The Pros and Cons of Comfort Zones
Acknowledging and wisely deciding when to embrace and break through boundaries is critical to career and life successes.
Like a warm, familiar embrace, a comfort zone can be both encouraging and confining. A popular area of study for mental health practitioners, behavior therapists, and others with careers in psychology, its pros and cons have been widely contemplated. While comfort zones encourage composure and calm, they can also inhibit growth. To make the most of your life, you must learn to balance these forces. When they’re handled well, you can push past personal boundaries to achieve and develop while still keeping a relaxing space in your mind to retreat to when you need to recharge or contemplate.
According to Dr. Abigail Brenner, a San Francisco-based psychiatrist, a comfort zone “is a psychological/emotional/behavior construct that defines the routine of our daily life” that “implies familiarity, safety, and security.”1 While we’ve mostly heard teachers, coaches, and other motivators encourage us to push our boundaries and try activities outside our usual limits, there are compelling reasons to both stay in and leave our comfort zones.
The pros of staying in your comfort zone include:
- Drawing on experience
When you choose to stay in your comfort zone, you participate in familiar activities. You perform tasks you’ve completed repeatedly, and likely with a track record of success. Staying in your comfort zone allows you to draw on experience you’ve gained from past performances, in areas you undoubtedly know well.
- Being confident
While new experiences can cause pause and trepidation, keeping in one’s comfort zone inspires confidence and limits anxiety. When you’ve succeeded in the past on a task, it promotes a healthy self-assurance in addressing similar undertakings in the future.
- Minimizing risk
When you tackle familiar tasks in your comfort zone, you’re aware of the risks and know how to avoid them. Familiar activities tend to be less risky than unknown ones.
After you’ve pushed yourself outside of your typical boundaries, returning to your comfort zone can help you reinvigorate and psychologically recuperate before returning to more anxiety-inducing and uncertain situations.
- Expending less energy for routine tasks
If an activity is in your comfort zone, chances are you can complete it quickly and easily without too much forethought or planning. The ease of routine tasks frees up more time and mental energy for addressing challenging work.
Without a doubt, there are convincing reasons to spend time in your comfort zone. However, breaking free of these constructs can also be enticing. The cons of staying in your comfort zone include:
- Holding back
If you stay in a comfort zone too long, it can make you complacent. If you don’t perform activities that somewhat scare or challenge you, you miss out on growth opportunities. In physics, Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion dictates that “a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion … will remain in motion … unless acted upon by an outside force.”2 Translated to comfort zones: You can’t make progress by keeping still.
- No risk, no reward
Perhaps it’s an overused phrase, but for good reason: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” If you don’t try something new, you won’t succeed at anything new. Big rewards come to those willing to take risks, even if they aren’t large ones.
- Not learning new skills
If you only work on current strengths, you neglect the chance to develop new skills. In taking on risks, you work on new skills and spend time improving relative weaknesses.
- Missing the opportunity to make your comfort zone bigger
One of the most compelling reasons to push outside of your usual boundaries is to stretch your comfort zone. When you take risks, embrace some discomfort and doubt, and succeed, you not only improve your overall skill set, but you boost your confidence. The more you try challenging activities, the more normal those tasks become, broadening your comfort zone to larger and larger dimensions.
To make the most of the comfort zones in your life, you must learn to balance time in and outside of them. For personal growth, it’s necessary to take risks and endure some ego discomfort;3 however, it’s also important to spend time healing and contemplating in the nurturing environs of your comfort zone. Being aware of your comfort zone boundaries is a great first step—and as time passes, you can expand that space to embrace more activities and experiences.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering a suite of online psychology degree options. The BS in Psychology and MS in Psychology programs include coursework in educational psychology, applied behavior analysis, and social psychology. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.
3Source: www.forbes.com/sites/annlatham/2018/04/11/16-reasons-why-you-should-get-out-of-your-comfort-zone-now/ - 7cfc642062e5
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.