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Last Updated on December 8, 2020

Comfort Zone: Why Is It Dangerous And How to Step Out Of It

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Comfort Zone: Why Is It Dangerous And How to Step Out Of It

Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of your comfort zone.

It’s a quote that many people have said time and time again to push people beyond their comfort zones to great effects. But more often than not, whenever examples of confidence spring up, you and I only tend to see the end results. We see the final results of people’s efforts but not the efforts themselves.

There are other aspects that are hidden from us as well. Why should you be stepping out of your comfort zone in the first place? Why is it dangerous for you to leave things as they are?

When you begin to understand why your comfort zone can be dangerous and how to step out of it, you can push yourself to new heights and potential.

What Is a Comfort Zone?

Before getting into details, you need to know what the comfort zone is in the first place[1]. As the name implies, this is a zone or position in which you feel comfortable. As long as you stay in this area, you’re not going to feel pressured, anxious, or stressed. At first glance, it’s a good position to be in on the surface.

Why Is Staying Inside of a Comfort Zone Bad for Us?

So why is it so bad for you to be staying in that zone? Well, one thing that I’ve come to learn about improving myself is that in order to improve, it’s essential that you embrace fear and change in your life.

The issue with fear and change is that, when we are comfortable, we are less inclined to make those changes and lean on our fear. In the end, your life will begin to stall and remain unchanged.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem all that bad. However, with life, change tends to find a way. Whether it’s through something large like the coronavirus to something smaller like you wanting to be a better partner or financially secure, these shifts come with risks and changes.

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And depending on how much we are in our comfort zone will determine how much we resist those changes, even in situations where those changes are very good for us.

What Holds Us Back from Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone?

As I’ve hinted at a little bit, our resistance can stem from many places. That said, the most common ones can be boiled down to three fears:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of the unknown

These fears are all manageable, and by learning about them, you can start to break them down in a way that works best for you. Here is what you can do for each one.

Fear of Change

As the most generalized fear of the three, this fear tends to mask the other two. You’ll be able to tell because this fear often leads to thoughts like:

  • This task is too big.
  • Why me?
  • I can’t do this alone.
  • I don’t know where to start, so I won’t do it.

As you can tell, if you have a fear of change, you’ll justify it in order to procrastinate on whatever it is that you need to be doing. You would rather keep things the way they are than put in work and take risks.

It’s a natural feeling that you’ve likely been leaning on ever since you were a child. It’s been ingrained in you. What matters now is that you work on changing it.

Fear of Failure

Going past fear of change, perhaps you remain in your comfort zone due to a fear of failure. I’m sure that many of you can relate as this particular fear can be instilled in various ways:

  • A childhood event or upbringing can cause you to internalize damaging mindsets.
  • You are a perfectionist or have perfectionist tendencies.
  • You over-inflate failures in your head, whether they are in reality big or small.
  • You are masking true confidence with false confidence when it comes to your personality and abilities.

Getting into more detail, fear of failure[2] can be described as a lack of confidence in yourself and your current abilities to complete a task or goal.

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Fear of the Unknown

The last common fear is the fear of the unknown. From a logical standpoint, this makes sense, too. Life is a mystery, and we have no idea where it’ll take us. Instead of you seeing this as a gift, you may use that as a reason to be paranoid and to be afraid whenever there is something that would disrupt your way of life.

This disruption can be something major like a job loss or a loss in the family to something smaller like your partner wanting to spend more time with you or you getting into better shape.

How you react depends on who you are, but it always comes back to you resisting change out of worry that your life could be different or, at best, better.

How to Break out of the Comfort Zone

Now that you have an understanding of the potential fears that stand in your way, you need to learn to break them down. Regardless of what fear you have, the methods to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone are relatively similar. I say relative because how people choose to act in order to succeed and strive in life varies from person to person.

There is no specific method that you need to take to push your comfort zone. What matters is that you do it in a way that makes sense for you.

