Get Out of Your Comfort Zone! Um . . . Why?

“When someone tells you to ‘get out of your comfort zone,’ wait for it. It’s highly likely that they’re subtly or not-so-subtly nudging you into doing something that they know you don’t want to do, but they need done.” Steve Henderson

Just because we're in our comfort zone as painting artists, doesn't mean that we're not facing big, exciting challenges. Bold Innocence by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art.
Just because we’re in our comfort zone as painting artists, doesn’t mean that
we’re not facing big, exciting challenges.
Bold Innocence by Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art.

We really owe seminar speakers a lot: they are the ones who come up with these tiresome platitudes that we battle on a daily basis.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why are random people so concerned about my comfort zone, and whether or not I’m in it?” And, “Just where is it that they want me to go?”

In the real world, there is a difference between a rut and a path, the former being a place where dirty water settles and that gets your feet all wet, the latter being a directional aid in getting you where you want to go. All too frequently, we muddy the two, helped no doubt by people around us who point out that we seem too “comfortable” doing things the way we do, and perhaps we should step off our clear path onto the one they are suggesting.

But there is a reason we feel comfortable doing what we do: it fits us. It makes sense. It’s relatively easy because it meshes with the way we think, believe, and process information. It’s only when we’re afraid, timid, reluctant, huddled in the ditch against the breeze that we’re actually in a rut, and generally, we can figure this out without someone pointing it out to us.

Go ahead: do what you do best in your painting art, and do learn how to paint in the way that makes sense to you. Challenge yourself in your painting lessons, try something new, shake up your routine as a painting artist — but do it because you want to do it, not because someone scolds you into thinking that you should.


Related Posts:


Oil Painting Blog

6 thoughts on “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone! Um . . . Why?

  1. This applies to all of life and career. We will be the most successful if we figure out what we like and what we are good at and then focus on that. Develop your tangents, not your weaknesses.

    For too many years, I spent too much time working to strengthen the areas I was weak in and was miserable!! Finally I started doing what I enjoyed a and what I was good at. Only then was I truly successful and happy!

    This applies to our art, careers, and all of life.

    Do what you love!!

  2. This is truly godawful terrible advice. It shows a misunderstanding of why art training requires people to move beyond what they know, and why it can be infinitely more rewarding to do so.

    As an art tutor, I have seen so many people come to life as artists once they have been guided through difficult and unfamiliar territory, and allowed to take risks and explore their art in way that their previously uninformed prejudices. misunderstandings, and sheer fear would stop them.

    It is patronising to assume that people are not capable of pushing themselves further than they already have, and that they should be simply ‘left alone’.

    Artist Daily, you should be ashamed.

    1. Hi there GDS,

      I think Carolyn is trying to make the point that a person’s comfort zone exists for a reason and that sometimes change for change’s sake isn’t always the answer. I’m glad you brought up the points you make about going into unfamiliar territory. It enriches this conversation but I just wanted to be clear that we welcome all opinions on the topic and want everyone to feel good about expressing how they feel. Thanks!


    2. Hello, GDS:

      Thank you, GDS, for your comment, and thank you, Courtney, for clarifying the issue in your comment, below.

      It is difficult, in a 300-word snippet, to address the full sides of every issue, so this comment will probably be longer than the article!

      I see what you’re saying, and I agree — there are multitudes of artists who are stuck in what I would call a rut, as opposed to an area in which they are comfortable. My addressing of the word “comfort zone” is to argue that this hackneyed term, which is used and abused by seminar-speak charlatans in all areas of our lives, applies undue pressure on people — not for their improvement, but for the (generally financial) benefit of charlatan using the word.

      There is nothing wrong with being comfortable — secure, strong, confident — in one’s abilities, and indeed, if more artists would get to this point, then fewer seminar teachers would be making such a good living. An artist comfortable with his abilities is one who is able to shake himself up, to look,at his work and say, “No, that’s not working,” to try new things — not because someone else has told him that he must — but because he or she, the artist, is mature, skilled, and confident enough to experiment, fail or succeed, retrench, and move forward.

      As you observe, some artists need a nudge in this direction through well thought out, genuine teaching or tutoring, a firm but meaningful hand directing and encouraging them to take a bigger leap than what they want. This is a good thing. HOWEVER, there are many people out there who call themselves tutors or teachers who are not genuine in their motives — they care less about the advancement of the artist than they do the advancement of their bank account — and they make it difficult for the genuine teachers, which it sounds like you are, to do their job.

      My writing to artists encourages them to keep an eye out for the false teachers. One of the ways to spot them is that pressure technique, and one of those forms of pressures is to scold people to “get out of your comfort zone!” It would be better, I think, to just get rid of the term, “comfort zone,” since it was developed, and is overused, by people who do not have the best of intentions. Those of us who do can surely articulate ourselves in such a way that we don’t have to copy corporate speak.

      I think that we could both agree that the ultimate goal for an artist is to grow up in their abilities, develop skill, hone that skill, and eventually get to the point that they don’t have to look to others for constant guidance and wisdom — indeed, the best teachers are those who rejoice when their pupils equal, or push beyond them, and the relationship changes from tutor/disciple to equal/equal, each being able to contribute to the other.

      1. Apologies if I came a bit strong with my disdain of the article, but as someone who often seen incredibly cautious and limited artists take on a new lease of life once they have tried things they are less familiar with – and which would certainly not have happened if they had not been pushed – it worries me that the idea of simply getting comfortable and ignoring anything that might intrude on this is given as advice. For the experienced and settled, who have already found a voice, so to speak, this might be fine, but for learners, their journey is nearly always curtailed by their own understandably narrow vision of what art is, and what they themselves can do with it.

        1. Apology accepted, GDS, and I do hear your frustration. There is a distinct line between pushing people — with good intentions — to go beyond what they are comfortable with doing, and pushing people — with maleficent intentions — to pressure them into doing what they instinctively know is not right for them. My beef is with this latter attitude, which masquerades as one that cares and shows concern. It’s the Seminar Effect.

          As a society, we are falling so hard for the substitute, which looks real because it insists that it is, that we’re not getting the real thing. We follow leaders because they talk big and confidently, not because they actually know what they’re doing. Often, the person who knows what he’s doing doesn’t need to talk about it, because his or her actions speak for themselves, but in a society that looks at words and not deeds, too many people exchange the real quiet, ordinary, humble real thing for the showy, loud, and obnoxious lie.

          You sound like a good, caring teacher. I am glad, and I know that your students benefit from your drive, commitment, and insistence upon being real. These kind of lessons go far, far beyond the subject matter.