Are You Too Comfortable at Work?

Comfort is the enemy of your growth - Issue #116

Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

No one wants to feel stressed out every day. Living with constant fear and anxiety is terrible.

So, it’s not surprising that we naturally try to settle into routines and seek out the familiar. We do this in everyday life, and we do it at work.

I’ve found that it takes me about six months to settle into a new job. The first few days and weeks are incredibly stressful. Everything is new and unfamiliar. You don’t know anyone, and you feel like you have to learn everything all over again.

  • Who can I trust?

  • What does my boss want from me?

  • What can I do to be successful?

  • How can I avoid looking stupid in this meeting?

  • Where do they hide the snacks?

Work becomes familiar

However, you start to figure things out. You make friends in the workplace.

You discover the best places to get lunch and coffee. You know what you’re supposed to be doing and how hard your boss expects you to work.

After a year or so, your job becomes familiar and maybe even comfortable. It still might not be easy and stressfree, but it’s a lot better than when you first started.

The longest I’ve stayed in any job has been four years. I could commute to work on autopilot. I made lots of friends. I fell into a routine. I knew how to do my job so well that it seemed as if I could do it in my sleep.

Unfortunately, it became clear that I was no longer growing. I was too comfortable. I wasn’t stretching myself, and the role was no longer challenging me.

But, the thought of leaving everyone and everything I knew made my stomach churn. The idea of interviewing for a new job immediately spiked my stress levels.

However, I knew that I had to embrace that fear and charge into the unknown if I was going to advance my career. I had to seek discomfort.

Discomfort fuels growth

Great careers aren’t easy careers. No one you admire coasted to their success. They took risks and conquered fear to get to where they are.

I know that every challenge I faced and overcame helped advance my career. Every time I became stronger and better, it was because I forced myself to overcome fear (e.g., my massive fear of public speaking).

Your work and life become better when you aren’t afraid of being uncomfortable. Playing it safe is easy, and it can be tempting to avoid uncertain failure.

I know that the familiar is comforting and, yes, there is a time for comfort. It’s not healthy to be in a heightened state of reacting to novel experiences 24x7.

Life requires both the peaks and the valleys. Your work experiences will have them, as well.

All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” — John Wooden

However, if you fall into the habit of surrounding yourself with the familiar, sticking with the same old routine, and avoiding new paths, your life will stagnate, and you will not grow.

Growth cannot occur when you’re always playing in the zone of what’s within easy reach. That’s a surefire way to stagnate your career too.

Growth requires discovery, novelty, and the stress of adaptation. As you stretch yourself to accommodate new situations, you will grow.

As you expose yourself to novel environments, you will encounter unexpected opportunities. As you stimulate your mind, you will begin thinking in entirely different ways.

What will you do this week to shake off the cobwebs and seek an unfamiliar experience?

Challenge yourself

How can you break out of your comfort zone? You can start in surprisingly small ways that challenge you to think about things differently. The more you embrace the unfamiliar and stimulate your mind, the more you will think about new opportunities for growth in your career.

Start seeking the strange. Explore the world around you. Hit the road with no plan.

Recently, I explored some back roads in the Sierras to see where they would take me. I had no plan, agenda, or timeline. I just wanted to see something new.

I discovered new lakes, camping areas, fly fishing streams, and views that I would never have found if I’d stayed on the familiar roads on a rushed schedule to get from point A to point B.

Right now, you might be thinking, “Who cares? I have no desire to see something new. I’m too busy for that!

However, that’s not the point. There are benefits from taking a break from the mundane and your busy work schedule to recharge yourself. If you want to keep operating at a high level of performance, recreation and relaxation are essential. 

Life is too short.

However, R&R is only a small part of it. Stimulating your brain with novel experiences sparks your creativity and reinvigorates you.

When I return from an unplanned adventure, I immediately have dozens of ideas for my business, new articles, courses, retreats, and more. Breaking free from my routine helps me see things in a new light.

Embracing novelty and discomfort will help you become more creative at work. You will start to see possibilities for your career that you hadn’t imagined before.

The best discoveries in life happen when you risk the unfamiliar. The most significant opportunities in your career exist on the other side of fear.

Don’t let yourself become too comfortable with your current job and miss out on them.


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What I’ve been reading and writing

  • In Shortcuts and Quick Fixes Don't Last, I wrote about why I can’t stand the trend of trying to hack everything in our lives. Brain hacking. Body hacking. Life hacking. I explained how hacking your job search or your qualifications would catch up with you. There is a way to create a great career, but it requires a smarter and more sustainable approach.

  • The majority of you probably believe that having a mentor is essential for your career growth, yet most of you do not have such a relationship. In How to Build a Great Relationship with a Mentor, the author outlines eight steps that you can take to find mentors and establish a relationship with them. Have a goal and a plan, start simply, and let the relationship develop over time. You can’t force it!

  • When you talk with people about their work and what they think they deserve to be paid, almost everyone believes that they should get a raise. Yet, I’m always surprised by the number of people who haven’t even bothered to ask for one! “Ladders recently surveyed 1,233 professionals on its site (their average annual pay: $148,000) and found that, while 82% of them believe they deserve a raise, only 25% have asked for one in the past twelve months.” If this sounds familiar, then you should read How to (finally) ask for a raise at work this year.