Growth and comfort... can I have both?

December 21, 2017

I don’t usually go for outdoor challenges, but when I do, I crawled into a pitch-black million-year-old cave and looked for fossil (pictured above). It was fascinating.

My friend was recently dismissed by her company. She was heartbroken. Five long years of loyalty, endurance and midnight oil didn’t help to secure the job after all. She thought if she worked hard enough, she’d stay and work in the same company until retirement, she’d climb the career ladder and become the retail manager.

The company that she desperately wanted to stay is a family-owned (not her family) business. Based on her description, the business has a complicated but vague organizational structure which consisted mainly of family members (Hint: relentless family dramas). The business also doesn’t seem to expand in the near future. Benefits, salaries and opportunities were average. 

So why does she want to stay? She feels that she understands the company and its daily operation. She knows all her colleagues. She could pay the bills and save up to travel abroad every year. She feels secure. 

“It’s been five years and you’re doing the same job day after day, and you've been mingling with the same group of people all the time. Of course you’ll move to a new job!” another friend said. He was trying to put things in a bigger perspective and convince her that this is a good chance, not an unfortunate event, to explore better opportunities. 

“I know, but where can I go? It’s difficult to get a new job AND adapt to a new environment. I am already 30 years old, you know?!” she sighed. Honestly, I don’t know - is age really the limiting factor? If she were to retire at 60 years old, she still has thirty years ahead of her. Thirty years of possibilities, think about that.

"Are you really okay with what you're doing? Is that what you really want?" he asked. She did not answer.

After crawling inch by inch on the muddy floor, we were covered with sweat and marveled at a small water pond inside the cave.
I am filled with one thousand insecurities, I like shortcuts and I don't like to change too, but life has taught me this lesson in a hard way: a comfortable decision is almost always, not the right decision. Option A might bring you a sense of predictability and security, but it doesn’t mean that this is the right thing to do, both in short-term and long-term. You might want to go for option B which makes you feel slightly uncomfortable but produce a better outcome. 

To change and grow doesn't mean that we need to shift your life course entirely - migrate to Europe, learn German and dye our hair blonde. What I mean is don't be rigid, define and limit ourselves too early. The best thing usually happen when you do something out of your usual habit, maybe some random act, you'll  pleasantly surprised by the new perspective that you gain. What if you eat lunch alone? Take a new route back home? Chat with the cashier when you pay? Walk into Starbucks and ask for a cup of free water? You can’t suddenly have the courage to make a big change if you don’t practice small changes frequently. Step out of your comfort zone, one small step at a time.

My workplace is filled with government servants who have been working in the same department or position for decades. They have very stable income and secure retirement plan, which is great especially for parents who have mouths to feed and debts to pay off. They face little to no career adversities so they seem pretty happy. This sounds great, but I can't help but wonder if this lifelong commitment to one paycheck is worth it.

When you decide to stay in the status quo and avoid all risks, you’re already taking the greatest risk. At the grand scheme of the world, everything is changing - technology, culture, job prospect, finance, economy. At the personal level, we face money, relationship, health, emotions and physical environment issues. If you don’t change and grow, how can you possibly adapt?

Alice in the Wonderland is a good metaphorical and philosophical story that I really like. She was curious enough to jump down the rabbit hole, and the adventure began. If we could just be a tiny bit more curious, maybe our lives will be a tiny bit more interesting?

Further reading:

1. Never be comfortable:
2. 3 Reasons Your Comfort Zone is Killing You (and How to Beat It):
3. 100 Weird, Easy and Interesting Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone:
4. Growth and comfort, they don’t co-exist

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