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Is Your Comfort Zone Killing Your Career?
Why the Comfort Zone Holds You Back from Moving Your Career Forward
by Stacy Purcell
When people get too comfortable, they essentially sabotage themselves and their professional growth. By not even being open to the possibility of a new opportunity, they’re intentionally relegating themselves to a “career rut.”
The crazy part: they think they’re doing the right thing. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Comfort does not equal success. That’s because comfort can easily lead to complacency, and complacency most definitely does NOT lead to greater levels of success.
The importance of being hungry
Striving to be comfortable can be dangerous. In the sports world, the team that is the most comfortable is rarely the team that ends up being the most successful at the end of the season. Instead, the team that is the most hungry is usually the one most successful.
In strictly professional terms, if you’re not hungry, then you’re probably in the comfort zone. There are varying stages in the zone. In other words, some people are more comfortable than others. Ideally, you want to avoid the comfort zone altogether. It’s okay to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s okay to feel good about your professional achievements at this juncture of your career. The problem arises when those feelings reach the point where they begin to betray you, basically holding you hostage and not allowing you the freedom to progress.
Below are three ways that the comfort zone holds you back from moving your career forward:
#1—It makes you feel better about saying “No” to considering a new opportunity.
When you’re in the comfort zone, you’re subconsciously looking for ways to stay in it. Considering a new opportunity forces you to step out of the zone, if only briefly. Your first priority, whether you realize it or not, is to stay in the comfort zone.
I’ve already discussed the ramifications of saying “No” to an opportunity without finding out what that opportunity entails. The comfort zone aids and abets a person when they turn down the chance to even hear about a new opportunity.
#2—It gives you the illusion of job security.
Yes, job security is an illusion. You may think you will always have the job that you have right now or that you’re irreplaceable in your position. More than likely, both of those thoughts are false. Think about your current job for a minute. Are you planning to retire while still in this job? If not, that means you’re going to have another job before you retire.
And even if you’re planning to retire while still in this job, that doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen. True, some jobs are more secure than others, but NO job is 100% secure. There are no guarantees, but when people are in the comfort zone, that is not something that they easily acknowledge. (If they acknowledge it at all.)
#3—It stops you from being proactive, instead making you reactive.
In terms of growing your career and enjoying more professional success, being proactive is the preferred method. It’s a simple formula. When you’re proactive, you create more options for yourself, and with more options comes the ability to make better choices. When you’re reactive, you have fewer options and sometimes choices are made for you.
As I’ve mentioned before, the best time to look for a better job is when you already have a job. That’s because you’re moving from a position of strength, which gives you more options, as opposed to a position of weakness. That’s being proactive. When you only look for a job when you’re unemployed? That’s being reactive.
The role of fear in the comfort zone equation
So how do you move out of the comfort zone once you’re in it? It’s not as easy as one might think. That’s because of the role that fear plays in the whole equation. Simply put, fear often convinces people to stay in the zone and not attempt to move out of it, even if bigger and better things await them.
When you land a new job, there’s plenty of apprehension. There’s fear regarding the submission of your resignation letter, specifically how your current employer will react. There’s anxiety about whether or not the job will work out and even about your new boss and coworkers.
Fear of change and fear of the unknown are natural emotions. It’s normal to experience a degree of fear when considering a new opportunity or job transition. However, those people who are able to overcome their fear and break out of their comfort zone are typically the ones who enjoy the most success.
Fear can appear very real, but in many cases, that fear is false. The emotion is real enough, but the circumstances causing that emotion are not. Put another way, the fear is not based on anything that will actually happen, but only on what the person thinks might happen.
Below is an acronym that I believe accurately depicts what fear really is in most situations:
Fear= False Evidence Appearing Real
Succumbing to fear helps keep you in the comfort zone. If you’re in the comfort zone, then you act reactively instead of proactively. And if you act reactively, then you’re limiting not only your opportunities, but also your options. The people who enjoy the most professional success are those who have the most opportunities and options and who proactively take advantage of those options to grow their careers.
Is the comfort zone holding you back from moving your career forward?
Don't let it. There’s still plenty of time to stop being comfortable and complacent and start being hungry!