By Joanne Ford, Communications Consultant
Is it just me or does the idea of the Comfort Zone feel a bit negative? How would you take it, for example, if someone, say a boss or a colleague, referred to you as being in your Comfort Zone? Maybe it IS just me, but I think deep down I would take this as a slight, well, slight. There’s perhaps a suggestion of apathy, lack of enthusiasm or even laziness.
But is feeling comfortable so bad? Brene Brown describes the Comfort Zone as “where our uncertainty, scarcity, and vulnerability are minimised-where we believe we will have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control.” That doesn’t sound like a terrible place to me.
For comms professionals, feeling like we have some control can be particularly important and sadly isn’t always the case. We’re often at the mercy of the demands and expectations of others. Not to mention juggling intense workloads. A lot of the time we might end up operating in the Panic Zone, under stress and frustration. So having a safe place, physically and mentally, to be able to return to is incredibly important. In my mind, spending time in your Comfort Zone should recharge, reassure and reenergise you. It should provide respite and recovery, preparing you for the next adventure outside into more unknown territory.
Because we all know that’s vital too. Staying too long in any state, whether it’s comfort or panic, isn’t good for us. So, we do need to push ourselves sometimes.
Six years ago, I ventured out of my Comfort Zone by travelling nearly 500 miles from the West of Scotland to Dorset for the very first CommsUnplugged. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what to expect from this communications and wellbeing conference slash festival and it was very much a situation of ‘I’ll go if you go’ with my friend and colleague Anna. I hadn’t been to many professional development events in my previous role, had just recently been promoted to my first manager role and I also hadn’t slept in a tent for 15 years. So, there was a fair bit of discomfort, not to mention imposter syndrome going on.
Thankfully it was a wonderful experience (even the camping!) and broadened both my network and my horizons.
I came back from CommsUnplugged energised, enthused and even a little emotional. It was an experience that had definitely pushed me out of my Comfort Zone but also made me feel inspired and reassured that I had what it takes to do some great, interesting and creative communications.
So of course, I wanted to go back. I missed CommsUnplugged 2018 due to illness so it was two years before I returned. And while it was equally inspiring, it was a different experience because it felt familiar, I did know what to expect this time and I was looking forward to spending time there. It had become part of my Comfort Zone but it was still equally inspiring.
Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? Your Comfort Zone will grow and change as you do. The more trips you take out of it the more the boundary expands. And spending time there can give you the boost you need to keep being brave and doing cool things.
For me, CommsUnplugged and the brilliant people it introduced me to, who have become friends, advisors, and collaborators, set me on a path of delivering more interesting and creative comms, winning a couple of awards, and as of this year taking the leap to going out on my own as a Communications Consultant. But it also set me on course to taking better care of myself and taking the time to rest and recharge when needed. These have gone hand in hand to lead me to where I am now.
So, whether you come to Comms Unplugged or not (although I hope you do) I encourage you to find your Comfort Zone, create it for yourself, spend time there regularly and add to it as you go.
Joanne was previously Campaigns Manager for Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. She is now a freelance communications consultant – find her at https://twitter.com/jomacdonald79
— Tuesday 1st August —