OurNextLife.com // It's Not Always About Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone / When comfort zones are good, when staying in our comfort zones makes sense

It’s Not Always About Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

One of the ideas that’s having a major moment these days is the notion that we should all be pushing outside of our comfort zones. Preferably all the time and in every setting, but especially when it comes to work. Some things you hear:

Quit your job and travel the world!

Stop wasting time in that boring job and pursue your passions!

Don’t be afraid to dream big!

#YOLO

The idea of getting out of your comfort zone has understandable appeal and scientific backing. Staying in our comfort zones can make us feel like mindless zombies following the herd, or always taking the path of least resistance. Staying in our comfort zones can mean never trying new things, never setting big goals, never exploring new places or meeting new people. If you’re even reading this — a blog about a still pretty revolutionary idea and/or the best life hack ever — you’ve probably had that moment of “waking up” to the idea that you don’t have to work until 65 and then settle for a golden age spent in a recliner watching The Price Is Right. That is definitely the kind of thinking that requires getting out of our comfort zones.

But a lot of that get-out-of-your-comfort-zone advice that’s ubiquitous on Pinterest these days also prioritizes now over the future, sometimes in a big and deeply unsettling way — or at least unsettling for those of us who enjoy security and stability. (Or, let’s be honest, who need security and stability.) And so while some folks might be plenty comfortable following that advice to push out of their comfort zones, we’re here today to give you permission to ignore at least some of it.

OurNextLife.com // It's Not Always About Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone / When comfort zones are good, when staying in our comfort zones makes sense

The whole idea of a comfort zone makes evolutionary sense. We’re wired for survival, and that feeling that something is uncomfortable is our internal alarm system warning us away from something overly risky or stressful that might harm us. But of course we live in a very different time from that of our ancestors, and that internal alarm system that might once have kept us from wandering unwisely through the jungle at night is the same one that keeps us from taking more metaphorical risks that could, in fact, lead to greater happiness and fulfillment.

But that doesn’t mean that our comfort zones are all bad either. Life inside the zone is more efficient, while life outside it comes with more risk and fear, and therefore requires a lot more attention.

Inside and outside our comfort zone, routine and ease are in the comfort zone, outside the comfort zone is risk, growth, stress and fear.

The Value of Pushing Outside Comfort Zones

Some of our best decisions in life have come when we ignored the alarm bells that told us to stay inside our comfort zones — especially being willing to date cross-country, and, of course, pursuing early retirement. There is huge value in broadening our horizons and challenging ourselves. Stepping outside our comfort zones helps us:

Achieve more — Being willing to stretch ourselves helps us set bigger goals and pursue them despite the challenges that come along. Pursuing FI would not be possible without getting out of our comfort zones.

Experience more — The easiest thing of all to do is stay home and not expend any effort. But that makes for a pretty boring life. Though travel to faraway places or trying new activities both require us to get a bit uncomfortable, it’s almost always worth it.

Learn more — When we step outside our comfort zones, we’re forced to adapt to new circumstances and take in information that expands our knowledge. This process of enrichment can be incredibly fulfilling.

Think more creatively — When we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, not only do we learn more, but we also force ourselves to come up with different solutions to problems, or to see possibilities that we didn’t see before. That’s creative thinking at its best.

The Upside of Comfort Zones

Just as our internal alarm bells stop us from getting eaten by a tiger while out for a midnight jungle stroll, they also help us to know ourselves, and to protect ourselves from unnecessary stress. Embracing our comfort zones helps us:

Know what our non-negotiables are — Knowing, for example, if we are okay taking a “I’ll figure it out in the future” approach, or if we prefer to plan to things out in detail. If it’s hard to sleep at night without having a plan for financial security, that’s worth knowing.

Understand our risk tolerance — Understanding the choices that feel easy and stress-free and those that trigger the alarm bells helps us understand where those risk tolerance boundaries are for each of us.

