Have you ever thought about what’s your comfort zone is? Now maybe you think to yourself, right, another “comfort zone” stuff. I know, I know. It has become such a buzzword that everyone is sick and tired of it already. But let me explain what I mean by it. In general, when you hear “comfort zone” people mean your 9 to 5 job, quiet family life or what not. But have you ever thought that we all have our comfort zones and that they are changing for us all the time?
Let me give you a personal example: 10 years ago my comfort zone was exactly the cliche one - I had an office job, stability and respect of my family and friends. But I wasn’t happy, so I gave that up for photography. I’ve made a step out of my comfort zone and actually ditched my comfort zone altogether. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years, but it happened, now what?
Fast forward a few years. I’m a photographer, that’s trying to make money from weddings and family pictures, doing some surreal imagery on the side. And this becomes my comfort zone. I know how to work with kids and get them to smile when needed, I know how to direct couples when they exchange rings, and I’m experimenting with shooting girls in cool locations and vintage-looking dresses. But something is still not right, so I make another step - I decided to focus only on the weird surreal stuff, cause it gives me more pleasure. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone again. Again, the change wasn’t immediate, but it happened.
Now, again fast-forward a couple of years. What’s my comfort zone then? I’m getting more comfortable with shooting levitating objects, hair, compositing images and what not. So it’s really easy for me to do. It’s my comfort zone. For many people, it’s not. But for me it is. If I stay here, I will stagnate. Again, I need to step out.
What I do next is I start teaching. Which is extremely challenging. At that time I’m very shy and am terrified of public speaking. Not just public speaking, but speaking English to native speakers is terribly intimidating. Even on the phone! To say nothing about giving a lecture in it. And English is not much mother-tongue, as you might have noticed. My first workshop was a HUGE step out of my comfort zone! Apart from me talking to my students for 8 hours in a row, I also had to allow other people to see me shoot. Which never happened before and was also terrifying.
So by now, I think you’re getting my point. There’s never just one comfort zone, which you step out of one single time and then live outside of it. Your current situation, no matter how uncertain it is, becomes comfortable at some point. Here’s where you need to have a reality check and see in which direction you need to grow and where you’ll step next.
See it as going to the gym. When you start after a looong brake everything hurts and you can barely do several squats. As you get into doing those squats regularly they are not as painful anymore and you need to go to the next level to actually make your body work.
You step out might be anything, depending on your art: to start your online sales, to find collaborations, to learn a new editing technique, to understand how to work with a different type of light, you name it
So what’s your comfort zone and how will you step out of it?
To actually answer this question I suggest sitting down and writing an actual list of things you want to learn, improve or change in your art-related activities. This list can contain just a couple of things (in cases you don’t look too far ahead, which is fine) or it can be very long. Don’t get scared right away, if your list seems too long. It should be, especially, if you’re in the very beginning of your journey.
Now the time comes to make an assessment of all the areas you want to grow in and then comes a CRUCIAL point: prioritizing! Yes, Prioritizing. Asking yourself: gaining which skill is more important for you in this particular moment in your artistic development? I know answering this question can be really hard! It was and still is for me! Everything seems to be so important! However, when the list is too long and you want to grow in every direction you might get easily overwhelmed and depressed. We don’t want that!
So how do you prioritize? I’ll share my experience and maybe it can work for you too. I set a few goals for each year. Then, I check if things in my “stepping out of my comfort zone” list are aligned with those goals. Some of them are, some of them not so much. It means that I will prioritize the most crucial ones that will be definitely aligned with my goals. If the new skills I want to acquire are nice to have but are not crucial at the moment, I won’t reject them completely, but I’ll simply set them aside for the future. This is what still happens with getting a Finnish driving license. I need it, it will give me more freedom of moving around in my city, country and abroad, but it’s not that crucial for being a better photographer and educator. So it’s still waiting for its turn.
I hope you find this information on how you can never stop growing useful. Now, the question to you: what’s your current comfort zone and what’s the first way to step out of it that comes to your mind? Let me know in the comments below!