On the second day of my recent Self-Branding seminar we arrived at the inevitable question of whether we need to get out of our comfort zone in order to make the best of our talents and live our lives to full extent or not. And with this discussion some of the participants have finally found the key to the “Book of seven seals” called “How to match my personal talents with my career plans”.
“How is that possible?” you ask me. “I can match leaving my comfort zone in order to make career, ok, but where is the link between my “talents” and my “comfort zone”?
The problem is, that “comfort zone” has been popularized on the basis of a completely wrong definition. Wherever you look, you will find quotes suggesting that “true life begins outside of your comfort zone“. What a crap! Yes, let me speak so clearly: it’s absolute crap. The only things that begin outside of your comfort zone are stress and anxiety. Who wants that? Who needs that? I definitely don’t.
A Comfort Zone is the zone of ideal conditions for growth
Look at any living element on earth: it is definitely in danger when it experiences anxiety and stress. Sometimes it even dies. The comfort zone is the zone where it can grow and for which it has been attributed with the right characteristics. To take a very blunt example: would a cactus leave its condition under the hot, dry sky that it is perfectly equipped for and that is – in consequence – its comfort zone, in order to try a new life in a mangrove swamp? Yes, it sounds silly – and it is. It is not only silly, it is life challenging to the worst extent. “Getting out of the comfort zone” means running against ones own nature, not only risking the possibility to grow and prosper but sometimes it means limiting ones natural life expectation.
The phenomenons of stress and anxiety are amongst the most examined subjects and there is no benefit in them unless to a very limited extent, namely to increase the bodys ability to take a fight or flight action when necessary.
The link between your “Talent” and your “Comfort Zone”
As human beings we have not only been equipped with the physical characteristics that enable us to perfectly fit into our respective environments but each of us has also been given certain abilities and specific ways to approach and deal with the world that make us special. We call them talents. A “talent” is an “aptitude or as a group of aptitudes useful for some activities“. A talent can be the result of very different sources: some had to overcome specific hardship and struggles in their childhood and on the way have developed respective talents. Others have developed an eager interest in sports, arts or other activities and could not “avoid” becoming masters in that field. Or others again were “simply” born with specific attributes – autism or other so-called disabilities – that induced them to develop their own talents. There are many ways one can make the life-changing “encounter” with ones talents.
That means, we all have one or more talents. BUT they cannot be put to work everywhere (“useful for some activities“). As a cactus could not thrive in a mangrove swamp, a person who is gifted with an eye for smallest details will not be able to thrive in a position where “big picture” thinking is necessary. A “care-taker” could not thrive in a position where he has to reduce personnel – means fire people. And the focus here is on the word “THRIVE” . Of course you can do whatever you are willing to do. You want to do it? You will do it! But will you be able to make a real difference by that? That’s the question.
This is where the “comfort zone” comes in: where we are able to live our talents – that means: where we are able to put our strengthes to work . Brené Browns definition of comfort zone is beautiful in my eyes: “Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized — where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control.”
The question is: why would anybody leave his/her comfort zone – ON PURPOSE (!!!) – where he/she has enough access to admiration (in order to just take one of the main driving factors for every human being) and where he/she can put his/her talents to work in a stress- and anxiety-free environment?
Staying in your comfort zone on the other side, does not mean to be getting lazy, dumb and out of shape. Because being dumb, lazy and out of shape is not the “normal” human condition.
If we think of people who have created great products, companies or have changed societies or who have mastered an art or a sport or are great in music business: Steve Jobs, Anita Rodick, Martin Luther King, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marcel Hirscher, Madonna – just to name an example for each section – you will not find that they have achieved their successes and lead their incredible lives because they have got out of their comfort zone. They have created what they did because they were driven by the desire to live their purpose, to live their talents, to make reality what they saw before their inner eye. They have followed their vision – and every master in his or her art becomes a master because of practice. So if you would ask any of those mentioned whether they would have preferred to lie in front of the TV and snack chips instead of working for their vision, they would never ever answer: “yes, it was actually an everyday challenge to get myself out of my comfort zone and to do what I did.” It was not. It felt like the only thing they wanted to do. The only thing that provided them with a sense of purpose.
Find your talents and the place they are made for.
So if we look at great examples we understand that staying in our comfort zone – staying where we can put our talents to work! – is not equivalent to “complacency”. Working in a stress- and anxiety-free environment does not mean to become inattentive and dull.
To take my own little example: my life in Monte Carlo (that some might find to be an indicator of success) was not the result of leaving my comfort zone and struggle for something that I am not. My life in Monte Carlo was the result of me wanting to get into my comfort zone. I simply wanted to put my talents to work. When I moved out of Monaco and back to Austria again, it was also not the wish to leave my comfort zone but again, to put my talents to work. I had come to a stop in my personal development, I had recognized that I would not be able to grow my talents further and so I needed to get back to Austria where I could become my own boss again.
For me, living in my comfort zone means feeling fully “alive. All my senses are open, I put my talents to work, and I experience myself fully. Yes, sometimes that means being in the flow.
When you are in a professional situation in which you cannot live your talents but that provides for you – you are not in your comfort zone. In such a situation you will feel frustration everyday. Yes, you are able to eat, you are able to take care for your family but you will not feel fulfilled. If you have to move to change that situation – THAT is a move towards your comfort zone even though you might feel insecurity and less safety on other sides. The question is what is more important to you. What provides less stress and anxiety on the long-run.
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This post is also available in: German