I had an interesting realization the other day while preparing for an online leadership workshop for students. As I looked at the comfort zone diagram that we typically use to highlight why it’s so important to step out of our comfort zone, I realized that our focus has to change. Our job as leaders and educators will forever be to find ways to help people grow and flourish, but right now, I think the best way for us to do that is to help people move back towards their comfort zone, to a place where they can find some calm and solid footing.
Who would have ever thought that things like grocery shopping, going to the movie theatre, eating in a restaurant, riding the subway and touching door handles would cause anxiety for some people?
There are countless quotes out there that say things like, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” (Milicia, 2017) We have been told for years that progress, dreams, magic, transformation and all growth happens outside of our comfort zone. To a large degree I feel that is true. Having said that, I find myself questioning if that is the way forward right now. I am wondering if this unique time in our lives calls for us to help people find their way closer to their comfort zone for a short while. We were all thrust past our stretch zone, into the challenge zone and many of us landed in the negative experience realm. We have been sitting there for a while, trying to find our footing to walk ourselves back to some form of familiarity.
I will always believe that comfort is not the best fertilizer for growth, but after doing a lot of listening over this last while I have come to believe that healing and re-grounding is what is needed. I am not just talking about young people. Everyone’s lives have been impacted in some way. Growth cannot fully take root unless the ground is ready. For this next while I am going to think of our comfort zone as fallow ground. A place that allows rest and recovery, so that new roots can flourish in due course.
I am by no means encouraging people to crawl back to their comfort zones and stay there. If you know me at all, you know that is the last thought I want to be putting out into the world. What I am suggesting, for the short term, is that we move away from the belief that we constantly need to be helping people move beyond what is comfortable in order to flourish. For now, maybe the safety and low risk energy of our comfort zone is exactly what we need. So much of our day to day life is pushing us to grow right now, so I don’t feel the need to add to the challenge.
I want to be part of the healing, re-grounding, and helping people find ways to stay emotionally healthy, rooted in their strengths, their sense of humour and anything else that makes them feel calm.
I have no doubt that we will be back to the rainy, muddy portages soon; climbing high on ropes courses, pushing limits and cheering one another on. We will be back to pushing beyond our fears and tapping into those courageous elements that allow us to reach new heights. There is no question that things will eventually settle, and we will go back to pushing beyond our comfort zone, but for now, I think it might not be a bad place to be. I will be over here with a sign pointing —> Your comfort zone is this way! Rest. Recover. Take good care of yourself. This too shall pass.