own lives and they have nothing to do with you. This puts you at the mercy of their unreliable and biased perspective, there’s nothing you can do about that. You will never find your worth in another person, you have to find it in yourself. You have to stop trying to impress people just for the sake of impressing them and taking on their priorities. Instead, focus on making progress on something you are truly proud of.
Show yourself that you can grow and improve. It’s okay if you stumble, that’s an essential part of this learning process. Even though we might feel powerless in situations outside of our comfort zone, we have more power than we think we do. I get it, your comfort zone feels good but it’s not a good place to live long term. I want to talk about that in just a few minutes but first, I want to give a quick break for our sponsor. As you know, I’m all about being productive. One of the things I find helpful is listening to audiobooks. With over 180000 titles to choose from, Audible is my go to resource for keeping up with my reading. As I mentioned last week, right now I’m rereading or rather listen to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. You might remember that Gretchen was a guest on Productivity Paradox in season two. In her book, she shares how knowing your tendency allows you to make better decisions, deal with less stress and create a life you love. Interested? The good news is you can listen to Gretchen’s book for free thanks to Audible. They’re offering a free audiobook
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download and a free 30 day trial for you. Go to inkwellpress.com/audible to sign up today.
Okay let’s get back to talking about our comfort zone and why it’s not a good place to live long term. Here’s the hard fact, we don’t find ourselves in a fulfilling, deeply satisfying path in life, we have to create it. This journey will always lead us outside of that comfort zone. Your comfort zone feels comfortable but it’s a dangerous place to live because as much as we seem to enjoy comfort and routine, we’re often happiest when we’re challenged and making progress. Here’s what I want you to know, doubt is still present even when you’re on the right track. Fear is not a sign that you’re doing the right thing, it can actually be a sign that you’re on that right track, you’re on the path you’re supposed to be on. When you go into a situation and you expect that fear and doubt are going to show up and you prepare to tackle them, you’ll be much better off than if you listen to that fear and doubt. What adds to this discomfort is taking risks often brings feedback from every person in your support system whether it’s helpful or not. Usually these people are trying to show that they care and they want to protect you from failure.
They might also subconsciously fear that if your life changes too much, there might not be space for them anymore. You cannot expect others to follow you into the deep dark unknown. People who are too comfortable with comfort find the idea
of it unsettling. It reminds them that maybe they don’t have the strength or the courage to venture out themselves. Keep in mind, you might be called crazy long before you’re considered cool. My first company was comfortable. It felt easy. It was comfortable and unfulfilling. When we told our friends and family that we were closing down the business to open inkWELL Press, they all said we were crazy. Why would you give up a perfectly good business? One that pays the bills, one that keeps my kids bellies full, one that was comfortable but I did it anyways. Sometimes you have to swim upstream to get to where you really want to go. Here I am today with a successful business, a podcast that’s doing amazingly well and an online course that already has a wait list. None of this has been comfortable. Each step has been uncomfortable but man am I happy. You don’t have to choose between your priorities and your dreams.
We often fool ourselves by thinking that our path in life is an either or choice, I have to be a mom or I can chase my dream of owning a business. Here’s what I want you to do, try swapping or for and. I am a mom and I’m building my business when my kids are at school or after they fall asleep. Eric W last season showed us this. He thought to himself, “I have a disability and I can still climb Mount Everest and I can teach others to do the same”. Pushing through doubt is exhausting and exhilarating, it’s where our great ideas come from. Keep pushing yourself. That sounds easy but how do we break out of this comfort zone? How do we get out of this level of comfort that we feel and start moving our lives to where we want them to go? The biggest misconception that people have about their comfort zone is that you have to do something big or reckless to get out of it. Doing something small and outside of your comfort zone is enough to wake your brain up. Wear that red lipstick you secretly love that’s been sitting in your drawer for the past two years. Do a random act of kindness for a stranger. Drive a different route to work today. Do something that feels out of your normal routine.
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It doesn’t matter where or when you start, just start now pushing your boundaries. Find ways to sculpt those uncomfortable situations to make them a little more comfortable. For example, if you hate speaking with big groups and large noisy situations, find a quiet corner to talk or step outside into a hallway. If you hate public speaking but you feel slightly more comfortable in a small group, look for opportunities to speak with smaller groups or set up intimate coffee meetings for the people you want to network with. Make yourself take the plunge. Set up challenges for yourself to do things that scare you. Instead of jumping right in, maybe there’s a class you can take like a public speaking class. The first step is always going to be uncomfortable, just start, show up. Making that choice and that commitment is hard. Try to commit yourself to it even though it’s difficult. Don’t quit even when you want to. Remember we talked about this last season that even when you’re on that right path, not every day is going to be easy, there are still going to be hard days. You might not see results right away, that’s okay, keep going.
The key is to know the answer to the question, “Why am I doing this”? Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. Knowing why you’re on this path helps push past through those feelings and it creates a foundation for you to build your mental and physical toughness upon. When you identify your fears and you face them in small steps, that can really make a difference, that’s an easy first step. Just like we talked about last week, it doesn’t have to be big huge changes, small wins lead to great victories. We’re looking to tip the scale not upend them. There’s a big difference between optimal controlled anxiety and the very real anxiety that people struggle with. That little bit of optimal controlled anxiety is good for us, pushes us out of our comfort zone and in the direction of the life that we want to live. The question is, what scares you now? What’s intimidating? What’s the great unknown? I want you to start to shine a light into these dark, uncomfortable places. You may find the path that you were meant to follow. That’s what I want you to think about this week, what is scaring you now and where is it you want to go outside of that comfort zone.
I hope you’re enjoying this season so far on investing in yourself. I know that I am and I cannot wait for next week where we’ll be talking about finding your breadcrumbs and how looking backwards can help you start moving forwards. In this week’s mini episode “The Weekender”, I’m going to be sharing a little example of comfort zone and how you can start to really recognize when you’re outside of that comfort zone. I hope you’ll tune in for that, it’s a quick short episode that I think you’ll enjoy. In the meantime, if you’d like to connect with me, come find me in my Facebook group. You can find that at inkwellpress.com/group. I’d love to see you there. It’s an amazing group filled with people who are there to support one another on our journey to being more productive and living fulfilling lives. All right, until next time my friends, happy planning.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkwellpress.com/group.