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Using Design to Step Beyond One's Comfort Zone

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

‍Image Credit: © blacksalmon | Fotolia

Space the Expands Your Potential

What if environmental design could push occupants beyond their comfort zone at just the right time to help them achieve milestones and goals they desire? What would this type of architecture look and feel like? Would you want to experience it?

Just imagine all of the times in life when stepping out of your comfort zone has brought you success in some area of your life. Perhaps you stepped out of your comfort zone to exercise. Or perhaps you stepped out of your comfort zone to give a speech. Or even to explore an idea that yielded a breakthrough.

The "comfort zone" in this case is the experiential space a person lives, plays, and works within...where they are most comfortable because they have experience and are not overly challenged in new ways. And it is important to develop a comfort zone. Yet, there are times when stepping beyond it will yield important positive results. (If done in the proper way.)

Working Smarter, Not Harder

It seems that the environment can help its occupants to expand beyond their own comfort zones, to achieve higher potentials and realize authentic fulfillment. This does not mean pushing a person into a situation that is dangerous or completely unexpected. But it does mean helping a person step into their next level of greatness.

So how can an environment help with this?

Just imagine that an office building occupant is striving to work more productively so they can achieve better, more creative, results at the office while still having a good amount of time to spend with family at home. Currently, this worker's comfort zone is not quite comfortable at all. They are overworked – not working smarter, only for more time.

This is where the environment can step in.

The Comfort Paradox

By thinking "behaviorally" about environmental design it becomes possible to create better workplaces – that help people to work more creatively. What if the worker's office paradoxically became more comfortable to help the employee step out of their comfort zone? What this means is the following:

An environment can help one meet challenges by guiding and nurturing growth. Perhaps the office minimizes stress by eliminating visual or aural distractions. Perhaps it understands a person's workday schedule and adjusts to nurture the type of work being carried out. And perhaps it incorporates adaptable collaboration features, tools, and processes to help teams working in the same office, or across the globe.

The environment can do so much more than simply calibrate itself for "comfort". It can help its occupants go beyond this to find nurturing spaces where challenges can be met with smarter ways of working. This is truly stepping beyond one's comfort zone...to realize ultimate fulfillment, in ways that do not drain or deter an occupant – but instead serve to inspire, nurture, and guide desired growth.

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what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is an award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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