One of the great things about teaching improv comedy is that I get to see people stretch themselves and do things they never thought possible. For most people, improv comedy is out of their comfort zone. Watching a person step out of their comfort zone and gradually (or sometimes even rapidly) expand their comfort zone is a wonderful thing.
This concept applies to much more than just improv comedy. Getting out of your comfort zone is vital to any kind of success and to your own development, because all success lies outside of your comfort zone. Here’s an important fact that most people never think about: unless you are 100% satisfied with everything in your life, you must get out of your comfort zone!
To rephrase that: if there is any area of your life where you are not getting the success you want and deserve, you have to get out of your comfort zone to get it.
There is a quote that sums up why this is true. “If you keep doing what you’ve always done then you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.” If what you’ve always gotten (and are currently getting) is not what you want, then you need to do something different. Unfortunately, “different” is usually outside of your comfort zone. If you could just do what you were already comfortable with to achieve your success, you’d already be doing it.
The problem is that we don’t like getting out of our comfort zones. The word “comfort” is used deliberately. That means that getting out of your comfort zone is “uncomfortable.” Naturally, we don’t like to be uncomfortable.
The mentality that keeps us in our comfort zone is subtle though, and often comes up in the form of avoidance. That is, we don’t say, “I could have what I want, it’s just that it’s outside of my comfort zone.” Instead we blame externalities, “If people would just hire me then my business would be successful,” or we limit ourselves, “Oh, I could never do that.” In the worst case, we ignore it all together. We don’t think about what we want or could have, and we refuse to talk about. It remains a dream buried deep down in the back of our heads for years (regrettably, sometimes forever).
In my years of doing improvisational comedy, I hear the same suggestions over and over (audiences love to yell, “bathroom” for a location and “spatula” for an object – don’t ask me why!). There is a strong temptation to “re-use” old material. If I have done a joke or scene based on that suggestion previously, I may want to repeat it since I know it worked before. In fact, I have seen many; many improvisers go down this route. Re-doing on old scene is a classic “comfort zone” technique.
I learned early on however that a joke or scene never works as well the second time around. In improv, it’s the act of doing something new (stepping out of the comfort zone) that increases the enjoyment and quality. Once it has been done and is comfortable, something is missing.
Life works the same way. Staying in the comfort zone feels safe and good, but the quality is never the same. If there is *any* are of your life that you want to improve, then you must get out of your comfort zone!