Your Best Career Is Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Is it inauthentic to do the things that you don’t like to do?  Just because a career choice is challenging does that automatically mean you’ve chosen the wrong career?

I’m writing about our comfort zone because many have confused authentic work to mean something that is such a good fit that it comes easily.  But natural and easy are not the same things.  colorful fireworks show silhouettes

This myth of ease has caused more harm than good because it causes many to question themselves.  This self-doubt makes them stop before they can seize their best career.

Some believe that when we have chosen the right career, (when we are living our purpose) doors easily open and everything falls into place.  I know a few who have enjoyed that level of validation.

But what about those who don’t? Does that automatically mean that they haven’t chosen their best career?

Not necessarily. Things don’t necessarily fall into place for us just because we’ve chosen well. An essential part of choosing well is recognizing the opportunity when we miss the mark and adjusting our aim accordingly.

Until we walk down the hallway of action we can’t see which doors will open.  In 1998 I thought I’d found my best career as an inspirational speaker.  But until an audience member asked about coaching, I was blind to the very opportunity that was my best career fit.

Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.  William Ellery Channing

We can be completely in our element and still be challenged.

Challenge and authenticity do not exclude one another.

What if things never fell in place for you? Would you quit life? Would you give up entirely?

Consider for a moment, what makes the comfort zone comfortable?  Please just pause and answer this question before reading on.

What make activities fall into a zone of comfort?  I think it’s because we’ve already experienced them before.  They are familiar to us.  In other words when we are in our comfort zone we are experiencing another version of the same past that we’ve already experienced.

In bullfighting there is a term called querencia. The querencia is the spot in the ring to which the bull returns. Each bull has a different querencia, but as the bullfight continues, and the animal becomes more threatened, it returns more and more often to his spot.

As he returns to his querencia, he becomes more predictable. And so, in the end, the matador is able to kill the bull because instead of trying something new, the bull returns to what is familiar. His comfort zone.   Carly Fiorina

Test this theory.  Go ahead I dare you.  Think about a time when you felt totally alive.  Recall a time when you felt a vibrant pulsing in your body and a real sense of adventure.   Were you challenged or were you comfortable?

Were you taking part in a new activity or repeating something you’d already done?

I thought so.  So tell me please, what’s so damned good about comfort? Comfortable isn’t even that much fun.

The couch beckons all of us when we need relief or rest.  Yet comfort is not what makes life interesting.

Life is to be lived flat out in circumstances that arouse.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.  Emerson

Perhaps you already have found your best career.  Perhaps everything you’ve ever wanted is just on the other side of your current challenge.  Dare you persist and see?


  1. Jarrod - Warrior Development says:

    Over the last few days I’ve become totally inspired and want to start running at the projects in my mind.

    “Life is to be lived flat out in circumstances that arouse”

    This line really syncs up with what I’m feeling at the moment. It just seems like a waste of time and a drain on energy NOT to work.

    Interestingly I think this new found energy of mine came from really nailing down a particular image of what I want. It may not end up being the perfect one but it is the best I can think of at the moment and that is what you should run with.

    When you are inspired to reach your goal, there is no comfort zone that can contain you.

    Jarrod – Warrior Developments last blog post..Banish Frustration with a Golden Vision

  2. I can completely relate to this post. I’m working on my “brand” with a marketing coach and find myself feeling authentically alive and out of my comfort zone all at once.

    Stacey / Create a Balances last blog post..Authentic Happiness Series – Part Four (Career)

  3. Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul says:

    Growth – business, personal or spiritual – doesn’t happen outside of our comfort zone. It’s really that simple.

    We also can’t know how “hard” or “difficult” anything can be until we try it! Often it’s the struggle against doing anything new that makes growth “not easy.”

    Personally, I look for the edge of my comfort zone all the time. That’s where all the fun happens!


  4. Hi Tom,

    I can think of a recent situation that put me very much outside of my comfort zone. And I was nervous, I was unsure of myself (although well-prepared), and I was lacking complete confidence in myself. And yet I stepped out of that comfort zone – and I did come alive in those moments. And it felt right and good (oh, and a bit scary too!).

    You’re reminding today that I should be open to more of the “getting out of the comfort zone” moments.

    Great stuff Tom!

    Lances last blog post..As Close To Eden As You’ll Get

  5. There is no growth without struggle! To remain in our comfort zone is to stay stagnate and you know what stagnant water smells like!

    Isn’t risk what all of life is about whether it is work or relationships? We need to realize that risking to to be alive. Sometimes we’ll fall on our butts but the times we succeed….oh man…is that ever good! When we fall on our butts, don’t wast it but learn from it.

    I love challenges even though they make me nervous to start. But once I have started, it’s like riding the top of a huge wave on a surf board! The adrenalin rush is very good!

  6. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for the great reminder. I agree. When I’m out of my comfort zone I feel the most alive. Although it’s great to “be” comfortable, it’s not the place where we experience growth.

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..The Secret Is Out – Our Blog Posts Are Not Being Read

  7. Hi Tom,

    I suspect we have very different temperaments. For me joy brings a tranquility – my own way of talking about this is to call it an ‘elated calmness’.

    Growth definitely is to do with challenge. But there is also consollidation – which is more likely to be comfortable.

    A related point. A sense of unworthiness of our mission (“Who am I to think I can do . . . ) is also a good indicator that we are on the right track I think.

