Leaving the corporate 9 to 5 and everything that is so familiar in that way of working and living means stepping out of your comfort zone. By definition, that’s always going to be pretty uncomfortable! You can do a lot to address and manage your fears but you can never remove those fears altogether. There are, however, things you can do to make the whole process more enjoyable – and help you get more comfortable with being uncomfortable!
Let’s look at five things that will help you out along the way…
1. Get out of your usual environment
The very essence of your comfort zone is that it’s comfortable, and familiar. Everything in your life is set up to fit with how you are working and living now. Your colleagues and peers, your friends, your family – they all know you as you are now, and as you have been so far. It’s very hard within this environment to feel free to think and feel differently.
Discover some of the common signs it's time to re-think your career
Do you fantasise about a world in which you love your job to the point that you jump out of bed in the morning with excitement at the thought of what you’re going to do today? Do you long for more freedom and flexibility in your daily schedule? Do you wish that you were creating something really meaningful, that could make a difference to something that matters?
One of the best ways to shake things up a bit is to travel. Back in 2013, before I quit my job, I took a three-month sabbatical to travel across South America. The experiences I had, the people I met, the physical and mental space I had in which to think… all that was instrumental in letting me imagine the possibilities outside of my current job and lifestyle.
But you don’t have to take a year off to “find yourself” in Bali, or even three months as I did. Start with a week, a couple of days, an afternoon: get out of the house, away from the people and places that are part of your everyday routine, and do something different.
2. Remember your ‘why’
Getting out of your comfort zone is, well, uncomfortable, and the tendency is always going to be to retreat back into what is familiar. In order for you to feel motivated to push through the pain of change, and for it all to be worthwhile, you need to know why you’re doing it.
That means being very clear on your reasons why you want to leave your corporate 9 to 5 – maybe the lack of flexibility in your working hours, the pressure and stress that’s leading you towards burnout, or the feeling that the work you’re doing isn’t meaningful – as well as what you’re looking for instead. It doesn’t mean knowing the exact job title that you’re after, or precisely what your new lifestyle is going to look like, but rather the parameters that are important to you. These criteria will often be the reverse of what you’re escaping from, for example, flexibility in your working hours, better balance and more focus on taking care of your own wellbeing, and doing work that you feel is really making a difference.
So spend some time reflecting on what is pushing you out of your current situation – and what is pulling you in this new direction. And the best way to do that? See number 1!
3. Consider the worst-case scenario
It’s easy to catastrophise and focus on all the things that could go wrong. From your position in a comfortable job with a comfortable salary, you’ll inevitably focus on how leaving that job will involve having to start from scratch and work harder than ever before, and ultimately facing the possibility of failure. These fears get bigger and bigger and make you doubt yourself to the point of stopping you from ever taking action.
But what does the absolute worst-case scenario really look like? What exactly would happen in that situation? How likely is that scenario? What could you do to mitigate the risk of it happening? What could you do to prepare in case it did happen? And what would you do if it did happen? Answering these questions might include looking at your financials (your personal expenses and savings), your support network (friends and family who could help you out), and alternatives you could consider from a career perspective as well if this plan didn’t work out.
Consider the worst-case scenario, getting it down in black and white, so that you know what you’re really dealing with. Then it’s up to you to decide if you want to take the risk or not – but at least you know what that risk is!
4. Get a support system in place
Your comfort zone is filled with people who are just as comfortable in their own lives – and comfortable with how comfortable you are too! They have the same fears and concerns as you do when it comes to leaving their comfort zone and will only reinforce your own worries.
In order to get the courage you need to make the changes you want to make, you need to get out and about and meeting new people. I don’t mean that you should turn your back on your friends and family, but you do need to seek out people who are out there doing different things. You’ll be inspired and feel more confident simply by being around these doers, and if you find the right people they will also support you both emotionally and maybe even more tangibly in your new projects.
Look for local events – a talk, a conference, a workshop – where you can learn more but more importantly meet others who are on a similar path to you. And look for only groups – my Facebook group is a great place to start! – where you can meet like-minded people from around the world.
5. Take action
The biggest problem with your comfort zone is that you’re nice and cosy staying exactly where you are. Even if you’re not, in fact, so comfortable anymore, the fear of the unknown paralyses you and keeps you stuck.
Contrary to what you might think, you shouldn’t wait for the motivation you need to take action – taking action is actually what creates motivation in the first place! The best way to overcome your fears, break down obstacles, and start moving out of your comfort zone is to do just that: get moving. Taking action, even just in the form of little steps, will get you unstuck, building your confidence and creating momentum that will launch you out of your comfort zone and into your new life.
So get started! Do something – anything – to get yourself moving. You’ll be able to learn and adapt as you go but the key is to get the ball rolling. I promise you’ll feel energised and inspired once you start moving forwards!
And those are my five tips to help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable! Have you found ways to manage the risk and fear associated with leaving the corporate 9 to 5? Comment below or send me a message to let me know your coping strategies!
Come and join us over in the One Step Outside Facebook group to meet like-minded people working on reimagining success in their own lives and to get access to free training sessions and other helpful resources as you navigate the transition out of your corporate 9 to 5 and into the unknown.