1. Look at Your Habits and Challenge Them

Habits are things that you pick up from various life events. Some habits stem from family and friends, while other habits stem from your past achievements. Pay attention to the particular habits that have led you to past achievements.

These achievements can be big or small, but they remain with us so long as we exercise them. For example, consider walking. Walking was something we built a habit towards, and now we can do it without fail so long as we’re able to use both our legs.

One way that you can push out of your comfort zone is to look at your habits and begin to challenge them. If it’s a bad habit or a habit you want to break, replace it with a better one and reinforce it. For pre-existing good habits, find new and exciting ways to push yourself.

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For example, say you love working out and are in great physical shape. One way to break out of your comfort zone of your otherwise solid exercise routine is to try a different exercise or take a new class they’re offering at the gym. Or maybe you can give yourself a goal to prepare for a marathon.

In either scenario, this can present great challenges and change your life. When working out, you may not be so focused on cardio. On the other hand, if you’re breaking a habit, the challenge is starting a new one and implementing it.

2. Remind Yourself of Key Aspects of Change

Another way to break your comfort zone is to remind yourself of some key aspects of change. Change is a journey that you must take if you want to succeed. Part of that change is having lessons and learning from those lessons.

These lessons can stem from failures and successes. Some examples of these are:

  • If you want to change, you’ll need to trust yourself.
  • The process matters just as much as the results you’ll get in the end.
  • Effort in change is what matters. Even if you fail, you at least put in the effort, and that makes all the difference.

As many others have said before me, even if you fail, it’s not a complete failure unless you didn’t learn something. Learning is all a part of life, and walking away with a lesson can be just as rewarding as achieving something.

3. Experiment With Various Methods

As mentioned, there are so many ways you can step out of your comfort zone, and there is no right or wrong method. Every successful person has their own method for success and breaking out of their comfort zone. It’s key that you do the same.

While you don’t know which method is the best one for you, that’s kind of the point. Yes, it can be scary, but I’d argue it’s a reason to be excited. If one method doesn’t work, you’ve got dozens of others to get excited about and to apply in your life.

The idea that one of these methods can lead you to a new and exciting life filled with more fulfilment and satisfaction is thrilling. It’s human nature that you would want to be achieving more and getting more out of life.

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The question is what kind of methods are there? Well here are some brief examples:

Consider What’s Beyond Your Comfort Zone

When you have an idea of what the change looks like, you can be motivated to make that vision a reality. Try writing down three new things you would like to try. Tackle one of them each month. By starting small with things you are interested in, it will motivate you to step out more often.

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Always wanting more and never settling can seem scary for those in their comfort zones, but I’d say this is how you ought to live your life. Always strive to make changes, big or small. Will the changes be uncomfortable for a time? Probably. But after some time, it will become your new normal, and you won’t even remember the discomfort that came before.

See Failure as a Mentor or Teacher

I hinted at this as lessons can stem from failure. By training yourself to see failure as a teacher before experiencing failure, the experience will be easier for you. In an instant, you reframe yourself as a student, someone who is learning the right way to being more successful.

Final Thoughts

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. This quote makes more sense once you understand what your comfort zone really is and look at what comes when you begin to make changes in your life.

And the glorious thing about comfort zones is that it is never too late to stretch them and to break them. You can begin to make small changes in your life today and watch over time as they transform your life into something better. All you have to do is have a plan, adopt a method, and take action.

More Tips on Breaking out of Your Comfort Zone

Featured photo credit: AJ Yorio via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: The Comfort Zone
[2] SELF Research Centre: Fear of Failure: Friend or Foe?

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on November 29, 2021

Why the 10-80-10 Rule Is Key To Achieving Success

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Why the 10-80-10 Rule Is Key To Achieving Success

The 10-80-10 rule is an extension of the Pareto principle that says 80% of productivity/wealth is generated/owned by 20% of the population.[1] This ratio is often observable in various statistics and studies.

