In an episode of the hit TV show, “The Big Bang Theory”, scientist Sheldon Cooper, asks his friends to push him out of his comfort zone by continually annoying him. His goal is to create a continuous state of optimal anxiety so he can produce his greatest work. The constant anxiety backfires in the end.
Each of us has a daily routine where we feel safe and have low levels of stress. This space is called our comfort zone. Our comfort zone is the place where we feel good, we have a steady level of performance, but we do not stretch our abilities or grow when we are in the comfort zone.
Research shows that when we move past our comfort zone, we experience anxiety. Too much anxiety and performance deteriorates and we retreat back to our comfort zone. Too little anxiety and we cruise through life but fail to accomplish much or grow. Optimal anxiety is the sweet spot between too little and too much anxiety. In this zone our skills increase and we expand our comfort zone maximizing learning and performance.
Moving past our comfort zone has many benefits including:
Easier time dealing with new situations
Easier to push boundaries in the future
Experiences outside the comfort zone do not always need to be big. Small ventures outside your comfort zone like ordering something new at your favorite restaurant or changing the route you drive to work can open up new ways of thinking.
Living outside your comfort zone can also have a negative impact if you do return to your comfort zone or do not take time to process your experiences and apply them to your day to day activities.
Can you stretch yourself by increasing the amount of weight you are lifting or the number of repetitions you perform in a workout? Are you able to move out of your comfort zone by trying new activities or attending an event where you do not know anyone? Growth is not always comfortable. See if you can create a little, but not too much, anxiety by moving outside your comfort zone. You may not achieve optimal anxiety, but by being a little uncomfortable, you will move closer to your goals.