Know what support and love feel like for ourselves — Our comfort zones are the places where we feel supported and loved, which helps us define how much love and support we need to be happy.

The Unintended Consequence

The problem with all the comfort zone advice comes not from the general commandment to get outside our comfort zones, but with the specific ways that people might in turn interpret and espouse that advice. Like the idea that you should quit your job and travel now (implication: you can only travel when you’re young), side hustle as much as you can (ignoring that main jobs might provide more than enough stress for some people), or stop doing that boring job that pays the bills and “do what you love” (an assertion that drips with privilege).

There are a million ways to break out of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves, but a lot of the specific advice that’s out there tends to suggest that there are these key things we should all be doing, and if we aren’t doing them, we’re somehow failing.

There’s no one right way to stretch our own boundaries and comfort zones, and even thinking in comfort zone terms might be counterproductive. There’s no timeline on stretching our comfort zone boundaries, no point at which those delineations are set. We don’t miss out permanently on the chance to do something just because we didn’t do it on someone else’s timeline.

The Right Balance // Sequence Might Matter

How you get outside your comfort zone matters. And while it’s good to get out of it sometimes, it’s not essential that you make that process any more stressful than it needs to be. In other words, it’s okay to find comfortable ways to get outside your comfort zone. You don’t have to make getting out of your comfort zone more uncomfortable than it already is.

Just as our culture loves a boot straps story, we also love a story of someone who did something bold and audacious, someone who took a big risk and found a big reward. And taking that approach to life might be totally great for some people. But it’s not the only way to win at life.

Ultimately, we’re most likely to be productive, reach our goals and be happy if we stretch the boundaries of our comfort zones, so that the comfort zone itself encompasses more of life and gets bigger:

Over time we want to make our comfort zone bigger, and we do that by stretching those boundaries.

But we can do that in ways that honor the comfort zone itself — our non-negotiables, our risk tolerance and the love and support we need.

For example, if you dream of starting a company, but your comfort zone says that it stresses you out like crazy to be financially insecure and to worry about paying the bills, then you’re not failing if you wait to start the company until you have a big financial cushion built up from doing a “boring” job that you don’t love. The romanticized stories we love to tell about entrepreneurs who started with nothing and built something amazing make it sound like you have to start before you can pay the bills, but there’s nothing romantic about being consumed by stress or unable to sleep at night. (Plus, very few notable entrepreneurs came from such modest means that they didn’t have family support to fall back on. That matters.)

Or let’s say you dream of traveling the world. You see travel bloggers left and right writing about how it’s such much easier than you think to save enough money to travel, and then to piece together enough income on the road to keep it going indefinitely. But you wonder how, if you follow that model, you’ll ever be able to save for retirement or for big goals like buying a home. If alarm bells go off for you when you think about that, it’s 100 percent okay to listen to them.

The key here is that you don’t give up on those big goals, but that you figure out the sequence that works best for you. Getting out of your comfort zone to achieve any one goal might not be as simple as taking a leap right this second. It might look more like this:

Comfort-Zone-Order

If you’re a risk-averse person, it doesn’t mean you are doomed to be stuck inside your comfort zone forever, and it doesn’t mean that getting outside of it will always be stressful. It might just mean that you will be happiest if you do a little work before you take the big leap. That could mean doing what we’re doing and saving up for early retirement first and then traveling the world, or building up a cushion before you pursue your big, hairy, audacious goal. (Obviously FIRE is great for all of this — it frees us up to pursue big goals without worrying about the money side of things.)

And after we push ourselves each time, we can reassess and figure out if those boundaries have shifted, if our non-negotiables have changed or if we’re more willing to embrace risk now.

Weigh in!

What are areas in your life where you’re more comfortable stretching yourself, and other areas where you want to do more planning or saving first? Have you found any great happiness or fulfillment from getting outside your comfort zone? Or any great joy from staying inside of it? Share your take in the comments.

