When we look at the dictionary definitions for comfort zone, these key terms crop up: safe, settled, secure, ‘little effort’ and ‘not being tested’. Some have a positive connotation, while others carry negative undertones. However, when the term ‘comfort zone’ is mentioned at work or in a corporate setting, it always carries a negative implication. It is ‘dangerous’ to get stuck in the comfort zone – it is more a danger zone than a comfort zone.
What is the danger? The danger is that the world will move on, while you will stay rooted in the same spot. It is a fact that change is the only constant in life. Whether it is your personal life or your career, everything around you is changing. If you refuse to learn new skills and find new ways to deal with life, the world will leave you behind. And this will cause great discomfort, sooner or later. Alan Watts, the philosopher, hit the nail on the head when he said: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Struggle or settle
In order to avoid getting stuck in a comfort zone, you need to embrace change. You have to go out of your way to seek new challenges. In the discomfort and fear that come as a result of facing an unknown situation, you will find a lot of space to grow.
But this has to be a continuous process. For instance, you may venture out into a new market instead of being content with consolidating your position in the current one. Needless to say, this will throw up a number of challenges. But once you have settled down in the new market, it will itself become a new comfort zone. Now, it is time to move out of this zone and find a new challenge.
At the end of the day, you make the choice to struggle or to settle. If you choose to step boldly into the unknown, you will continue to grow as an individual. Similarly, any business organisation that is able to embrace change will continue to grow.
But why seek out discomfort? Why struggle at all?
What is the end goal of all the efforts that we make? Why run after money or achievements?
At one level, some may say it is pointlessness to struggle to adapt all the time. And I see the sense in this viewpoint, but also feel that it is human to crave change, to want to grow, to explore new experiences. But most of the times, it is not natural satisfaction but rather the lure of comfort and the fear of discomfort that often stops many of us from progressing. There’s a popular quote that sums it up rather well: “Nothing grows in the comfort zone.”
Love what you do – follow your passion
So what is the answer? Struggle or settle?
I have grappled with this idea for a long time, because I enjoy the thrill of a challenge but also enjoy relaxed moments. For me, the answer is simple: LOVE WHAT YOU DO. If you are absorbed in an activity or project that you love, life and work will take you on a journey that you will relish, irrespective of comfort or discomfort. If you are passionate about the process itself, you will find your joy in the struggle. And it won’t really be a struggle anymore!