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Expand Your Comfort Zone

I want to talk to you about your comfort zone. Specifically, I want to encourage you to wander more often from the confines of that comfort zone in your career or job. Regardless of whether or not you are satisfied with said job.

The comfort zone can be a sinister place when we stop to think about it. Seriously. Oh sure, it sounds good. “I’m in my comfort zone”. In reality, comfort zones for many of us are small and dark and an unsatisfying way to live when you compare it to the all the choices available to us.

There’s two different views of your career when we consider the comfort zone.

The first view is the comfort zone when you do like your job.

Really deep down like it. If this is you - congratulations. I work with a lot of professionals who like their jobs to maximize their growth and satisfaction. You can exercise your comfort zone muscles by doing any or all of these things:

  • Learning new job skills. Decide what skills would be helpful in advancing your career that you are interested in and develop next steps to get there. Consider everything from a software certificate, an advanced degree, or great soft skills that can net you a game changing difference in your work like Emotional Intelligence. How about a class to put on your resume in a cool niche you are interested in that would set you apart? I want to remind you of one thing here. You are the CEO of your career and life. You. It’s up to you and no one else to take the actions to move yourself forward. Who else would you want to have in charge? Right. It’s our individual ship to steer.

  • Speaking up at work. Really using your voice. You will be surprised at how much this can increase your career satisfaction and raise awareness of your skills at work in a positive way. Many of us could benefit from spending a lot of time working on this skill. We don’t make suggestions or share our good ideas. We play small and we behave according to work politics more than we need to. Let people hear your observations and thoughts. I get that it can feel scary to do this. Playing small and inside our comfort zone is how many of us behave at work. I’ve been guilty. Not my proudest moment. How about a goal of speaking up 5% more a month in specific areas that you identify and write down where you want to be more vocal. At the end of a year, you’ll be 60% more bold. Think of the people you respect. I’m going to bet they display their boldness and share their opinions. Those are the people that catch our attention. It’s time to join them.

  • Finding better ways to deal with issues at work. Instead of having an immediate reaction, focus on giving yourself a space to consider possibilities and opportunities. There is power in that space, much more than we realize on first glance. That space gives us the ability to recenter. To breathe deep. To think through. To move back for a more complete view before we move forward without adequate information. Then to move ahead with facts and confidence.

  • Set big work goals and the plans to achieve them. If you want to stay, what do you want to do? I’m talking legacy here! Take time to write down your biggest goals and start by taking one little step at a time. The smallest step you can take will get you where you need to go as long as you keep adding to the steps.

The second view of the comfort zone is if you don’t like your job.

The question so ask yourself is “What am I doing?” and stay with that until you get a true answer.

Sometimes there’s what feels like danger involved in many aspects of life, but every reward carries risk with it. Career moves that are well thought out are never dangerous. That’s your mind tricking you into staying stuck…inside that little cramped comfort zone.

If you never take risks, you’ll never live life to the fullest. There are a lot of areas of life where we don’t have all the control. The job is not one of those. You are the CEO of your career and life. Yes, that’s a worthwhile repeat. It's human nature to keep doing whatever we're already doing. Inertia is a powerful force and it’s up to each of us to honor our highest self in overcoming it.

Many people delude themselves that they can ride it out in a bad job for another year or longer.

Then one day they start waking up with health problems, or they get into a screaming fight with their boss or a co-worker. All that anger comes out.

Don't let that happen to you! Ask yourself the question "Am I happy and thriving in my work, or just going through the motions?"

Decide whether you'll spend next twelve precious months of your life doing exactly what you've been doing, or whether you'll try something new.

Will it be a pain in the neck to job-hunt? Undoubtedly it will. It will be a learning experience, too. It will grow new muscles that you can use time and again.

So, what do you do if you are in this situation:

  • Get clear on what you want from work. No job is perfect every day. However, it’s not too much to ask for fulfillment, satisfaction, and learning at work. Many people have that and companies are coming to the table with ways to attract and retain good talent that are very intriguing. Good talent like you. If you haven’t explored, there’s a rich new employment world out there.

  • Cut through your excuses. Mow them down one by one. They aren’t valid and you know it.

Here’s a starter list of standard excuses that we trot out and tell ourselves.

  1. It's secure. "I hate my job but I hang onto it because it's secure" is not a logical argument. Unless you're planning to retire from your current job and know with absolute certainty that they will keep you around until retirement, the longer you stay at the job the worse off you will be. Do you want to spend your life doing something you don't like just because you were afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk, year after year? Is this who you want to be?

  2. I like my co-workers. It's awesome to work with people we like, but it's a dodge to say "I keep my job because I like my co-workers!" and you know it. Misery loves company. It's nice to have sympathetic people around you when you're miserable at work, but it's much better to work with nice people who love their jobs, and to love your own job too. I can assure you that some of those miserable co-workers are looking for another job and as they leave, where does that leave you? If you like your co-workers, become personal friends with them and see them often once you get out of your unhappy work situation. You can inspire them to take steps in their lives, too!

  3. I already know how to do the job and the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Everybody feels more comfortable in an environment they know, versus one they don't. "I don't like the job, but at least I'm used to it" may be the worst reason possible to stay in a place that sucks your life force away. Life is all about learning. You deserve to be happy in your professional life. I believe it — do you?

  4. Because I'm too old to change jobs now. Anybody who's more than a year or two away from retirement is not too old to change jobs. Is there age discrimination in the talent market? Yes, of course! There is age discrimination and a hundred other kinds of discrimination. That's not a good enough reason to stay stuck in a job you hate. If you know what you do that helps employers, somebody else will see that value in you as well.

  5. It's hard to find a new job. it's not that bad working here. I don't know what I would do instead of this job. I call this the “ I give up bucket” of excuses. Everybody can empathize with the feeling "Maybe I should improve my situation, but it seems like too much for me to take on."

When our energy is depleted, everything we do feels like a chore. As you let yourself imagine how much better your life would be in a healthier workplace, your energy will return with every step you take.

Full disclosure – I’ve used every one of these in some form. Many of us have. I’m the poster child for the “I’m too old” falsehood. I got tired of the limiting beliefs. It was worth it and they weren’t true.

Now that we’ve exploded the excuses, the last step it to take action.

Each small step will make you feel better, I promise. Redo your resume. Reach out to your network. Work with a career coach. I can help with that.

I’ve helped thousands of people find jobs at hundreds of different companies. I also partner with professionals to help them map out a clear road to higher career satisfaction. If you want an expert partner in your career corner, contact me at Remember, you are better outside your comfort zone.

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