Right after I graduated from college I started a job but not long afterward, something felt off. I realized that I missed the challenge of college and the growth that it brought. I wasn’t improving much without that because I didn’t realize that I was in a comfort zone and wasn’t regularly getting outside of it.
A comfort zone is a psychological state where one feels safe, familiar, and in control. You’ll know you’re in a comfort zone because you’ll feel bored and unfulfilled, avoid risks, and have no challenges. Getting out of your comfort zone is difficult but it leads to personal and professional growth.
If I had known these signs of being in a comfort zone right after I got out of college, I could have begun improving again faster than I did. Eventually, I figured out what I was missing, set some new goals that got me out of my comfort zone, and began growing again.
Today we’re going to dive into the signs of being in a comfort zone so you don’t get stuck like I did. There may be times when being in a comfort zone is okay though. You can learn more about that by checking out this article.
For now, let’s get right into how to know if you’re in a comfort zone!
1. You’re Bored With Life and Feel Unfulfilled
Starting your first job out of college can be exciting. There are new people to meet, things to learn, and your income jumps significantly. I felt this way when I took my first engineering job after I finished my bachelor’s degree.
But eventually, the newness of it all wore off.
I didn’t realize what it was at first. Eventually, it hit me that I felt bored doing the same calculations every day. I also didn’t feel like I was making an impact on anything except for my small family.
Trying to set new goals and push myself was tough because there just wasn’t much room to grow at my company. It didn’t help that I had a micromanaging boss and other leaders who didn’t value any of my strengths.
I began to get depressed thinking about how I might be stuck doing this for the rest of my life.
Then one day, the idea to go to grad school popped into my head. I began to feel excited at the idea of a new challenge. As I looked into it more, that excitement grew and I realized the depth of my boredom and lack of fulfillment.
At the same time, I was discovering how much I loved running. The thought to run a half marathon came to me, and I began to feel even more excitement.
I eventually did run that race and go to grad school. They were both tough and brought a lot of challenges, but without them, I would have stayed in my comfort zone and continued to stagnate.
If you feel unfulfilled and bored with life, you’re probably in a comfort zone. Think about the big things you’ve always wanted to accomplish with your mindset, relationships, finances, and health.
Set some new and challenging goals in each of these four areas of life to get you out of your comfort zone. You’ll start improving and begin to feel fulfilled and excited about life again.
2. You Avoid Risks
In the early 2000s, Netflix had just begun its revolutionary DVD-by-mail service. However, It was struggling to compete with the dominant Blockbuster video rental chain.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings met with Blockbuster to propose a partnership, but Blockbuster said no. They’d become complacent in their dominant position in the video rental market and were hesitant to take a risk on a new and untested technology.
Estimates say that at the time, Netflix was worth just $50 million.
Instead of taking the risk and partnering with Netflix, Blockbuster attempted to launch its own DVD-by-mail service. But it was too late. Netflix was already too far ahead.
Because of their unwillingness to take risks and get out of their comfort zone, Blockbuster lost its dominant position in the market and filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
Meanwhile, Netflix is dominating the industry and is worth $260 billion. That’s 5200x what it was worth when it offered to partner with Blockbuster.
If you avoid taking calculated risks, you’re inside your comfort zone and could be missing out on some wild opportunities to grow. And maybe even some opportunities to make more money, like Blockbuster.
Most people avoid risks because they’re afraid of failure. But if you fall for this trap you’ll keep yourself from the learning and growth that happen when you try something new, fail, learn how not to do it, and get up and try again.
Set some goals and watch for opportunities that come. Pay attention to the opportunities and ideas that scare you.
If something seems too good to be true then it is. Make sure you’re only taking calculated risks.
But when the right risk is in front of you, take the leap of faith, get out of your comfort zone, and you’ll accelerate your success like never before.
3. Life Feels Too Easy and You Have No Challenges
I’ve recently started lifting weights again. The first few days were tough. I was definitely outside of my comfort zone. But the more I’ve stuck with it, the easier it’s become.
I work out at home because it’s much easier than going to the gym and it helps me stay consistent. But I realized that I’m going to hit a point at which I’ll not be able to grow any stronger without bigger and better weights and machines than what I have now.
If you don’t push yourself harder when things start feeling easy, you’ll plateau.
There are a lot of ways you might be letting yourself stay in a comfort zone. Find out if you’re taking it too easy by asking yourself these questions:
- Do I feel like I’m just going through the motions?
- Is this starting to get old?
- Am I not seeing improvements like I used to?
- When was the last time I had a real challenge?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you’ve got it too easy and it’s time to increase the difficulty level.
Think about it in terms of video games. If you want to get good at Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros, you have to play against people who are better than you. It might be tough, but that means you’ll lose a lot at first.
I don’t get any better when I play with my kids, for instance, because it’s not hard for me. Playing just to have fun, like I do with them, is great. But if I want to get better, I have to play online with people who are better than me.
If life feels too easy, it’s time to move up to the next difficulty level if you want to improve.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Getting outside of your comfort zone is necessary for personal growth. But it’s easy to get stuck inside of your comfort zone because it’s tough to recognize when you’re in it.
To recap, here are the three main ways to tell if you’re in a comfort zone:
- You feel unfulfilled and bored
- You’re avoiding risks
- You don’t have any challenges and life is too easy
Whenever you notice these happening for you, it’s time to kick it up a notch so you can start growing again.