Leaving the Comfort Zone: The ONLY Way to Maximize Life

Beginning anything new is stressful and requires a big step out of the "comfort zone." Starting a new healthy lifestyle is no different and might be one of the most stressful things a person can do. Comfort zones are what keep us locked into habits that might not be helping us better ourselves whether it be professionally, psychologically, financially, or with personal relationships. It seems almost everyone has an idea of what a comfort zone is, yet the origins of the term are a bit more difficult to define. One of the best definitions I could find is as follows:

The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without sense of risk.

This means to have a substantial change or betterment in your life you must enter a state of anxiety in order to change. Focused anxiety can be a good thing and is necessary for true change and betterment. Too much anxiety or unfocused anxiety can lead to performance decrease and is negative. Too little anxiety and things don't change. You must leave the comfort zone. Researchers in the early 1900s had a handle on this and found that there is a critical point in which anxiety will meet its threshold and once that threshold is met, the performance drops off.

Focused anxiety is needed to create positive change. Stress can be good, when utilized correctly. 

Another group of researchers have found and use the term self-esteem interchangeably with anxiety when talking about how to create a positive performance gain. Self-esteem must be high, but not too high in that it creates negative gains.

The TPR Life-Cycle Model was proposed in 2007 by White and Fairhurst, and this model demonstrates the process one goes through when incorporating change to increase performance in a specific area of their life. The same pattern happens when a client begins a health journey. Health is very emotional. It requires a lot of feeling, and in the 21st century we spend so much time and effort trying to escape this feeling and maintaining our comfort zone that health journeys are often scary and very anxiety provoking. GOOD. That is how it is supposed to start.

Transforming. Performing. Reforming. The process has begun.

Detoxification, fat loss, brain health, sleep, eating clean, taking the correct supplementation, exercising, stress reduction, cutting addictions are all very hard to begin. We consistently have clients tell us they handle stress, eat clean, work out perfectly, and yet want to have better health. This is perplexing, because after we look at the numbers and examination we find solid evidence of high stress, lack of sleep, bad diet, and no signs of any workout plan efficiency. The truth is, the client is in a comfort zone. Being healthy is stressful (in a sense), and takes focused effort. One must therefore increase stress (focused anxiety) to get healthy.

This is a component of Transforming. Transforming is the first step in the path to a better body, health, and mind. It includes denial, defense, and discarding. Denial is an unwillingness to try something new, constant referencing to how they did things in the past, whether they worked or not. We see this a lot when we prescribe dietary change for weight loss. Clients do not want to admit that their ‘healthy’ diet, the one they have been eating for 30 years, which has led to 40 extra lbs of weight, is the issue. That is denial.

Defense happens when they move a bit past denial and start to put some of the new strategies into the old pattern. At this phase a lot of energy gets put into trying to prove the new model wrong, or trying to hold on to their old pattern, while gingerly incorporating new things. Any new plan of action is hit with a lot of resistance. Signs of extreme stress will arise.

Discarding is the last part of Transforming. This is when the new patterns are starting to take hold. The old ways of doing things are starting to leave, as the new seem to be much improved. Self-esteem rises and confidence picks up.

Performing happens at this point. The new lifestyle has been incorporated. Results are being felt and that is a driving force to keep it up. Now the little things you do are starting to build on each other and performance starts to improve at a pretty steady rate.

Reforming is the last phase. This is when the new changes you incorporated into your life have taken hold and become part of your daily habits and routines. Reforming is moving up to the next level of performance. It is the start of the cycle, all over again, but instead of entering an elementary phase you are now on a high school level. You follow this path enough times and eventually you have a PhD in performance management. Reforming is internalization.

"Adaptation takes time, effort, strategy, and determination. But with a solid plan in place and the courage to take it forward, your results can be extraordinary." - Andy Molinsky

At Bluestone Health Group, we work hard to make this transition out of the comfort zone and into the performance zone as fast and easy as possible. We have developed out 7(21) Detox Program to do just that. It is a 28 Day program with the first week designed to create maximum change and get you to the Reforming phase as fast as humanly possible. 



White, Alasdair. From Comfort Zone to Performance Management. April 2008. <www.pm-solutions.com>

Molinsky, Andy. Get out of your Comfort Zone: A Guide for the Terrified. Harvard Business Review. Dec 2013.