 

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67 thoughts on “It’s Not Always About Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

  1. The thought of being out of our comfort zone when we retire is all too exhausting! We plan instead to play to our strengths – continue to do and enjoy the things we’ve experienced or know something about. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to experience new things or learn new skills – quite the opposite. But this will be within our rules and as stress free as possible – we’ve had enough stress during our working lives!

    1. That’s so interesting! We’re in the opposite boat of looking forward to stretching ourselves more, but staying in the comfort zones while we’re still working. I love how the ER path lets us all define what feels best for ourselves. And amen to having enough stress during our working lives! :-)

    1. It’s so true — amazing things can happen when we are willing to stretch ourselves or even to get pushed by circumstances! And we’re huge believers in personal growth as a constant aspiration. But none of us should feel pressure to stretch ourselves to live up to some arbitrary standard set by someone else!

  2. I have stretched out of my comfort zone by leaving my job and pursuing another career path and by doing things like running a marathon (when I’m not much of a runner). What I’ve found is it is easier with each stretch because of the people who support me in life. I am definitely much more at peace in the comfort zone, so without a little nudging and a lot of “give it a try” from those close to me – the zone would have always been my place. And that’s OK too I guess and thanks for reminding us of that!

    1. Hooray for non-runners running marathons! I did that too. :-) I think the support from people around you is huge, and makes it so much more comfortable to leave your comfort zone. That’s wonderful you have so much encouragement!

  3. I think so many people take inspiration from others who have already gone from point A to point Z, we forget that there are 24 other steps in the middle. A lot of our society is too extreme in their view of comfort zones, that if you decide to move out of your comfort zone you’ve got to aim for point Z straight away.. This is just going to wear anyone out and make you never want to step out of your comfort zone again!

    A comfort zone should be more like a creeping expanding waistline – day to day you don’t really notice and are comfortable, but a year down the track you realise how far you’ve come and your old pants no longer fit!

    Tristan and I have done a lot of that slow creeping comfort zone expansion over the last few years and because it is so gradual its just a natural progression, after all we can’t complete points A to Z all at once (it’s also way less overwhelming just thinking one step at a time).

    Jasmin

    1. Haha — that outgrowing the pants analogy is a funny thought apt one. :-) I think the occasional bigger push out of the comfort zone is good too, so long as it’s something you want to do for yourself, not to live up to the expectations of others!

  4. I like the idea of expanding one’s comfort zone by stretching out into adjacencies when it comes to skill-building. Though having a complete paradigm shift in thinking is always fun, I find it has happened less and less over time.

  5. With our upcoming/current Lifestyle Change, it has definitely been planned enough so that we are now comfortable with a “crazy” idea. :) It took me almost 2.5 years before got comfortable enough with it to get totally on board.

    I like the idea of strateching out of your comfort zone, but I think the extreme approach is almost always set for failure. Like all of those Jan-Feb gym goers that hit it hard core for about a month or so until they get too uncomfortable and quit. This is where baby steps comes in for success, in my opinion.

    Like Vicki, I’m not much of a runner, but pushing my limits and running a half marathon opened up a new hobby for me. When I met Prof. SSC I pushed out of my comfort zone by dating someone that wasn’t crazy or what was my “typical girlfriend” profile. :)

    Leaving my old company was WAY outside my comfort zone. I remember talking with companies and head hunters felt like I was poking my head out of a nice snug cabin in the middle of the woods, at midnight, and thinking, “It looks pretty scary out there… A lot could happen and go wrong.” When I took this job and started it though, it was like the sun came up and it’s just a beautiful forest, nothing scary at all, and I don’t regret anything about making that move. But it was definitely outside of my comfort zone.

    I’m willing to push it some, but in more complementary facets of my life. With our new re-org, I applied for a team lead position. Would that be comfortable – no way. My current position is pretty sweet. That lead position would offer lots of new stuff to learn, new responsibilities, and more, but I figured, “Meh, why not apply?” I’m not guaranteed to get it, but even applying is outside of my comfort zone.

