I was thinking about comfort zones and how leaving them often leads to enhanced personal development when I did what any postmodern person would do….I Googled it. Eureka! Did you know there are two other common zones besides the “comfort zone”? Here is the trifecta:
- Comfort Zone
- Panic Zone
- Learning Zone
Wikipedia defines Comfort Zone as “… a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.”
Cool. Slow and steady wins the race. Or does it? Let’s look at the other two Zones and see how they measure up.
The Panic Zone. If your heart is beating so fast you can’t think straight, you’re probably in the Panic zone. There’s no progress to be had here because the only thoughts that makes sense are: you are uncomfortable, things are way over your head, and there’s no way to get out. Hence, the panic. Either you are under high stress and can’t think straight, or you attempting something that is personally dangerous. Either way, this is not a productive state of being.
Let’s look at the Learning Zone. This Zone is somewhere between the first two. The identifying factor in the Learning Zone is that something is “just out of reach”. We are motivated to get out of our Comfort Zones to grasp it, and far enough away from the Panic Zone we remain sane while doing so.
You are in the Learning Zone when whatever you are doing is neither boring or too easy. Rather than simply going through the motions, the Learning Zone forces us to engage all levels of attention in order to grasp the task at hand. It asks us to risk failing in order to achieve. Learning new skills is never comfortable, but can be very rewarding.
There is a circular movement between all three zones. Eventually, as we become more comfortable learning new tasks they slide over into our Comfort Zone. Even things that initially triggered panic can morph into the Learning Zone once we calm down and embrace the challenge.
While the Comfort Zone is our most preferred state of being, we get the most enjoyment and fulfillment when we engage in the Learning Zone. So the next time panic hits, take a deep breath and reassess. Is there any way to turn this into a Learning Zone? If yes, then do it!
You might be surprised with the results.