The Truth About Comfort Zones

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John Nieuwenburg

John Nieuwenburg has been a professional business coach since 2004. Prior to becoming a coach, he held executive positions with Tip Top Tailors and BC Liquor Stores. In 2019, MacKay CEO Forums awarded him with Canada’s CEO Trusted Advisor Award in the Small Business category. Since becoming a coach, John has worked with over 350 clients, taking them through a systematic process that helps them feel organized, confident and in control of their businesses.

We’ve all heard the advice about needing to move outside of our comfort zones in order to succeed.

In this video, I unpack:

  • what a comfort zone is
  • the difference between the learning zone and the panic zone
  • the role perturbation plays in growth

Watch the video or scroll down to read

Everything you want in life (and business) is outside your comfort zone

To reach higher levels you must approach both your personal and business life as an endeavour in constant growth.

When you get to the edge of your comfort zone, that’s the growing zone.

What do we experience when we get to the edge of our comfort zone?

By definition, it feels uncomfortable.

The truth is, you are either moving forward or moving backward; growing or dying.

There’s no such thing as comfortably maintaining.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this point.

If your comfort zone isn’t expanding, it’s shrinking

Back when my hair was a little less grey, I used to be an avid skier.

I probably skied 50 times a year.

As you might imagine, I was pretty good at it.

Skiers love to ski powder. I’d get to the lift line an hour early so that I could be first.

By noon, the powder had been skied off, so I’d start skiing in areas that were harder to access: in the woods, jumping off rocks, staying within the resort, but going places where less experienced skiers wouldn’t be able to go.

I was comfortable doing that stuff.

Then I moved to Toronto for 5 years. Believe me, there isn’t anything I would call “skiing” in Toronto!

This meant that I skied once a year, usually around my birthday which is in March.

My buddies would have been skiing since November. When I joined them, I was OK in the morning when we skied the fresh powder, but in the afternoon when we started skiing through the woods and jumping off rocks, I was very uncomfortable.

This is when I learned this lesson first-hand: if you’re not pushing the edges of your comfort zone, your comfort zone shrinks.

If you want to get to the next level, you need to get uncomfortable…but not TOO uncomfortable

When you get to the edge of your comfort zone you are best served by pushing through it into the “growth zone.”

Instead of avoiding that discomfort, learn to embrace it as a necessary precursor to growth.

But be careful.

If you go too far beyond the growth zone, you may find yourself in the panic zone – where you may become frozen or stuck.

Beyond that is the danger zone, where pushing through can do damage.

Let me illustrate this by using skiing as an example.

A new skier will begin with the bunny slopes and gradually progress through increasingly more difficult runs. These will be somewhat uncomfortable at first. This is the growth zone!

However, if that skier were to attempt a run too far beyond their current ability, they would feel some panic. This is an indication that they’re trying to advance too quickly.

And if that skier ignored those feelings of panic and followed me into the woods to jump off rocks, they would have entered the danger zone where they could get injured.

It can sometimes be challenging to discern between the growth zone and the panic zone.

A big part of my job as a coach is to push people out of their comfort zone. The client’s job is to let me know when they are experiencing panic so that we can tailor the approach to keep them in the growth zone.

Where is your comfort zone in your business?

What areas in your business are you feeling comfortable with?

Where do you need to go beyond your current boundaries to make your business grow?

If you’d like an experienced guide to help you avoid the trees and navigate your way through the growth zone, book a 15-minute call here to discuss coaching: time with John

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Business Owner

become a better owner

If an owner wants a better business, first the business needs a better owner.

This post is part of my Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Better Business Owner. Visit the guide homepage to get my best advice and coaching exercises to help you with:

  • Mindset. Thinking like an owner and seeing the big picture of your business.
  • Planning. Deciding what you want, setting a goal, and making plans to get after it.
  • Habits. Changing your behaviours to help you get what you want.
  • Learning. Getting new information and developing new skills.
  • Growth. Facing your fears, stepping outside your comfort zone, and doing what it necessary to create the business of your dreams.