A comfort zone is a familiar pattern of behavior. It grows gradually, but once
established, it resists change. We repeat in order to play a game where we master
the rules and know exactly how to win.
A comfort zone is a belief combined with a behavior pattern, repeated until automatic. It is familiar and predictable. It makes sense to pick the known over the unknown. We follow comfort zones unconsciously and automatically because we know what the outcome will be.
Heres an example of a comfort zone in action. Most lottery winners manage to spend or give away their newfound winnings to return to their previous situation. In fact, in the U.S., 80 percent of lottery winners file bankruptcy within the first five years. Their money changes, but their mindsets dont. The money they win moves them out of their comfort zones, and they end up returning to them.
Your Inner Thermostat
Think of your comfort zone as your home thermostat. If the temperature increases or decreases, the thermostat signals the heater or air conditioner to turn on or off. It keeps the temperature in a narrow range of comfort.
Your performanceincluding the money you makeoperates in a similar way. Greater success initially registers as discomfort, like the discomfort of being in new and unfamiliar territory. Especially if the results go outside your self-image, this cues an internal thermostat to return to the comfort zone.
I heard Jack Canfield tell a great story about his stepdad. Jacks stepdad was a regional manager for NCR. He noticed that each of his salespeople had a particular image of himself as a salesperson: he was a $2,000-a-month salesperson, or a $3,000-a-month salesperson. If a salespersons self-image was that he earned $3,000 a month in commissions, then every month, when he got to that figure, he would slack off until the next month. However, if he had nearly reached the end of the month and earned only $1,500, he would then work sixteen-hour days and weekends, and do whatever it took to beat the bushes and make sure he reached that $3,000 before months end.
Your comfort zone acts as an unconscious thermostatunless and until you make it conscious. Then, you can do something about it. You can reprogram your mind and brain with what you want and when you want it. Your brain has a mind of its own, and sometimes you have to outsmart your brain.
A comfort zone can be beneficial and save energy, such as your automatically driving to work the same way each day and not having to think about the route. It can be a behavior pattern, such as self-effacing jokes, or a specific role you play in relationships.
A comfort zone can also become an obstacle, when familiar patterns get repeated even when they dont work very well, such as waiting until the last minute and creating crises, or automatically playing devils advocate.
A comfort zone can trade passion for predictability, creativity for continuity, the new for the familiar. How do you know when your comfort zone is not serving you? Here are some clues:
Your comfort zone is the ghost writer, invisibly creating the same storylines
without awareness, let alone questioning the outcome. Here are nine ways to
generate awareness without a huge event crystallizing your confrontation: