Some Basic Concepts 4: The Learning Zone Model

“If you want to feel secure
Do what you already know how to do.
But if you want to grow …
Go to the cutting edge of your competence,
Which means a temporary loss of security.
So, whenever you don’t quite know
What you are doing
That you are growing …”

(Viscott, 2003)

In order to learn, we have to explore: we already know our environment, our Comfort Zone – this is where things are familiar, where we feel comfortable, where we don’t have to take any risks. The Comfort Zone is important, because it gives us a place to return to, to reflect and make sense of things – a safe haven.

Yet, in order to get to know the unknown we have to leave our Comfort Zone and discover the Learning Zone, which lies just outside of our secure environment. Only in the Learning Zone can we grow and learn, live out our curiosity and make new discoveries, and thus slowly expand our Comfort Zone. Going into the Learning Zone is a borderline experience. We feel we’re exploring the edge of our abilities, our limits, how far we dare to leave our Comfort Zone.

However, beyond the Learning Zone lies the Panic Zone, wherein learning is impossible, as it is blocked by a sense of fear. (Any learning connected with negative emotions is memorised in a part of the human brain that we can access only in similar emotional situations.) This is why, in the transition from Comfort Zone to Learning Zone we need to be careful when taking risks that we don’t go too far out of our Comfort Zone – beyond the Learning Zone – into the Panic Zone, where all our energy is used up for managing and controlling our anxiety.

Importantly, these three zones are different for different situations and different for each person – we all have our own unique Comfort Zone, Learning Zone and Anxiety Zone. This means that we must never push someone into their Learning Zone, as we cannot see where it starts or begins. All we can do is invite them into it, value their decision, take them seriously and give them support so they won’t enter their Panic Zone.

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