What to do when your comfort zone at work feels like a velvet prison

I've met a number of people recently who are comfortable in their jobs but unhappy. The problem is they feel trapped.

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The further they move up the career ladder, the more it matters what their boss thinks of them. There’s something about the opportunity costs that have them question what they might be giving up if they were to make big decisions.

Sometimes those big decisions are simply to speak up in meetings and share what they're really thinking. Other times it's that they're not quite finding themselves in their role. They know their talents aren't fully being utilised but they're either afraid of what might happen if they shared what was on their minds, or don't think there's any point in doing so because they won't be heard anyway.

The latest UK engagement stats from Gallup show that 57% are not engaged at work and 26% are actively disengaged.

So why would someone stay in a job that didn't engage them? I believe it's proper comfort zone stuff. We all know that outside our comfort zone is where the magic happens but we've got to walk through the fear of the unknown to find it. It takes courage to admit something's not working in the first place.

The irony of working with courage is that most of us become less and less courageous because we don’t want to stand out or rock the boat. We want to enjoy what we do and be successful but we don’t want to risk career suicide. We’ll put up with so much more than we did when we were younger because before we didn’t care if we got sacked - we didn’t have the responsibility of 2.4 kids and a Labrador!

If you're feeling like your caught in a trap and your comfort zone is now uncomfortable and frustrating you it's time to take charge.

Courage is a muscle and if you don't use it, you lose it. There'll be lots of people around you whose courage has faded over time. It's not that you don't have it, you'll have made courageous decisions in the past - it's about remembering it!

I'm not going to tell you the fear will go away but it's about being honest with yourself. The decision to take charge and drive instead of being a passenger is key.

Knowing what you really want is the way out and if you don't know what that is right now, making a decision to find out is the first step.

It's about having an opinion about who you are, what you're brilliant at and what you stand for.

Then it's about sticking to it no matter what.

Vanessa Anstee

Life Coach

I'm inspired by who you can be without apology and I want to help you let your real self shine. I've been a life coach for 10 years. I've always been a seeker trying to discover a way of being in life that feels soulful, authentic and aligned to what my heart wants not what my head thinks I should have, be or do. I spent 20+ year career in HR, OD, talent management and executive coaching. My kids were my biggest wake up. I saw the way I was working wasn't working anymore. I couldn't keep pushing myself harder. I had to accept I couldn't attain this perfected version of myself that I had strived most of my life to achieve. I had to find love not from accolades and other people's acceptance but from deep inside me. That's when I learnt to connect to my heart, heal my childhood wounds and fears of never being enough and set light to my passion in a completely new way. I want one thing for my clients. Be real. Be themselves, fall madly in love with that person and honour their soul's calling.


Go to the profile of Keith Clarke
over 6 years ago
Good post - and so true.
It is harder for people once they get into their 30's and 40's. But that makes it even more important to find courage. We know now how fast time goes. If we are unhappy with something and just 'sit on it', we wake up and another 10 years has gone!
Developing our courage needs to be high on our list. The irony is, we have so much more knowledge now than when we were younger. We need to look back at everything we have achieved and remember how scary those things were before we did them (as you said, we've forgotten). You are right. Courage is a muscle. And it's critical now that we give it a work-out regularly.
Go to the profile of Vanessa Anstee
over 6 years ago
Keith - we're on the same page :-) and thank you for your comment. I was in my late 30's when I found the courage to let go of my corporate gig and jump into the unknown of running my own business. It took someone brave pointing out to me that I was being a victim complaining but not doing anything. That truth hurt. It wasn't who I was in my soul and it's why my work focuses on helping others remember and build courage to do what's in their heart. Love the phrase regular workout btw :-)