Even though we always have a choice in our lives, sometimes we get stuck. We can change. We want to change. But we don’t.
Often, what keeps us where we are is our own self-image, our own comfort zone. Your comfort zone is a regulator inside you that keeps you safe. It keeps you at a familiar place, where you know you belong.
We all want comfort and safety. But, sometimes that comfort zone – that safe zone – can actually hold us back. If we look at our lives and make a choice to change something, the first thing we do is get into a problem with our comfort zone. Changing things is going to take us out of that comfort zone, into something new. That’s a little scary. Depending on what it is, it might be very scary.
So we get stressed, we get anxiety, we get upset with ourselves. If we get too far outside of our comfort zone, we can become so anxious that we can’t think creatively any more. We lose our ability to focus, to think. We’re so uncomfortable that we may even lose the ability to articulate exactly what it is that we want to say!
That’s why public speaking is most people’s number one fear. They may have all the ability and all the talent in the world for standing up in front of a group of people. They may be able to talk easily about any subject in their field. But, if public speaking is outside of their comfort zone, they may freeze. No matter how good they are at communicating or how much they have to say, some people actually lose the ability to articulate their message. All they can think about is how uncomfortable they feel. Nothing else matters in that moment but getting back to that comfort zone, where they feel safe and at home again.
Your comfort zone is actually there to protect you. It regulates things to keep them within acceptable parameters – to make sure things don’t get out of hand. It’s like a thermostat regulating the temperature in your house. You set it at whatever temperature is comfortable for you. If you set it at 72 degrees, then whenever the temperature cools down below 70 degrees, the heater kicks in. Whenever it gets up to 74 degrees, the air conditioning kicks in. The thermostat regulates the temperature making sure it always stays close to 72 degrees. That’s the “comfort zone” of the thermostat.
As a human being, you have a comfort zone, too. We talk to ourselves inside our head. We are constantly telling ourselves who we are. All day long, you coach yourself: This is what I’m like; or, I never do things that way; or, that sounds like me. You also get constant coaching from outside influences like parents, teachers, friends, bosses and peers. And, over the years, all of this coaching – on the inside and out – builds up your self-image. This self-image is who you know yourself to be. As long as you act in a way that matches that self-image, your inner reality is in sync with your outer reality. So, you’re in your comfort zone.
But that doesn’t mean your comfort zone is always comfortable. Sometimes, it’s not. Maybe you have a self-image that says you can’t speak in public, you always panic. Once, in high school, you panicked and ran off the stage when you had to give a speech. Then, as an adult, you had to make a few, brief presentations and you were terrified every time. Your palms were sweating. Your mouth was dry. And your creativity went out the window – you couldn’t remember a thing you wanted to say. Your self-talk tells you, you can’t do it. You’re no good at speaking in public. Maybe the other people at the presentations say the same thing, “Yeah. You’re not so good at that.” So you believe it. Now your comfort zone is about being uncomfortable. I always panic when I try to speak in public. Its part of what you expect from yourself.
But, what happens if one day you’re feeling pretty good? You realize there’s nothing to be afraid of, you know everybody in the room. Maybe you do a few breathing exercises to stay calm. And then you get up and speak with no problem at all. In fact, you almost enjoy it! Well, somewhere in your brain, alarm bells will start going off. That’s not right! That’s not who you are! Something’s wrong here! Now you feel really uncomfortable, maybe in a different way. You just don’t “feel like yourself,” even though you’ve made a breakthrough! You can run back to your comfort zone and tell yourself it was just a fluke, a one-time thing; or, you can choose to go past the discomfort and change your self-image.
It’s like the thermostat in the house. Your self-image is set at 72 degrees. If you do something amazing – something really hot – the temperature rises to 82 degrees! Then, the regulator inside you corrects for the error. Instead of saying, this is better! I like the new me, it thinks something’s wrong. You see, this regulator can’t make value judgments, it’s just set at a certain degree.
The same thing happens if you do something “beneath you.” Maybe you’re always on time. So your self-image is set at 72 degrees. People know you to be very punctual. But one day, for no real reason, you’re late for a meeting. That’s not like you, you’re out of your comfort zone. It’s like your thermostat has dropped to 69 degrees. That can’t be right. So, somehow, without even realizing it, you creatively correct it. You instantly have the motivation to get back to your comfort zone of 72 degrees, to be on time.
We all have it. We all see ourselves in certain ways and do our best to maintain that self-image – for better or worse. We stay within our comfort zones in every area of our lives. If you look around a little, you’ll immediately see where the lines of that zone are drawn. Think about these questions and you’ll see what I mean:
What type of friends are good enough for you?
What type of house is good enough for you?
How many units sold is good enough for you?
How much income is good enough for you?
How much gross is good enough for you?
All of these things say something about your self-image both personally and for your business. They say something about your comfort zone. Your business is directly driven by your comfort zone. How many times have you seen a 10-widgets-a-month salesperson? Maybe that person sells 15 widgets one month, and then only five the next month. Or the same 10-widget person sells ten in the first two weeks and then no sales the rest of the month. It’s all about maintaining the comfort zone.
So, are we locked into our present comfort zone? Absolutely not. The best way to get beyond your comfort zone is to challenge the way you think about yourself. The best way to get your sales team to a new and more successful comfort zone is to challenge their current comfort zone settings. You challenge and inspire them to go where they didn’t think they could go just by affirming that they are better then average. The best sales people focus on being the best each and every day. The entire day is part of the sales process, not just one sale. That means the salesperson is not waiting for a lead, but is being proactive in finding the deal.
The results at the end of the day are whatever they are – learn not to carry one day over to the next. Focus and renew your thinking each day on what it is you do want: on habits that form strong work behaviors; on positive attitudes; and, on your own personal belief that it is like you to make a sale a day.
Decide what you want your sales to look like for a day, a week or even for the whole year. Then, when you walk onto the sales floor each morning, remind yourself: I sell one widget a day, I’m that good at what I do. And when you make that sale, tell yourself (and keep telling yourself): That’s like me, I’m that good at what I do. Congratulations, you’ve just changed your comfort zone!