Artist Mari Andrew @bymariandrew on IG, posted an image months ago that I was reminded of today. The image is a big circle. Outside the circle are the words “Your comfort zone.” and inside the circle is an asterisk right up against the edge of one side that reads “where the magic happens.” Her caption describes the magic you can create within your healthy, vibrant and cozy comfort zone and about the self-discovery therein. Pretty much the opposite advice we usually hear.

I thought of this image because I haven’t done anything daring, new or exciting lately. I haven’t stepped outside my comfort zone…I haven’t “gone big” because I’m too busy going home to rest. Ha! And yet, I am happier, more rested and more productive than I’ve been in a long time.

I don’t believe that our comfort zones are a bad place to be. After all, we’ve created them for a reason. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves by making our lives as uncomfortable as possible for growth. In our haste to step out and be bold, we often underestimate how much we can actually accomplish when we are comfortable. I love a challenge, but I do my best work when I am in my comfort zone and don’t have to worry about much else.

Here’s my biggest revelation in exploring this idea…

Entrepreneurship (mainly Solopreneurship…) was a big step outside my comfort zone and something that earned me a lot of “street cred” back in the day…but it was never a good fit for me at the most basic level.

I love working with a team, managing people, actually seeing people every day, making a consistent paycheck and having the marketing and social media stuff handled for me – things that aren’t part of solopreneurship. Whew. I enjoyed parts of working for myself but I also forced much of it. I was embarrassed about not being able to make entrepreneurship work for me like I’d planned, and I wondered what people would think when I decided to close up shop and eventually take a day job. Today, I’m the Director of Fitness at an all women’s gym (a recent promotion!!) and this work makes me nervous excited every single day. It’s like dancing on the edge of my comfort zone.

Based on Mari’s illustration, here are some benefits of living at the edge of your comfort zone:

  • You can grow from what you know
  • You can build more healthy habits from your current best practices
  • You are more consistent in your comfort zone; you like what you’re doing so you do more of it
  • You get clear about what you do and don’t like, blocking out the noise to stay “in the zone”
  • You can combine things that you’re comfortable doing with things that challenge you and enjoy activities that bring you nervous excitement, not anxiety or dread

Some people are motivated by diving in head first to scary challenges while others need to satisfy their basic needs first, set and reach their goals and then advance to the next step having been consistent and effective at the most basic (comfortable) level. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to get comfortable being comfortable.

Start from your comfort zone, dance on the edge from time to time and work your way to greatness.