We all seek comfort – why else would we take off our shoes, bra, or tie as soon as we get home? All beings aspire for comfort, and there is nothing wrong with that, that is until it keeps you from venturing out into uncharted territory.
This article is a cautionary tale of how the desire for comfort can lead to a habit of complacency. Hopefully, reading this will help you to recognize your comfort zones and their impact on your level of fulfillment.
Before there was Comfort
Comfort addiction can happen to anyone – even when you think you live by Neale Donald Walsch’s famous quote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – even when you are a life coach.
In my early adulthood after college, but before I found a career in research, I worked several jobs at once to pay for life’s basics. I bartended at night, washed boats during the day, and was a massage therapist in between. I was young and had the energy, but hated how at any given moment, I was aware of how much money I had (or didn’t have) in my bank account. I felt like I was failing at being an adult and longed for a savings account – with money in it.
However, my situation slowly improved – I found work that actually used my college degree. I started as a research assistant, the beginning of a 20+ year career in clinical research. Each year I made a little more money as I gained more responsibility and worked my way from academia to the private sector. I also felt I was doing purposeful work.
I remember how nice it felt to go out to eat and not worry if the meal would impact making rent. I began to actually save money. After years, I paid off my student loans and I finally felt… comfortable.
After a decade or so, my career choices took me farther away from the parts of the industry that really excited me – the science and the patients. The feelings I once had of doing purposeful work were no longer as strong as they were before and I became less satisfied. I remember regularly rationalizing that my work was still purposeful even though it was not as fulfilling as it used to be.
But something else happened around this time – I became hooked on being comfortable without knowing it.
When I thought of changing careers, I would remind myself of the effort I put into this career and how my experience provided me with a good salary. I thought, if I were to change careers, it might take another 15 years to get to where I am now, so I stayed the path, feeling less and less fulfilled.
Discovering My Comfort Addiction
Now in my defense, I do not present as your typical comfort addict. To an outsider, it looks like I live outside of my comfort zone. I have moved to a different apartment, city, and state so many times and on so many whims. I go to movies, plays, vacations overseas, and restaurants by myself and will strike up conversations with strangers willingly despite my introverted tendencies.
After reading an article during my coaching program about facing fear, I thought about my life and could easily identify actions that many would label as risky or uncomfortable, but then I asked, “but am I playing it safe?” I realized that none of the actions I had identified were really out of my comfort zone – none were uncomfortable to me at all! They didn’t push me to face any true fear. My addiction was masked.
My comfort addiction led to sticking with relationships that were comfortable, even when they weren’t healthy and postponing dreams under the guise of being practical or responsible. But how responsible am I being to myself if I stick with choices that no longer serve me?
The Bridge from Comfort to Fulfillment
It has become obvious to me that concepts like responsibleand practical, are disguising complacency and self-preservation. By playing it safe, I was saying contentment is enough, and the pursuit of joy is too risky. By playing it safe, I was telling myself that I couldn’t handle what life presents.
So, what does it look like to not play it safe? The bridge from comfort to fulfillment is paved with vulnerability. Iyanla Vanzant once said to Oprah (Super Soul Conversations, Oct 9, 2018, about 21:37 minutes into the podcast) , “when you are getting ready to step into a new place…in that place, you should be so scared there is a little pee running down your leg…just a little pee” and I can’t think of a better way to say it. If you are a scared of the risk but motivated by the possibility of what can be, then you are outside of your comfort zone – you are vulnerable.
I’ve been coaching for over 2 years now and I still discover pockets of complacency masked as comfort. I look forward to sharing with you in the next few months my next journey from comfort to vulnerability.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” What are you going to do today that scares you? By posting this, I just did!
Do you have a comfort addiction in some area of your life? Are you a master at masking it? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment or email me directly.