Organic Learning - The science of stepping out of your comfort zone 

We spend the majority of our time trying to find the most comfortable option, whether it’s a comfortable pair of shoes, the best chair for the office, a warm cup of coffee to comfort the soul, a soothing and comforting playlist. Being comfortable is great, but there is absolutely a time and place for it – just like there’s a time and place for being uncomfortable.

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We all have a comfort zone, and we like to stick to it as much as possible. A comfort zone is defined 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.” With so many studies and articles that tell us to avoid stress and anxiety, it would seem counterproductive of us to suggest stepping out of your comfort zone, with the promise of positive results.

Yes, high levels of stress and anxiety in anyone’s day-to-day is undesirable, and can have serious implications on your health – so we’re not suggesting that’s what to aim for. But, there are also studies that delve into the science of what happens to the brain when we step out of our comfort zones and into the unknown.

A study in 1908, conducted by psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson determined that in order to achieve high level of performance, a state of ‘Optimal Anxiety’ must be reached. This state as it turns out, lies juuuuust outside of our comfort zones. Typical. 

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The study proved that this optimal state, drastically improved productivity, boosted creativity and allowed for clearer decision making.

When we step outside of our comfort boundaries, we allow ourselves to establish a new boundary. With this growth, we gain confidence and with boosted confidence we are willing to try new things. Trying new things allows us to develop and reach a state of optimal performance. 

Whether this means adding on an extra plate onto the barbell in the gym, or turning the dial on the bike in spin class much further than you think you can handle, or going to an event by yourself to meet new people, or picking up your bags and moving to a new country. The important thing is that you go beyond that comfort zone and see what happens. If you can’t lift the weight, or the resistance is too hard on the bike, or you don’t meet anyone new – the worst thing that can happen is you go back one step, and try again tomorrow. 

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It doesn’t have to be anything drastic, but next time you’re sitting on that wobbly edge of comfort, jump into the optimal anxiety zone, we promise it will reward you.

Our Resilience Development Program (RDP) is designed to do just as we’ve discussed here. Put you and your team in the position where you are sitting right on the edge of that comfort zone, and even go beyond it. We’ve never had anyone say that they wish they didn’t push themselves or that being uncomfortable was absolutely unbearable. Instead, we’ve had the opposite feedback. Our RDP athletes have come away admitting that they have more confidence because they know they can push themselves harder than they’ve previously thought, and they had never felt so rewarded.