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The Goldilocks Rule: Why It’s OK to Stay in Your Comfort Zone

Topics: Career Advice
comfort zone
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If you could just push yourself a little harder, and get past those things that make you uncomfortable a little faster, you’d get ahead. Right?

Maybe not. It turns out that going too hard, too fast might actually do more harm than good. Surprise, surprise — stress and exhaustion do not lead to success.

At Inc, Jessica Stillman writes about how pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can lead to burnout, not gains. She shares the story of Melody Wilding, a performance coach with direct experience of pushing too hard. In her former career, Wilding worked so hard that she wound up with heart palpitations and a bad case of exhaustion.

Stillman quotes James Clear, an expert on motivation, on why sticking to your comfort zone — or close to it — might be more useful:

“Scientists have been studying motivation for decades. While there is still much to learn, one of the most consistent findings is that perhaps the best way to stay motivated is to work on tasks of ‘just manageable difficulty,'” agrees author James Clear, who calls this phenomenon “The Goldilocks Rule.

“The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right,” he goes on to explain.

Pushing hard is part of the culture

If you’re a member of the modern workforce, chances are you feel a real pressure to overextend yourself when it comes to your job. Current cultural norms emphasize the idea that overwork is basically a good thing. Long hours and ambition are emphasized as key ingredients in the recipe for success.

As a result of this relentless mindset, you might even feel an internal pressure to push yourself as hard as you can when it comes to your work. You may feel as though you ought to consistently and reliably push past any barriers that stand between you and success.

Often, this means stepping outside your comfort zone. But, sometimes you’re fine where you are. For example, if you hate traveling, but would need to be on the road more in order to advance, maybe a career change would be better. Or, if a promotion would mean not being able to work from home anymore, which you love, you might be better off staying put.

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Honor your comfort zone

It’s good to challenge yourself, of course. Growth isn’t always comfortable. However, it also helps to understand that your comfort zone is there for a reason. It allows you to rest when stress becomes too much. It permits some predictability in an unreliable world. You can benefit from spending time in your comfort zone just as much as you can from stepping outside of it.

As with so many things, moving beyond your comfort zone in the best way requires some balance and solid self-awareness. Honor your needs and try pushing when it works and avoiding it when it feels like too much. This might just prove to be the best way to advance your skills and ultimately your career.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Growth isn’t always comfortable. However, it also helps to understand that your comfort zone is there for a reason.” quote=”Growth isn’t always comfortable. However, it also helps to understand that your comfort zone is there for a reason.”]

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever tried to push past your comfort zone a little too quickly? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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