The 10-80-10 rule takes this principle and applies it more specifically to human behavior. It is also malleable, enabling people to move between categories. If we apply it to a company (just as an example), in essence, the 10-80-10 rule looks like this:

  • 10% Highly Productive Elite – This is the core of your business. These people will work all the hours that God sends for your company, leaving no stone unturned and generating the maximum possible productivity/revenue for you that they can.
  • 80% Productive – These lovely folks make up the majority of your business and will work 9-5, getting their tasks done and not making much of a fuss about it. They are less likely to offer innovation, but they are reliable, trustworthy, and dutiful.
  • 10% Unproductive and Defiant – These people are outliers and mercifully low in number, but they create work. They are difficult, unwilling to work hard, and generally take more from your company than they give.

This can also be applied in other areas of life. Morality is another example, with the vast majority (80%) of us being law-abiding citizens who may bend the rules occasionally, 10% being unscrupulously good, and 10% being out-and-out criminals.

Who Came Up With the 10-80-10 Rule?

As touched on earlier, the 10-80-10 rule is an off-shoot of the Pareto Principle, first conceived of in the early twentieth century by Italian civil engineer turned economist Wilfredo Pareto. He simply observed that 80% of the property in Italy, at that time, was owned by 20% of the population. Wealth distribution, according to Pareto, was divided 20/80 across all sections of society. The country, age, gender, or industry didn’t matter. This principle still applied.

Later on in the 1940s, Joseph M. Juran (himself an engineer and management consultant) applied the Pareto Principle to human behavior with the aim of improving quality control, positing that 80% of the success on any one project would be due to the efforts of 20% of the team working on it.

Since then, various researchers and theorists have expanded the Pareto principle into the 10-80-10 rule—observing that 10% are true leaders, 80% seek guidance from others, and 10% wilfully act in a counter-productive manner.[2]

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How to Apply the 10-80-10 Rule to Management to Be More Successful

Well, let’s stay with the team/workforce model for now: if you want to improve productivity in your company, where should your focus be? All too often, “the squeaky wheels get the grease.” That is to say, we tend to try and fix what’s most broken in our organization (namely the bottom 10%) before we move on to the less broken.

When you realize, though, that you’re pouring resources into just 10% of your labor force, it starts to look very inefficient. Moreover, that 10% is comprised of folks who are highly unlikely to change their tune (statistically anyway). You need to focus on the 80%. That’s where you’ll have the most impact and where you’ll create the biggest uplift in productivity. The 80% aren’t (of course) completely equal. Some will sit closer to either of the 10% range, but this means that you should be able to increase the size of your top 10% to be more like 20 or 30%.

How Much of a Difference Would That Make?

Now, before you slam your laptop shut, haul off, and start brainstorming ideas about team-building exercises and corporate days out, it is first very important to understand the metric by which you measure productivity. Numbers on a spreadsheet or letters next to a person’s name only paint part of the picture.

What you value in your company is unique to you. As I’m constantly saying to entrepreneurs and business owners that I coach, you have to be specific with what you are asking of your team, your customers, and the universe at large. Ask a vague question and you’ll get a vague answer.

So, do the work of understanding exactly what is working for you and what isn’t. Simply saying that you want revenue to increase is not enough. By how much? In what areas? Who will we add value to increase their spending with us? Where and whom should we target for new growth?

Who Does This Desired Increase in Productivity Help You Become and Who Does It Serve?

Armed with this, you will have much more clarity to take to your team and with which to start formulating a plan of action. You can look at what would incentivize those in the 80% who just need a slight nudge. That’s where minimum effort will yield maximum results! So, start there.

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A 2014 Gallup poll found that a third of the US workforce felt unmotivated in their jobs, with the highest levels of motivation found among managers.[3] This tells us two things:

  • Firstly, the unmotivated third is comprised partly of those in the 80% camp, but the entirety of the unmotivated 10% is in there, too. If you take them out (because they are those people), the remainder isn’t as many people and they are in a group that still wants to work and get on.
  • Secondly, those in a position of management (i.e. those who feel as though they can effect change in the company) tend to be the most motivated.