    1. You just said Prof SSC unprompted! Yay!!!! :-) Totally same deal here on the early retirement idea — I was obviously into the idea of it from the get-go, but it took a while to get comfortable with the math and the contingencies. But now I’m like, “Do we really need that much? Can’t we quit sooner?!?!” Haha — so yeah, comfort zone boundaries for sure change. And your cabin analogy with your old job is perfect — that’s completely where we are now. If we were farther from ER, we might consider switching jobs (though that would be hard given that we live in a small place with no comparable jobs), but given how close we are, it seems worth waiting it out. But your possible new position sounds like a great challenge! Fingers crossed for you!

  6. I find that I need a sense of balance between the areas of my life where I am inside my comfort zone and the areas where I am pushing beyond it. If I am trying to go outside my comfort zone in all areas at once I feel like I don’t have control of my life and I get anxious. If I am inside my comfort zone in all areas at once I feel like my life is stalled out and I get anxious.

    I think it all comes down to finding what works for you. And I definitely agree with you that the sequencing of events can matter greatly.

  7. I love how you are challenging the cultural assumptions and values here lately! I think getting out of your comfort zone is not a virtue in its own right. It depends why you are taking a step out. Any step should come for a conviction that that step is the right thing for you, rather than responding to a cultural pressure. For example, if you really want to side hustle and a develop a skill you enjoy, that’s awesome. If you’re doing it because “everyone” is or you want the status of a higher income, maybe not so awesome.

    1. Thanks, Kalie! I love how you put it — it’s not a virtue in its own right, the “why” is important. And doing it for your own growth is great, but doing it for others or to bow to social pressure is not. :-)

  8. I move out of my comfort zone and then re-establish it as much comfort zone, if that makes sense. It’s how I switched schools, started blogging, began selling my things, and pretty much everything else that I do. Your graphics illustrate this well! Sometimes I think the race to move beyond our comfort zone is done out of obligation rather than anything else. It’s really fascinating to me what the new normal or the new peer pressure/Joneses is becoming.

    1. Yes, totally makes sense! I’m the same way — at first something seems like a stretch, then it gets slightly comfortable, then it’s completely normal. Yeah, the social pressure to change things up can be intense these days, even though it’s just a few loud voices, but it does feel like it’s becoming the new Joneses thing!

  9. Thanks, these are all very timely thoughts and Mr. PIE even mentioned getting outside comfort zones in his recent post on optimizing your career.
    I’d like to suggest a slightly different way of thinking about ‘outside the comfort zone’. I love your concentric circle diagrams, and I’d add one more ring. The center is comfort zone, the next ring is outside the comfort zone where growth happens. a good place to sample sometimes. The final outside ring is far outside comfort zone where fear, panic and no growth happens. A place to be avoided as you suggest.
    As for me, work is a comfort zone right now and I have no intention of rocking the boat. Planning for FI and a complete lifestyle change is where our energy is required to step into the ‘growth’ area without hitting ‘panic’ zone!

    1. I love the three-ring approach, and agree! Like BASE jumping with a wingsuit on — that’s in my panic and absolute fear zone. :-) But skiing harder slopes — that’s in the middle ring. And same here regarding work — work is stressful, but it’s stress we’re used to, so it’s a comfortable place to ride out our remaining months!

  10. Someone who recently gave me unasked for advice told me that I “need to stop being a little bitch,” and quit my paying work to focus on my business. He has no idea what my bills or risk tolerance is. He just “knew” what I needed to do, because of what worked for him. His business is ENTIRELY different from mine, and I know that he comes from money. If he fails to earn money, his parents won’t let him starve. I don’t have that option. Nor do I want it. It is definitely hard the way I’m doing it, but it makes sense for me. And gives me the chance to learn and grow into my business while I still have access to pay from a W2 gig. I’ve learned so much in these two years, and have so much more to learn. Doing it all at once (with no safety net) would have been overwhelming. It also would not have left room for me to pursue the other skills and joys I’m developing.

