Comfortable or uncomfortable?

We grow under both, but how we grow is different

Neuroplasticity implies that we perform and grow best in our comfort zone, in the areas where we have thick groupings of neurons and dense synaptic connections.  The thought that learning takes place at the ‘edge’ of our comfort zones accommodates this sense that we are growing our strengths and greatest abilities.  We can call this type of growth horizontal, a thickening or intensification of what we already have.

On the other hand, research indicates that when we are out of our comfort zone but working with something in which we are invested – it matters emotionally to us – and we are in a supportive environment then vertical growth can take place. This seems to be a reorganisation of synaptic connections between different areas of the brain allowing us to enlarge our ability to make meaning of the world.

Dorrit Black - Provençale farmhouse 1928

Dorrit Black - Provençale farmhouse 1928

This makes sense in the context of we work hard at something that interests us and we enjoy, then, at a certain point, we feel we have reached our limits and we seek out another challenge.  This might lead to a promotion and that puts us outside of our comfort zone, we are invested in making the job work and, if our team leader provides the right support then we can make the transition to a higher level of consciousness or meaning making.

This higher level allows us to be able to achieve a wider range of things.  Then we begin the cycle of strengthening these new abilities as we become more and more comfortable in the role.

We grow in our comfort zones if we are able to use our strengths on a daily basis and we grow outside of our comfort zones when the conditions are right, particularly, that we feel supported.


John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.  Earlier blogs can be found here.

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John Corrigan