Now, let’s not confuse motivation with productivity. You can be as motivated as you like, but without proper strategy or direction, you’ll just be a hammer in search of a nail. Nevertheless, those in management who felt the most motivated to be productive are worth interrogating.

Why Did They Feel More Motivated?

I would posit that the answer is very simple: they felt heard and that they could affect change. It’s a hugely important part of human psychology that we feel as though our ideas, thoughts, and feelings are heard by others. When we feel ignored, we feel unvalued. When we feel unvalued, we are (naturally) unmotivated.

This is not to say that you should make everyone a manager within your company. Your business might be a start-up or just a few people working out of your converted garage. The point is, make sure that they all feel heard. I guarantee you that—especially among the upper end of the 80%—you will see the greatest uptick in productivity if you simply listen to them. Make them feel as though they have a vested interest in growing your business, too.

If they can see the role that they play is important and understood by you, they will push themselves to go further, work harder, and achieve more. You have to put yourself in their shoes, which brings us on to the next point. . .

How to Use the 10-80-10 Rule to Improve Success

Okay, so far we’ve just looked at the 10-80-10 rule as it pertains to the success of groups. But how does it apply to us as individuals? What can we learn from it and use in our day-to-day lives?

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You might be a sole trader or maybe a consultant—someone who does not have a team to rally and simply sells your services to others. In that instance, how does this work for you? Divide yourself up into the 10-80-10. Do it by tasks: what are you most efficient/gifted at, what are you good at, and what do you constantly put off doing?

Here’s an example. Say you’re a writer (where did I get this one from?), and you’re very successful. You are asked to write articles for lots of great, top publications like LifeHack, or maybe you’re writing a book and your screenplay just got picked up by Warner Brothers. Writing is your 10% elite. It’s where you offer the greatest value.

It’s probably not the actual writing so much as it’s the creativity, ideas, and talent that you can bring to bear in your writing. The actual writing—sitting down at your computer, tapping it out, proofreading, and catching spelling/grammar mistakes—that’s your 80%. Sure, you’re good at it. You are competent and get it done. But it’s not where you are at your most powerful, and you usually run out of steam at some point during the day.

Then, there’s your bottom 10%. That’s probably your operational tasks, such as your timekeeping, bookkeeping, invoicing, correspondence, tax return, etc.

Where Do I Get These Examples From?

So, where can you be most effective in taking action that will support you in accelerating your growth? Again, start with the 80%. Try finding ways to improve the writing experience for you. Maybe observe yourself on a typical day, and note when you do your best work. It might be right after your second coffee that you stay at your desk for longer and write with the greatest clarity. So, start structuring your day around that.

What has that cost you? Nothing! It was simply a case of reorganizing your day and bingo, you are doing more of your best work in less time than it took you before. Pretty soon, after you’ve tightened up your day so that you are of maximum productivity, you’ll find that you have more time and resources.

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Once you are better resourced, having landed bigger and bigger jobs, you’ll be able to take care of that pesky bottom 10%. It could be that you eliminate it by outsourcing the work to someone else. Now that you earn more for less of your time, why not? Just take it out of the equation altogether.

Final Thoughts

The 10-80-10 rule is not about adding ridged structures or following strict rules per se. It’s simply a lens through which to view human behavior, including your own. The reason why it is (or could be) the key to your success is that it enables you to identify those small changes that you can make that will have the greatest impact and accelerate your growth the fastest.

If you categorize your labor and the labor of your employees in this way, you’ll be able to more easily identify where you can have maximum impact with minimum input. If you continue to work out from there, your success will snowball, and you’ll have the support in place to maintain it.

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Featured photo credit: Andreas Klassen via unsplash.com

Reference

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