A comfort zone is a niche we all long to be in, because that niche feels welcoming, soothing and, most importantly, safe. Many of us may fear change precisely for the reason that changes often entitle us to shift familiar things and situations around us, shake up the familiarity of old, and push us into the realm of new and unknown. But changes are crucial if we want to lead a fulfilling life, the way it has been intended to be lived. We cannot, after all, sit on our mother’s couch and watch cartoons for the rest of our lives. I mean, we could, but it probably would not make neither our mother or us very happy.
Do we see ourselves as creatures of habit? Well, of course we do, and with a legitimate reason. We follow schedules, sit at the same desk in classes and at work, go out to the same places at night. We keep coming back to what is familiar and where people know our name and who we are. Even if we make a run for it and move across the country, we still expect to make friends and find all those familiar things that can eventually make us call a new place home.
Fear of leaving the comfort zone is what prevents many of us from achieving success. With many what-if’s floating around in our troubled minds, we forgo taking risks that can help us reach glory, settling, instead, for the less satisfying, but more safe, spot in life. How many times do we hear our friends, or even ourselves, say, “I’d love to teach a class, I am just not a fan of public speaking” or “I’d love to ask her out, she is just out of my league.” How many times do we hear ourselves voice our hopes and dreams and then throw up our hands in discontent because our aspirations do not come true?
What stops us from achieving our goals is that ever-present fear of getting out of our comfort zones. But what do we expect? No one ever said it was going to be easy to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or a scientist. No one ever reassured us that being a professional ice hockey player never means stepping out onto the ice and falling for the first time. Yes, that first fall may hurt, but it is a fall that is a part of a necessary progression to becoming a pro on ice. Great leaders were not born overnight, they were cultivated, not only by their surroundings, but also by themselves and their inner desires to be something more than they were at the time.
Not all of us aspire to become professional athletes or world leaders, of course. Our goals may be on a smaller scale, but that does not make them any less relevant or important to accomplish. After all, we are in charge of our own lives, and to sit back and say that we are simply going to stay in our comfort niche for the rest of our lives would be doing a terrible disservice to ourselves.
Can people achieve success without ever taking any risks or stepping out of their comfort zones? Perhaps. Nothing is impossible, but for every such case, there are thousands of others where individuals had to actually navigate their way through a maze of obstacles in order to persevere in a pursuit of success. Life is never as easy as we would like it to be, but the challenges presented to us make the reward that much sweeter in the end.
We may often feel lost and unsure of what step to take next at the crossroads of our career journey. It is not, by any means, an unusual situation as most of us will change our careers at least four times in our lifetime. There once was a time when a person could graduate high school and work for one corporation for the rest of their life. But as big companies and moguls frequently fall apart or go bankrupt or reshuffle their structure, it is much more beneficial these days to not be stuck working for just one company with no way out. Therefore, we look for options, uncover possibilities. It is ultimately up to us to take on or pass up the opportunities presented to us, but we do not have to make that decision alone.
The saying “No pain, no gain” rings true as trying new things and going after new opportunities often means stretching ourselves and testing the limits of what we can and can’t do. Luckily, oftentimes, we can and should have some help along the way.
Finding a mentor who is more experienced that you in a field you are interested in is a great way of helping yourself to figure out the next step to take on a career path. Mentors are often people who have been through similar situations as us earlier in their lives and can shed some light on how their particular decisions have shaped their careers. Mentors can also be family members, friends or other parties vastly interested in our success. Sure, asking for advice can feel as if we are not able to figure out what to do for ourselves. But that is, undeniably, a big part of stepping out of our comfort zones – asking for help and advice when it is crucial to make an educated, well-informed decision. If we can benefit from others’ advice, why should we care that we may appear vulnerable for that one moment?
Taking risks at our job, in our work field, may often feel like we are stepping on others’ toes or challenging the established, tried and true methods. But if we have a good idea, whether it be an innovative way of running a business, or simply a more efficient route of delivering products to clients, we cannot let our fears force us to bottle our thoughts inside. By refusing an outlet to our ideas, we are taking a risk of letting someone else voice their opinion first and take credit for what could have been our credit to take.
We can buy motivational books and CD’s, go waste money on fiery speakers who will encourage us to get out there and follow our dream, but, ultimately, the most effective fiery speaker should be our own drive for success. Everyone has that drive – no one wants to flip burgers for the rest of their lives, no matter how much they might love greasy food; but not everyone has the courage to let themselves believe that voice and let go of tired excuses of why they can’t follow their dreams.
Stepping out of a comfort zone does not necessarily mean taking a giant leap from one extreme to another. If you are a shy individual who barely speaks in public, it is unthinkable to set a goal of being able to give a speech in front of a large crowd the very next day. But setting a goal of taking public speaking classes and practicing monologues in front of a small group of friends are all reasonable steps to take so that one day that once-shy individual can rock a crowd of a hundred, without a flinch of an eye. Setting smaller, concrete and specific targets, with an ultimate outcome in mind, is much easier and more viable than trying to achieve monumental goals without intermediary steps.
So, what are we doing to achieve success at this very moment? Are we still waiting for an opportunity to knock at our doors and present itself with its bountiful gifts? Let’s face it, even the luckiest ones of us should not count on fate as a main means of achieving a goal. In this world, the one thing we can be sure of is our own sense of drive for success, a drive to have something better and become better in a process. It is up to us if we are ever going to get to our dream destination, or if we are just going to be left in the dust on the side of a road.