I can still recall the summer day before the eighth grade when I went with a friend to Dollywood and, facing my fears, rode my first roller coaster, the Tennessee Tornado.  Since that day I have climbed aboard a great number of coasters, continuing to push back my fears as I enjoy the thrill of bigger and even more thrilling rides.  While there are still some coasters that I have not yet braved, I can happily report that on my recent first ever trip to Cedar Point in Ohio, I did brave the 95 degree drop of the Maverick (one of my new all-time favorite coasters, and yes, 95 degree drop) and the smooth-soaring Gatekeeper (similar to Dollywood’s Wild Eagle).

I did say ‘no thanks’ to the gigacoaster Millennium Force –  that drop was just too much for me…. for now.

Our personal comfort zones can often be over trivial matters; roller coasters in this case.  However, in other regards our comfort zones should be viewed as anything but “comfortable”.  As the business book classic Who Moved My Cheese? acknowledges, the world is in constant change, and becoming too comfortable with our current environment can make it impossible to adapt when we must.  The only way to become truly comfortable is to learn to deal with uncomfortable.

Thankfully, there are advantages to doing this.  As an article from Psychology Today points out, challenging yourself pushes you, forcing you to tap into your full potential.  Your comfort zone will allow you to perform at less than your best, which overtime will work against your best interests.  Fighting against your comfort zone will result in growth.  Furthermore, as T. S. Eliot once stated, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”  Your full potential will only be found outside your present comfort zone.

The dangers of the comfort zone are alive and well in the business realm as well.  The days of being hired by one company, staying with them until retirement, and then drawing a pension throughout retirement are largely behind us.  Very few jobs are truly “secure”, due in part because businesses too often refuse to leave their comfort zone and explore new possibilities (just think of Kodak Film, Blockbuster, and Sears).  If you and/or your business are not continuing to grow, push boundaries, and discover the extent of your capabilities, a sudden economic disruption could have serious ramifications for your life.  But the more comfortable you have become with the uncomfortable, the easier such transitions could be.  And even if your job is secure, exploring the unknown could help you discover new dreams and goals for your life, taking you in entirely new directions that would have otherwise been left unexplored.

Escaping your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean jumping into the unknown feet first.  If pulling up stakes and moving across the country without any job prospects terrifies you, that’s honestly okay (it probably should).  But you can however start taking small steps to push against your comfort zone and your fears.  Seeking out new experiences, furthering your education, volunteering, and joining professional organizations (are you a PEAK member?) are all ways to expand your environment.  Doing so will also make it easier for you to continue to push your boundaries in the future.

As John Shedd once stated: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”  I challenge you to sail away from the docks of your comfort zone and discover what awaits you across the waves.  Think about the things you already believe you would regret if you never try or experience, and start finding ways to tap into them today.  The drop in the roller coaster may be terrifying, but you’ll soon find that what awaited past the drop was worth the scream.



Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also
a partner at Appalachian Digital, a local web development agency, and a founding partner of
MHQC LLC Real Estate Development. He and his wife Erin are natives of Kingsport, TN.