A comfort zone is “a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.” Getting out of it and pushing yourself leads to growth, most of the time. There are some situations when you’ll want to consider taking it easy for a short time.
It’s okay to stay in your comfort zone when you need to recharge after working hard or if you’re going through something difficult. Taking breaks like this is not only okay, it will help you grow faster. However, if you’re not in either of these situations, staying where you’re comfortable will stunt your growth.
You have to try for yourself to learn what works for you. Knowing when to step outside your comfort zone is a skill that can mean the difference between success and failure.
Let’s get right into it starting with the most common time you’ll want to take a break from pushing yourself to grow.
1. Right After You’ve Been Outside Your Comfort Zone
How many hours of sleep do you think LeBron James gets each night? It’s more than you think.
James and other pro athletes get around 12 hours of sleep per night. It’s common for professionals and Olympic athletes to get at least 10 hours of sleep nightly.
They do this because they know that real growth occurs when you rest after practicing hard. That’s what makes them so great. And it can make you great too.
If you’ve just worked hard on your goals, you’ll need to step back into your comfort zone. Doing so will help you avoid burnout and provide an opportunity for your brain and muscles to recover and grow.
The amount of time you spend in your comfort zone after working hard varies. Consider taking breaks like this:
- Every hour take a 5-minute break to do something fun
- At the end of each day, watch a movie or play video games for an hour
- During the weekend, relax, play, and enjoy life inside your comfort zone
- Every 12 weeks take a week off from your goals
- At the end of the year take a 2-3 week break
It might feel like you’re wasting your time or being lazy. But you’ll return to your goals with far more ability than if you’d kept working on them the whole time.
As an engineer, I’ve taken many math classes over the years. It always amazed me how much a summer break would improve my understanding of what I’d learned the previous year.
I’d struggle with complex topics one year only to come back the next and have it suddenly completely make sense. Now I realize it’s all because during the summer I went back into my comfort zone and let my brain recover and absorb the information.
2. When You’re Going Through Something Difficult
A few months ago my grandpa passed away just weeks after my wife’s grandpa had. It was during one of my busiest times at work so stress was already high. And in the middle of it all, we went on a previously planned vacation with our three kids.
I felt overwhelmed, was grieving, and struggled with my goals. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone was difficult because I was being forced outside of it by external events that were outside of my control.
In one of my weekly reviews, I considered the entire situation and whether I would continue with my goals or not. I wanted to keep going but if I did pause, I’d overwhelm myself.
I knew that it would take longer to recover from burnout than from what I was going through. So I decided to take a break from my goals and start again the next quarter.
When life is hard like this, there’s no need to overburden yourself. You’re already growing. The only difference is that the nature and direction of that growth aren’t in your control.
Scientists have recently discovered that people who experience psychological trauma don’t always have a worse life afterward. Some people become better and even happier after extreme difficulties.
It’s known as post-traumatic growth and you can learn more about it in this article.
Think back to the difficult things that you’ve been through. How did you grow from them? If you really consider it, you’ll see that many of these were defining moments that helped shape who you are today.
You can grow from difficulty because it forces you outside of your comfort zone. That’s why when times are tough, it’s best not to push yourself too hard.
3. When You Don’t Want to Grow
Personal growth isn’t for everybody. Staying in your comfort zone may be okay if you just don’t want to improve yourself.
But if you do want to grow, and if the previous two situations don’t apply to you, staying in your comfort zone for a long time is going to keep you stuck the way you are.
The problem with getting outside of a comfort zone is that most people overdo it in their minds before they even start. They make themselves believe that they have to push way outside of it or they won’t grow at all.
This may be why you think you don’t want to improve. But the truth is, it’s much simpler than that. And far more doable than you might think.
Growth happens slowly, over time. Think about a tree. Or an investment. Even people grow little by little. It’s a law of the universe that you can’t avoid. And it’ll actually make things easier if you understand this truth.
The key is to do whatever it takes to stay consistent so you can take advantage of the law of slow growth.
If you have to start extremely small, do it. Nobody cares how little your goals are. And they especially won’t care when you’re still going after years and they’ve given up because they pushed too hard too fast.
Consistency also means following the first point from earlier and taking breaks.
You have to take time off to get back into your comfort zone after working hard. It lets your mind and body recover, repair, and become stronger.
Hustle culture would have you believe otherwise. But that’s why success stories from those who work 24/7 are so rare. It just doesn’t work. Resist the urge to give in to flashy but incorrect ideas about how to reach your goals.
Take it slow, take breaks, relax, play, and enjoy your life in between the times you get outside of your comfort zone.
To recap, here are the three times that it’s okay to stay inside your comfort zone:
- If you’ve just spent time outside of your comfort zone
- When you’re going through something difficult
- If you don’t want to grow personally
Being outside of your comfort zone is crucial for personal growth. Most people don’t realize that being inside of it at the right times is vital as well.
Learning to mindfully stay inside or outside of your comfort zone is what sets apart those who reach their goals from those who don’t. Take some time today to consider how you might take more breaks and how doing so can accelerate your progress toward your goals.