    1. Oh for god sake — what a ridiculous and demeaning thing to say to you! Yeah, it’s easy to tell people to get out of their comfort zone when you have a big safety net from family, money, etc., and it’s why I generally bristle at that advice. It’s so oblivious to what others face and what might be very good reasons to be risk-averse!

  11. I think it’s a balance of staying in your comfort zone and occasionally going out with risk management. I do think there this this underlying message out there that says if you don’t quick your job and travel the world that you are just going to get stuck in the comfort zone, which I don’t believe is true at all. There are a million ways to get out depending on your personality. For the really adventurous type, base jumping might be their idea of getting out, but for me, traveling alone to a foreign country might be mine. Or heck, right now even dating is out of my comfort zone. But it is important to stretch ourselves so we don’t become stagnant, but it’s also ok to rest (or “camp” as Oprah likes to say) to recharge for the next “climb.”

    1. LOL — I understand re: dating! :-) And you’re right — a million ways to get outside your comfort zone, most of which don’t have to involve quitting your job or taking some big financial leap.

  12. It seems like every time I step outside my zone of comfort, I love it. I remember for the longest time in my early years I remained very much inside what I felt to be a comfortable life, and eventually it drove me crazy. Same old stuff, day after day. Then I decided to attend a motorcycle class and started riding, and I absolutely loved it. As someone who had never ridden more than a bicycle (and that was 20 years prior), saddling up to a motorcycle was not exactly a stress-free activity. But, it was some of the most fun that I’ve ever felt, too.

    And now, ditching our traditional homes for an Airstream has brought us very similar levels of excitement. It’s not exactly “death-defying” like the motorcycle, but it’s definitely a new way of life and something that we’re getting used to and learning to embrace more and more. Hell, not having a mortgage is kinda a new thing for us as well, arguably outside of our previous comfort zone because it had always been there.

    I’m a big believer of stepping outside your zone of comfort, but like you said, that doesn’t necessarily make them “bad”. In fact, returning to a place where you feel genuine comfort is an incredibly positive thing. I don’t want NO comfort zone either. But, living *entirely* within those zones is when – in my humble opinion – we begin to severely stagnate. There’s a lot out there that we could be experiencing. And I believe that in the end, we will remember those times that we stepped outside and tried something new, not all those years that we rested comfortably without a care in the world.

    But arguably, those exciting moments are *enabled* by the presence of our comfort zones. Meaning, without feeling comfortable, it becomes tougher to feel excited and free. Without one, it may not be as easy to experience the other.

    In the end, I believe both of these ways of living have a place, and a careful balance of the two is probably how most of us will keep ourselves from doing something stupid, but also let us spread our wings a bit and try new things, travel to new places and experience new ways of life.

    1. Something you raise that I didn’t address is where each of us starts out. If you’ve always been a comfort zone person, then yes, branching out is GOOD, so long as you do it on your own terms, not because someone else tells you you have to. But if you’ve tended to be more of an explorer, then there’s maybe not that same need. Given that you tended to stay in your comfort zone, I completely love how much you’ve pushed yourself out of it! But so true — balance is key!

  13. It’s tricky for sure. I’ve definitely been rewarded when I’ve stepped out of the comfort zone, and that suggests I should do more of it, but I always had the comfort zone to fall back on.

    This isn’t the case going forward as it’s pretty much official that my job is no more after the end of February. The current plan is to travel the country by car and stay in airbnb’s. The plan is always changing though, as the evolution of my comments on this blog might suggest. I have a ton of warranty miles left on my car through the end of next year, so it made logical sense to me. I think I’m secretly hoping that I fall in love with one of the places I explore along the way so that I can end up back in a comfort zone, though maybe being nomadic will be more comfortable than I expect, because I also feel like I’m going to need to feel productive….and maybe I can figure out a way to use my existing job skills on the road through creative form of freelancing / consulting. Don’t really know! Not too worried about it, I have a big cushion, it’s just not super fun to think about spending it down instead of continuing to plow $$ in and build it up.

