Confidence is essential in life. But it can be difficult to impress upon our kids' inner confidence if we don’t feel that confident ourselves. Most of us love to stay within our comfort zone: that nice, safe, secure bubble that you surround yourself in.
And many of us with a free evening ahead would chose to spend it at home rather than doing something new and spontaneous. However, if we don’t push ourselves as parents to have new experiences and develop, how can we actively promote that in our children?
The whole concept of a comfort zone originated from an experiment back in 1908 by Yerkes and Dodson. It involved mice and a choice of whether to go down a black or white passage, with small electric shocks in certain parts of the maze along the way. Thankfully, we have come a long way since then but the premise still remains the same. With no stress, performance is steady; with a little stress, performance improves; but with too much stress performance can suffer.
No one likes feeling out of control but being in your comfort zone all of the time is not necessarily a good place to be. Without the pull away from the familiar we struggle to learn, evolve and develop. The same is true for our children. It’s risky moving into the learning zone where things are new and unknown. Yet without this pull away from the familiar, it’s very difficult to make changes to our lives. Think of a toddler that is learning to walk.
As they take that first step, they move out of their comfort zone and into the learning zone. At that stage, they can’t see beyond the possibility of placing one foot in front of the other. Yet, by learning to walk, they open up a whole new world of opportunities. A world that to them, at that moment may still be unknown, but that unfolds exponentially with each tentative step that they take.
Moving into this learning zone, helps to stretch and shape our comfort zone. Gradually expanding the circle until one day the things that used to induce fear, appears commonplace. Studies have shown that experiencing slightly elevated levels of stress or anxiety for a limited amount of time can actually be beneficial.
Think back to a time when you flourished in something that at the time seemed unsurmountable.
However, spending too long in the learning zone can have negative effects also. Including what’s commonly known as burnout. That’s why it’s important to expand our comfort zone gradually so we feel less anxious at new experiences and don’t suffer adverse effects. This needs to be done on a phased basis slowly over time.
In the same sense, we can’t overload our children with new experiences all of the time and wonder why they become fractious and non-compliant. However, the careful introduction of new experiences gradually over a period of time can be very beneficial. So just as your child, who may be a picky eater isn’t going to start eating ten new vegetables, they have never tried before all at once.
A small and gradual introduction to different tastes over time may produce more positive results. As they become more confident and used to the taste of one vegetable, their comfort zones expands and they may be willing to try others. What often separates those who live a fantastic life versus those that live an ordinary life is often down to the size of their comfort zone. It’s not something you can judge from the outside looking in. You can’t necessarily tell someone’s comfort zone by the car they drive, where they live or the clothes that they wear. But you may notice it from an inner sense of confidence.
As parents, we are in an enviable position to pass this inner confidence onto our children. Through gradual stimulus and challenge, we can help them to expand their comfort zone and in turn become more confident individuals.
Look around, you’ll notice successful people often do more, meet more people, take on more challenges and generally appear less afraid. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful legacy to impress upon our own children? An inner confidence that can’t be squashed and an ever expanding comfort zone of new possibilities.