Your life is humming along like a well-oiled machine or a finely tuned musical instrument. For as long as you can remember, you have been in the same job, lived in the same place, hung out with the same people and pursued the same interests that you feel like you are in a very secure and sustainable comfort zone in your personal and professional lives. You know exactly what to expect and what is expected of you at work and in life and you feel that you can pretty much predict how the future will unfold. Nothing much fazes you and no one seems to ruffle your feathers. Then, with no warning and out of the blue, you wake up one morning and something has shifted slightly or considerably. Restlessness has replaced relaxation and doubt has taken over from decisiveness. A small crack has developed in your seemingly solid foundation of certainty and confidence. It seems that your comfort zone is suddenly causing you some small or large measure of discomfort.
There are a number of factors that may have contributed to your sudden need for newness. Perhaps a colleague whom you were close to and considered like a member of the family has announced their resignation and will be leaving the team or the organization; a close and cherished friend or neighbour may have moved away; your best friend or a close pal may have changed their social status, developed a new interest or pastime or gotten to know a whole new group of friends and finally, the interests and pastimes that you once felt eager and passionate about pursuing now seem boring and burdensome. It may be one, some or none of these factors yet the fact is that your comfort zone has become too comfortable for you. You must accept that there will be some level of discomfort, disappointment and/or discouragement as you discover the reason for your need to break out of your comfort zone. What you should not do is quit your job, find a new place, distance yourself from your friends or drop all of your interests and pastimes all at the same time.
An effective strategy would be first to look at how you spend your time. Over a three-day period, record how you are spending each waking hour of each day and how you are feeling during this time. This exercise should reveal whether you value or waste your time and whether most of your time is spent with people and/or on work that makes you feel engaged, energetic and enthusiastic. Then, take some time to do an honest assessment of your job and whether you are doing it because you are happy and you love it; because it is easy and you have no idea what else you could do or because you are miserable yet too lazy to explore other opportunities. Next, look around the place that you call home. Are you happy to walk through your front door or do you avoid coming home as much as possible? What could you do to make you feel at home in the place where you love? You are the people who surround you. Do your friends support strengthen and stimulate you or do they drag, drain and deplete you? Have you outgrown your friends or have they outgrown you? Are you clinging to relationships that are not working for you anymore because you are too afraid to meet new people and make new friends? Finally, are you spending more and more of your time pursuing interests and pastimes with on-line communities instead of getting away from the screen and connecting with people in person? Are you reluctant to be a beginner again and relearn new skills in a sport or pastime that you once loved so you just avoid it and say you are too busy?
As the leaves are getting out of their comfort zone of green and beginning to show their brilliance of colour with the onset of fall, this is the perfect opportunity for you to get out of your comfort zone and embrace new opportunities in your personal and professional lives by asking yourself this question and paying close attention to the answer: Is my comfort zone getting too comfortable?