The Three Circles
Expanding your comfort zone is simple when you understand how comfort zones work. To understand your capacity for expanding your comfort zone, imagine three circles inside one another: a large circle (the outermost layer), a mid-size circle (the middle layer), and a small circle (the innermost layer). The innermost layer is your comfort zone. The middle layer is your learning zone. And the outer layer is your danger zone. Every zone serves a different function. Use each zone as a guide to safely expand your comfort zone.
The Comfort Zone (The Innermost Layer)
Let’s focus on the smallest circle: your comfort zone. This is where we experience our greatest sense of comfort. In this circle we have all the things we find comforting, like our loved ones, pets, and prized possessions. We usually find a wonderful sense of safety in this place. The only problem you’ll discover here is that your comfort zone is pretty small. It can only fit a finite amount of people and things in it. Issues occur when you want to bring more into your comfort zone but don’t want to let anything go.
The Learning Zone (The Middle Layer)
This where the second circle comes in: the learning zone. When we start to stretch ourselves to know and experience more, we begin to lean into the learning zone. Taking small steps allows us to maintain a sense of comfort while growing our comfort zone by safely discovering new likes and dislikes in our learning zone. Before you know it, your comfort zone has become large enough for more people and things to enter it. It’s key to move slowly into the learning zone when you first begin expanding your comfort zone. Move too quickly and you might overstep into your danger zone. Taking too large of steps outside your comfort zone can cause panic and fear. As long as you allow yourself to expand your comfort zone slowly, you’ll be able to boundlessly grow your comfort zone.
The Danger Zone (The Outermost Layer)
The third, outer circle is your danger zone. When you try to expand your comfort zone too quickly, you’ll stretch past your safe place of exploration into a place of fear. Entering into your danger zone can cause you to fearfully retreat back into your comfort zone. Expanding your comfort zone isn’t a race. Go at a pace that feels safe and you’ll have fun growing your comfort zone. Trying to prove yourself by moving quicker than you can will only result in slowed growth.
Expanding Your Comfort Zone Safely
When I began hang gliding, I took several lessons. I learned how to put my kite together, how to hook myself into the kite, and how to jump off the cliff. I had a couple of falls, but every time I fell, I had someone there (my instructor) to help me to safety. In other words, I had a guide. I practiced with that guide until I felt comfortable enough to jump off the cliff alone. My first solo jump was 200 feet. Then 500. I did a 500 foot jump many times and got used to the feeling of it. I even began jumping outside of my home state in order to get used to other terrain. Finally, I took my first 1,500 foot jump. It was scary, but I knew what I was doing. I had practiced enough to be able to take that 1,500 foot jump with reasonable safety. Some of you reading this will never want to hang glide. That’s okay! This is simply an example of how to expand your comfort zone safely, even when doing a high risk activity. I took lessons and did 200 and 500 foot solo jumps for a year before I ever attempted the 1,500 foot jump. I knew I wanted to jump from 1,500 feet one day, but I gave myself time and practice before doing it. Had I tried it on the second day or even the second month, I would have escalated too quickly and entered my danger zone. Not only that, but I probably would have badly injured myself!
Expanding your comfort zone is a metaphor for your personal growth. The gifts you get from expanding yourself are heightened curiosity, the ability to love, a sense of adventure, strength, courage, and the capacity to see others as they are. If you develop these traits within yourself, your comfort zone will be boundless. Growing your comfort zone is a simple yet powerful process. Take it slow, and you’ll reap the rewards.
Have you tried the comfort zone technique? Let us know in the comments how it worked for you!