January 15, 2018

The three downfalls of the comfort zone

In today’s rapidly changing world, it comes to no surprise that many businesses are struggling to keep up. As they face the new year, organisations find themselves being opened up to a new set of challenges.

It is inevitable that businesses will find themselves in different situations that they would not have otherwise been able predict. The unpredictability of the world can have an even larger impact on those that continue to stay put and secure in their comfort zone.

The comfort zone, as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, is “a situation in which you feel comfortable and in which your ability and determination are not being tested”.

So, what is wrong with being comfortable?

We enjoy the comfort of our own homes, comfort during a relaxing vacation out of the city, or even comfort from a cold drink on a hot day. Surely, there is nothing so negative about being comfortable, is there?

In certain ways, we can say that there is nothing wrong with staying in your comfort zone, but the truth is, you can’t stay there for a long time. In more ways than one, the choice between getting out of your comfort zone and remaining in it can lead to a business rising as a disruptor or falling into the sorry ranks of the disrupted.

First, it must be noted that the comfort zone does not mean the safe zone. When you are able to continue doing things within your comfort zone, you feel settled and safe. However, in our harsh and competition-driven reality, this false sense of safety often leads to being left behind.

Even a sucessful business can ultimately be disrupted if it refuses to step out of its comfort zone. Without change, there’s no progress for you or your organisation, and for change to happen, you must venture outside the comfort zone.

Second, the comfort zone can lead to missed opportunities. This happens when you remain as you are without going beyond to try new things. Comfort usually leads to the dismissal of new opportunities, simply because organisations may assume that the way they are now is already good enough, so why bother changing?

Even if you’re open to opportunities but wait on them while in the comfort zone, the opportunities you seek can pass by unnoticed. It is only when you step out of that comfort zone that you’ll be able to see those opportunities and have the ability to seize them.

Third, the comfort zone acts as a roadblock to your organisational growth, as well as your own. Rarely will you see organisations growing while still within their comfort zones. Even as individuals, growth does not occur when you are too comfortable.

Just like opportunities, growth is something that is out of reach if you allow yourself to get comfortably boxed in. Growth is essential for business progress and survival, so when you stay comfortable, there’s no challenge, and when there’s no challenge, there’s no development. Ultimately, the comfort zone does not lead you to business growth.

If we can’t stay in the comfort zone, then where should we go?

My answer is to make your journey towards the discomfort zone. In discomfort, you will find hardship, uncertainty and doubt. But you will also learn new strengths as you seek to overcome adversity, build new confidence through uncertainty, and a newfound trust through doubt.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, once said: “Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be.”

In order for us to be able to take risks, trust our intuition and reject the usual way of things, we must step into the discomfort zone.

As business leaders, you’ll find that you not only have to experience discomfort in order to grow and develop, but also influence your people to grow and develop by facing challenges and adversity themselves. Call it harmony in discomfort, but it is a way to ensure that your organisation and people will eventually flourish.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa

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