Comfort Zones

woman in white long sleeved shirt holding white ceramic mug
Photo by bruce mars on

When you leave your comfort zone, you take a risk. This is how you grow.

Unfortunately, many people, myself included, know how hard it is to go beyond patterns of safety and familiarity. There is a lot of pain and fear involved when you leave the sanctuary of ease. With the familiar, you know exactly what to expect and what to do. When you’re placed in uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations, you just don’t know what will happen.

These past two years, as I have chosen to go the part-time route, I’ve become stuck in my comfort zone, never venturing out as far as I ought to go. I always make excuses because I know how difficult a new path will be. I realize now that I also deliberately arm myself with busy-ness, so that I won’t have to do something challenging. After all, if I’m doing so many things, I won’t have the time left over for that.

I’m not sure, though, if my personality has anything to do with it. In all of the personality tests I have taken, I have always been classified as an introvert. This is not to say that I am necessarily shy. Okay, maybe I am a little bit shy–but I know my duty and I can snap out of this reticence if my job requires me to be outgoing. I am a teacher, after all. I have taught large groups of new students every year, so I am familiar with working a crowd.

But even teaching English is not really a hardship–I’ve been doing eikaiwa for the last fifteen years of my life. I should be good at it, or at least comfortable with it.

What scares me is taking the leap and leaving this career behind. I don’t apply for jobs that are beyond my capabilities or pay more than I am getting paid now, so I limit my options. I spend most of my time “researching” things instead of pitching stories to launch a free-lance writing career or actually calling people and asking them for job opportunities. I make sure that some completely unrelated topic needs to be done first and then I’ll be ready to do it. Of course, something else comes up that has to be done before I go make that sales pitch.

My introverted personality makes me want to stay home most nights instead of taking a class on something interesting. I tell myself that it’s more comfortable to stay home glued to a screen. When in my heart, I really want to take that yoga class, or even take advanced Japanese lessons. Yoga is actually an investment in my health while Japanese will give me more skills to navigate life better here in Japan.

These things are not even that difficult to do. The more difficult ones, like joining a program to help people who want to start their own businesses, scare me. It’s just that I hate not being able to fully communicate in Japanese. I fear that I make so many mistakes when I’m talking so my point never gets across. I just give up and say that I will never fully understand the language. But, I really do want to go to these business and networking seminars and ask for interviews or make connections with other people.

“You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.” Ed Catmull, Author of Creativity, Inc. and President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

I know I should try new things–especially when it comes to entrepreneurship–because I need the skills to help me when I will be running my own show. How will I know that, if I don’t take a risk or try something unconventional? For the past two years, I’ve said that I wanted to become my own boss, but I haven’t really done anything much towards achieving that goal. I am still working at my job, but I have also started real estate investing. Other than that, the list I have created still remains unchecked–because I don’t want to do something that will either cause me to trip or fail.

However, if I don’t do anything differently, nothing will change. I will be in this status quo which, frankly, is very unsatisfying. At least if you take a risk and fail, you’ll learn something from that mistake. Or maybe, that risk might be the opportunity that works. Unfortunately, when you’re stuck in your comfort zone, you risk your life passing you by and your dreams and goals falling by the wayside.

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