    1. Wow, your plan keeps taking exciting new twists and turns! How cool that you have a specific vision emerging for travel and leaving your job! And you’re officially the first person I’ve ever heard say, “I have a ton of warranty miles left on my car, so good time to quit my job and take a long road trip!” Haha — you’re so practical even in taking this big leap! :-)

      1. Guilty! I’ve had a few nudges along the way from folks like you, but I’m not at all surprised that I’ve ended up at the practical route – as practical as turning off your main income stream can be. lol.

        1. Also, tangentially related, but you’re going to enjoy my “what are you doing differently?” post for that serie s you have going on, which will go up on my not-yet-existing blog. There are definitely some FIRE sins, as you can imagine. ;-D

        2. Yes. I mean, I might as well give a shot at self-funding this. Might have to park it for a month somewhere super cheap and hustle to develop an online presence. :)

        3. That’s awesome! Let me know when you go live. I will tweet it out. And you never know — some FIRE bloggers take off awfully quickly. Especially if you have a clean-looking design, posts are well written and — you already have the kicker — you’re already early retired or pretired or on a mini retirement. People will for sure be interested. :-)

        4. Oh jeez. I would never call myself retired. My backstory is way too privileged. And The Internet Retirement Police would be all over me…but i mean…if I can actually support myself enough to keep saving with freelance and internet stuff, i’d consider it “not working” compared to needing to go to an office 40 hours a week. Also my idea for freelance: “everything I like about my job, but without everything I hate. So yes for internet research and sourcing”, no for busy admin work and staff meetings.” Practical, right? We’ll see if that’s a pipe dream or not. ;-)

  14. Recently wrote about a few career lessons including the notion of “get comfortable being uncomfortable”. Not to be taken as tough and mean, but to find those little places where a bit more here and there, at your pace, can slowly help build a career in perhaps directions you did not even know existed. The satisfaction of finding out you can do something you thought was so far outside your comfort zone is uplifting.

    Mrs. PIE will be reminding me of all this when we hit some of the bowls at Jackson Hole next year and suggesting “let’s do this run, it looks like a challenge….”

  15. As someone who enjoys (and, like y’all, needs) security and stability, I am perfectly happy hanging out in my comfort zone while I work on becoming FI. The way I see it, I’ll have all of early retirement to start venturing outside that zone and pushing boundaries!

    1. I think that’s totally reasonable, especially on money matters. Though no harm in stretching yourself in the meantime with hobbies, social interactions and travel! Just don’t feel like you HAVE to do that stuff to live up to someone else’s definition. :-)

  16. I’ve said this many times on my blog – either we’re busy growing and learning or we’re busy dying. Expanding your comfort zone and challenging yourself is one way to do this. Of course the challenge is finding the right balance. :)

    By growing I don’t mean sideways. ;)

  17. Great post! I think the balance is important, so sometimes that means taking small steps outside your comfort zone until it becomes comfortable, and forging a path for yourself to what might lie way outside your comfort zone. Pushing yourself just to push yourself sounds like a silly exercise to me.

  18. I have to admit, I like being in my comfort zone now, because like you said, it allows me to build a base and prepare better. I think it has a lot to do with my planner self, I like having a good fallback in case things don’t work out well. I don’t think I’ll ever be the #yolo type and I’ve accepted that. I used to feel bad for not being as bold as my peers but I’ve learned that that’s just how I am and that’s okay. :)

    Great and insightful post as always!

