Many people experience anxiety at the thought of trying something new outside their comfort zone, so we often stay in a place a lot longer than we should. Let’s discuss how you might know if it’s time to change your status quo and why it’s so dang hard to make those determinations and act on them.

What is a comfort zone?

When you’ve been in a place like a job or a relationship for a while, you have gained enough time and experience in the role to know exactly what is expected of you. The functions come naturally and there are likely fewer challenges to overcome on a day-to-day basis. It’s all very predictable when you know all the players in the room and what they like and dislike. There are no landmines to navigate around, and you feel at ease that you authentically be yourself – and if you can’t, then it’s not comfort!

Authenticity is KEY!

If you feel like you can’t fully be yourself and you must adapt major parts of your personality and desires to accommodate someone else, then you aren’t coming from a place of authenticity. Also, while there is less crisis and risk, there is likely less opportunity to flex your creative problem-solving skills or expand to reach those aspirational goals you may be suppressing just below the surface.

afraid to take a leap in a new direction, it could be that we are risk averseIf we’re struggling where we are yet are afraid to take a leap in a new direction, it could be that we are risk averse.

It’s good to sit with those feelings and determine if it’s a practical voice you need to be listening to or if it’s just fear talking.

Many times, it’s fear – we second guess ourselves that we aren’t capable or able. Our inner critic tells us perhaps we’re better off with what we know – where we are “safe”. So, instead of manifesting our dreams, we let our inner critic keep us in a rut.

Other times, it’s practicality. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we have to be practical to meet our physiological needs for food, shelter, safety, and connection. We need these basic needs to be met before we can allow ourselves to go after our higher self-actualization goals.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needsIf we aren’t getting the love and connection piece, we can’t go after the final dream piece. All of the support legs need to be met before we feel able to reach higher. Our bosses and partners need to be supportive of us in our goals as we strive for them. If you can’t get the support you need from your partner or current job, maybe you can get a coach or a mentor from a networking group or therapist. The partner/employer then just needs to accept that you’re getting coaching and striving for something new/better and be happy for you.

Others may regularly change their situation to solve life problems…

stop and assess how you may be contributing to the problem.People quit their jobs or leave partners because they are unhappy, yet that turns out not to change things for them. We often tend to blame our job or partner for making us unhappy and unfulfilled when it may not be the fault of the job or relationship at all.

If you quit a job or breakup with a partner, then find yourself feeling similar dissatisfaction in the next and the next. Perhaps you may begin to notice a pattern… So, you need to assess the comfort zone option versus the new and different option from your authentic center and listen to your gut instinct.

It may be time to stop and assess how you may be contributing to the problem.

When my clients are asked to honestly assess this question, I often hear answers like, “Yes, I am waking up tired (sometimes hungover) and not in a healthy mindset to work at my best regularly.” Or “Yes, I’m being rigid with my partner and have overly high expectations and not letting them be themselves. I also expect them to know what I want without telling them.”

You don’t want to decide on ending a job or relationship from a place of fear or depression. You want to be sure you are thinking clearly as the best version of YOURSELF first so you can accurately assess the external factors.

You want to start by looking inward and assessing yourself first…

What do I know to be true about myself when I’m feeling my best? What am I doing? How am I showing up? Does that look like starting with a good morning routine and scheduling fun evenings out and getting healthy sleep and spending time giving back or with friends/family on weekends etc? If we see all of these things have fallen by the wayside – those meaningful things that bring us joy and make us our best selves – then we are slipping internally.

Are you using alcohol or THC to escape and finding it hard to function at full levels the next day?

drugs inhibit restful sleep which affects your ability to perform the next dayUsing substances to decompress is surely a socially acceptable coping mechanism. But, over-using to numb and escape is not a good thing. These drugs inhibit restful sleep which affects your ability to perform the next day. Your dopamine and cortisol levels also get thrown off – making you less happy and more stressed when you aren’t using – which makes any workday seem even less “fun” than it normally would. When you’re in a happy place with healthy patterns, this cycle won’t be a concern as it won’t be a part of a daily escape routine. And if you are regularly using, then what are you assessing? Are you assessing your work or relationship – or your relationship with drugs/alcohol that set you up for having the bad days to begin with?

If you are settled in your personal realm, then it’s time to assess the job or partner…

Am I not being given opportunities? Am I unable to put down healthy boundaries and explain how I want to be treated? Have a tried putting down boundaries and they’re trampled all over? Do you simply envision different a future for yourself?

You could have outgrown your current path.

You may yearn for more of a challenge or more creativity or control or support that you simply cannot get in your current role. You may seek more excitement, laughter, and romance than the current partner is offering. If you close your eyes and envision if you could be doing anything with anyone, what would you be doing and who would it be with? This insight gives you direction on what you need to look for in your next job/partner.

You may realize the current environment is unsupportive or even toxic.

realize the current environment is unsupportive or even toxicA coworker or boss could be distressful, invalidating, and not rewarding your efforts. A partner can be wholly self-centered, narcissistic, gaslighting, and abusive. Constantly getting negative or abusive attention can hurt your self-esteem and core beliefs about yourself. You could eventually believe that you’re not good enough, which can cause anxiety or depression, insecurity, and imposter syndrome.

You definitely do not want to stay in these environments – assuming that you assessed it from your authentic center and your gut instincts. Your intuition is often the best source of information on what you should trust and distrust.

The challenge is to find the right path to be able to get back to living your best life – and what does that look like in your predicament?

You could have a conversation with your partner to see if they’d like to work with you on making some life changes. Together, you may be able to incorporate more impactful changes then if you try to go it alone without their participation. Or, you may decide you’ll have a better change at true success on your own in a new environment surrounded by new people. Whatever the right path is, it is genuinely up to you to decide.

The thing to remember is that change will eventually come, and the comfort zone will go – with or without your consent.

be proactive and in control of your future and its inevitable changesBeing mindfully accurate of the circumstances of your situation allows you to show up and be more empowered in your life. When you have a solid grasp of where you are and why and where you want to be, then you can more easily muster the courage to be proactive and in control of your future and its inevitable changes. This might be painfully uncomfortable or delightfully liberating… it will most likely be a bit of both and very well worth your efforts!