Over the past couple of years, I’ve been watching, observing, and talking with many people around me as they have wrestled with big decisions. Some of these situations were personal, some were professional, some of them even on the level of life-changing. As I witnessed their struggles with deciding which path to take, with which way to go, in most cases it became evident that the underlying issue they were striving to come to terms with was a choice between sticking with the known and comfortable, or venturing into the unknown, uncertain, and maybe just a little bit scary.
Why do we tend to linger in our comfort zones?
Think about your favorite blanket or sweatshirt. The one that on a cold and dreary day you can’t wait to snuggle up with. That feeling of putting it on or wrapping yourself in it and sinking down onto the couch…ahh, feels so nice, so warm, so safe…doesn’t it? It’s so easy to just stay there all day, in the warm, familiar comfort. Maybe drift off to sleep for a bit. Maybe just lay there savoring the feeling. Nothing else seems to matter.
But nothing much gets accomplished while you’re there either.
Comfort zones are much like that blanket or that sweatshirt. They are easy, they are familiar, they don’t require much work. They are our security blankets.
Why do we stay in the job that no longer challenges us? Because it’s easy and pays well? Because it’s easier and less scary than starting over somewhere new?
Why do we keep people in our lives that drag us down rather than build us up? Because we can’t imagine letting them go? Because it’s too hard to walk away?
Why do we stay in that relationship we know doesn’t work or bring out the best in us? Because it’s better than nothing? Because the thought of being alone is scary? Because we’ve already invested so much time in it, and well…it’s easier and less work than starting over with someone new?
We’ve all been guilty of it. Every one of us, at some point in our lives.
See, these comfortable things can feel good. We tell ourselves they are good enough. They are acceptable. They work for where we are in life. There may even be a solid reason we can use to rationalize staying there. Right? They could even be more than just acceptable….they could be…pretty good.
Pretty good, perhaps. But maybe not great.
Can we experience…do we deserve…something greater?
Do you ever wonder what could be?
Great things don’t happen in comfort zones.
Over the past few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to say yes to more opportunities. To things that might have scared me, that I might have thought I wasn’t good enough for, that I didn’t know enough about. I’ve said yes to things that the mere thought of gave me butterflies, in which my initial reaction was “I don’t even know where to start!” Because I know putting myself in these situations is what makes me grow as a person. Because those same nervous butterflies can turn into feelings of exhilaration and accomplishment, a feeling of being on top of the world.
But I also know there is still more I can do to push myself out of my own comfort zone. I still linger there too. It’s a work in progress.
“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is built for.” – Grace Murray Hopper
What if we took a chance? What if we mustered our courage, took a deep breath, and jumped?
What if we said yes to that opportunity?
What if we got on a plane or in the car and moved to that new city?
What if we let go of what’s been holding us back from moving forward towards something better?
What if we did what scares us?
Maybe we’d land our dream job. Maybe our career would take a turn in a direction we never imagined possible, much less probable. Maybe we’d find happiness we never knew existed. Maybe we’d find the true love of our life.
It’s probably easier said than done. Strike that…it IS easier said than done.
But in that scary, unknown place….maybe that’s where the magic lives.
When your time comes, when that opportunity knocks on your door, will you be ready to take the leap? Or will you snuggle up under that cozy blanket and stay there “just a little longer….”? Will you face and embrace the unknown, or settle for the path of least resistance and complacency?
Will you jump, or will you stay and never know?
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.