    1. Thanks, J! No shame at all in not being the YOLO type. You’re still doing some great stuff to push yourself, so don’t worry if it’s not what other people define as pushing yourself. :-)

    1. I can relate to enjoying writing more than work! Haha. And yeah, we definitely get the benefits of staying in a comfort zone job! Sometimes that paycheck is the most important thing… I know it’s tough to stick it out, but it’s going to feel so amazing when you pay off your debt and reach your semi-retirement goal!

  19. Great post, and very interesting view on the subject!

    I try to make myself step out of my comfort zone due to the obvious advantages, but I also love the peace of mind and happiness that I get from staying inside it. As an example, I often try a few different dishes whenever I go to a new restaurant, but then I’ll just stick to the same one or two from then onwards. It’s a safe bet – I know what I’m getting and I know it makes me feel great. I’m sure a lot of people do this as well (and that I’m not the weird guy who always orders the same thing…).

  20. Man you guys crushed it with this one! I like the methodology and might just substitute saying you can do “epic” things but must still employ common sense. We need to think things through and never act irrationally. I personally preach change as #ExploreBeyondTheUsual but in such a way as going back to a simpler life with where we appreciated things that made sense and the modern cash driven society we live in doesn’t steer the ship. Keep doing what you are doing! Love It ~ Cheers

  21. As an introvert, I loooove my comfort zones, lol :) But that being said, comfort zones, depending on the circumstance, can definitely be constricting. When I know something will be beneficial in the long run, that totally motivates me to discard my comfort zone and step out into the proverbial sunshine :)

  22. This is a phenomenal post that challenges a mainstream advice going on today. Getting out of comfort zones is good but only if one realizes what they are going out of their comfort zones for. If it’s not relevant to their goals, then it has no purpose and it might just be better to stay in the comfort zone. Thanks so much for the post, I absolutely loved it!

    I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone weekly (even small things like trying a new restaurant a week or bi-weekly) because I want to add a little variety to my life and diversify my activities. My weeks are dominated by my comfort zone activities though so I don’t burn out!

    1. Thanks, FS! I think getting out of your comfort zone is a great thing IF you’re doing it for yourself or for good reason, and not just because pop culture tells you to. :-) And I love how you’re going about doing that — nothing TOO jarring. :-)

  23. Thank you for this post. It has helped me reconcile a career path decision I’ve recently made.
    Six months ago, I went very far outside my comfort zone by changing from a job I’d been at for seven years at a medium-sized, residential design firm that required very little of me besides showing up and occasionally drawing some things to one in commercial design that had me running entire projects on tight budgets and schedules which I was unprepared to step into and be effective at right away. This company is very small and has provided very little in mentorship or guidance, which means I’ve been forced to figure out this entire position by teaching it to myself. It has been a dramatic and at time horrific stretch of my capabilities that had me leaving work crying on almost a daily basis for about 3 months. Despite the trauma, I am grateful for the growth I’ve had and know that I could eventually grow into this roll.
    Throughout this time however, I’ve realized that this type of work (not to mention the stale office culture) is not where my passion is, like I thought it might be. I really do love residential design and that is what I want my future career to be in. I had just wanted an environment where I was able to gain more skills and more responsibility, to actually learn the industry. After only six months at this job I am moving on again to another new firm that specializes in residential and has promised me as much responsibility as I’d like to take on, with a support team at my side.
    I have felt very conflicted about this decision not only because I am concerned about having a six-moth work stint on my resume or because I’m aware that this new firm could also have an entire host of issues; but primarily because I know there is value in being outside of my comfort zone, which I would continue to be in at my current firm for quite some time. I have been asking myself, how long is it worth it to stay out of your comfort zone? This article has helped to clarify that there is a time and a place for putting yourself out of your comfort zone and that maybe this experiment (and its length) has served its purpose.

    1. So glad the post was helpful! :-) And congrats on making a big leap out of your comfort zone — there is definitely value in that, and we do have to push ourselves if we want to grow in life. So good for you! Good luck in your current role!

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