But did you know that embracing a little anxiety could be a crucial key to moving forward in your life?
Now I want to examine that sense of it being uncomfortable -- is it really worth it?
Pushing your comfort zone boundaries will require you to learn new things, new things about yourself, about your power to respond to others and to situations, and about what makes you feel most fully you.
Consider for a moment how you learn. If you are attending a driver awareness course because you have been caught speeding, you will feel you already know most of what it takes to be a good driver, so you will not feel very motivated to learn something new. Equally, if you are in a new job but people are using language you don't understand, or you are asked to do things you don't know how to do, you will feel stressed, which may make it hard to learn.
So where is that sweet spot, where you learn best?
Back in 1908, behavioural scientists Yerkes and Dodson were very interested in the conditions under which we learn best. To gain insights on how stress and anxiety affect learning, they did experiments in which they trained mice to follow a particular pathway. The mice had to choose between a black path and a white path. If they chose the black path, they received an electric shock of varying strengths. If they chose the white path they were allowed to proceed without interference.
After three series of experiments with different conditions and different mice, the experimenters learned:
'....an easily acquired habit … may readily be formed under strong [electrical] stimulation, whereas a difficult habit may be acquired readily only under relatively weak stimulation.'
They found that when the mice could easily tell the difference between the black and white pathways, they learned the correct path faster if a stronger electrical shock was given. However, when the conditions were made more difficult and the lighting decreased so the mice could not tell the difference between light and dark paths easily, a strong electrical shock was less effective to train them that a moderate one. A very weak shock, of course, did not train them quickly either.
Through their study, Yerkes and Dodson showed that moderate anxiety and stress provides the most fertile ground for learning new things! This is the curve they made famous:
How do we apply this? I'm not going to ask you to turn out the lights next time you're getting ready to go out, and make things that bit harder for yourself! But, do look for the new thing you can learn right where you are … especially when that new thing takes you out of your current comfort zone. Stay curious!
If you'd like to find new freedom to tackle challenging situations, and remove the internal barriers that keep you stuck in your old ways, try the Happy World Company workshop on Social Freedom. Learning new things never felt so exciting!
Join us for the Social Freedom workshop.
You can join the Free Taster.
or the full Two-Day Course.
Initial concept: Nerea Carryon
Researched and written by: Heidi Hollis
Next time: Social Freedom Part 3: How to Overcome the Social Media Disconnect