The comfort zone – how it can trap you

Let’s define a comfort zone as a point in life or your career where things seem to settle down for a change. I want to show you how you might want to think of it as a brief shelter, not as a place to settle down.

You know you’re in a comfort zone when you are no longer struggling to find work, and you can pay the rent. You have a job or some income that enables you to feed yourself and your family. It is a tremendous relief to arrive at this point after months, perhaps years, of struggling to make ends meet.

As a result, it is totally understandable that the last thing you want to consider is rocking the boat and moving out of your comfort zone.

You may grumble at the way management treats you and at their lack of appreciation for the excellent work you do, but you comfort yourself with the fact that you have a job and things could be worse.

Time goes by and you find yourself compromising your integrity by accepting blame for things you haven’t done and by covering up for lies being told to customers. Maybe in your case, it isn’t customers who are being deceived, but you find yourself covering up unlawful or irresponsible activities on the part of your manager or other employees in order to keep your comfortable little job.

You may even find that working hard, improving your skills, and excelling at your work creates embarrasing tensions with other employees in your group. To stay in your comfort zone, you begin to pace yourself and adjust your production to the expectations of your group. This is the sign of a group quietly putting in their time until retirement arrives. It may be a happy little group, but it does not create the impression of dynamic productivity.

The downside to this behavior is that this kind of group is the first to be discarded by a hard-pressed company looking to improve profits. A decade ago, such a group might operate undisturbed for years within a large corporation. Today, group performance is being re-evaluated every quarter and any group that fails to show the appropriate amount of frenzied activity is suspect.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, you should use your arrival in a comfort zone as a breathing space to plan for the next phase of your life. Use the relative quiet of the comfort zone to get organized for the next big push toward your ultimate goal. Build a support network and keep your eye on how business is going. Learn new skills that will carry you forward to more rewarding assignments.

If you do this, you will be ready to move off smartly before upper management pulls the plug on your group. You will look back on your brief respite fondly, but with no regrets.

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