    I do think under stress we revert to what we know and feel is basic to us (which is often how we get there in the first place).

    I definitely agree that challenge and authenticity are related.

    Thanks for a great post – thought provoking and enlivening.

  8. Jarrod – Clarity does inspire movement – I’m happy for you that your vision has brought you alive. Now is the time to strike!

    Stacey – That is the key, feeling pumped in the moment goes along way.

    Andrea – Seeking the edge – now that’s a strategy!

    Laurie – Ride the rush and enjoy the ride!

    Lance – More prooof that the best living is beyond the comfort zone.

    Barbara – Aliveness is to be cherished and can be created.

    Evan – Please I rest and reflect often. Stepping back and consolidating is always a good sound strategy after spurts of aliveness.

  9. Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching says:

    Hi Tom — thanks for this post. It definitely validates all the moments I’ve been saying “oh crap, I can’t believe I’m doing this” to myself in my career recently.

  10. Tom wrote: “We can be completely in our element and still be challenged. Challenge and authenticity do not exclude one another. ” and “Just because a career choice is challenging does that automatically mean you’ve chosen the wrong career?”

    Great insights, Tom. I completely agree. In fact, I think we could go a step further and say that unless one’s career is challenging, then it is not authentic. It’s boring. And boring cannot be authentic, can it?!

    About things “falling into place”…. It has been my experience that having “doors open” for you sometimes creates more challenges than ease! 🙂

    I recently wrote a blog post on a similar topic – and I open it with one of my favourite quotes (that you might appreciate). It’s been a mantra of mine since I heard it many years ago…

    The quote is by the character Dodger on the old series China Beach. In the scene Dodger is preparing for another tour of duty, when he could have gone home with honours. When questioned, “Why?!”, he responds with, “Because you’ve got to do whatever scares you the most. It’s the only thing that will save you.”

    Keenas last blog post..Do What You Fear!

  11. Tom:

    Great thought-provoking post…and I enjoyed your readers’ responses on this, as well. As someone “in transition” it hits me at a good time. While I spend time sending out resumes to various companies “in my field,” I am feeling the entrepreneurial urge. I want to be my own boss, but I’m still figuring out specifically what I want to do. Your post is a great reminder that it is OK to jump in without knowing specifically where I will land.

    Thanks again,

    Tims last blog post..Oprah Winfrey 2008 Commencement Address

  12. Keena – I love the way you seem to have embraced your fear with a bring it on attitude. I enjoyed China Beach and that character. That is very powerful advice. I wonder how many have the guts to actually ask. What scares me the most?

    Chris – You may have made some crappy choices like we all have. But at least your eyes are wide open and you are inspired tom choose again.

    Tim – Scratch that entrepreneurial itch man! Your freedom awaits. I’ll send you an exercise to complete that will help you find the what.

  13. It reminds me that it’s what growth feels like.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Changing Focus

  14. Good stuff. It’s almost fun lately to teeter on that edge between comfort and abject terror. 🙂 That’s because I am learning that of course, that’s the moment before extreme growth.

    Christine Gallaghers last blog post..Twitter Decides to Hide Certain Replies; Users Revolt

  15. Hi Tom. The best part about living out of our comfort zone, is that we have to surrender to control. It keeps us curious and opens up the possibilities to learn and just have fun. I’ve noticed myself when I’ve fallen into “comfort” trying to hold on to it — to control it.

    Davinas last blog post..Positively Breathing — Not According to Plan

  16. “An essential part of choosing well is recognizing the opportunity when we miss the mark and adjusting our aim accordingly” – Yes, absolutely true! Anyway choosing a right job is a great thing in one’s life!!

  17. J.D. – Yep that’s how we know that we are truly alive.

    Christine – I’m pleased that you switch your thoughts away from terror quickly. Growth is challenge as long as we don’t ponder on the fear too long.

    Davina – Good point. Some would say that we can’t surrender something that we never really had anyway. Hmmm… I sense a post coming on the distinction between choice and control. Thanks.

    Mark – Welcome and here’s to the joy of adjustment! 🙂

  18. “Perhaps you already have found your best career. Perhaps everything you’ve ever wanted is just on the other side of your current challenge. Dare you persist and see?”

    Another post with perfect timing.

    oh, and as far as comfortable – as long as the bed I sleep in at night is comfortable…I’m good!

    Stacey Shipmans last blog post..Podcast Wednesday: Interview with Karl Staib of Work Happy Now

  19. Clem Gigliotti Jr says:

    Hey Tom…

    I wonder about this all the time. I mull questions of this over and over and over. Most of the time, I think that the times when I felt most alive and actually throbbing with a sense of adventure WERE times when I was challenged, but I did not feel outside of my comfort zone. In fact, while the circumstances were difficult and challenging, maybe I even felt scared, but I felt in total control and very “comfortable.” So maybe I define comfort zone differently…maybe I have a completely different definition of comfort zone. Maybe I’m just weird. That often seems to be the only explanation. LOL


    Clem Gigliotti Jrs last blog post..Our Grandparents Would Have Understood Social Media

  20. Stacey – That’s good, bed time is the only real comfort we need. I’m happy to see that you are a woman of bold action.

    Clem – I wonder about those times you felt challenged but within your comfort zone. Why were you in the comfort zone? Was it perhaps because you had faced those same things before? So perhaps the situation was challenging but you were not really challenged? We’re all weird. That’s what makes life interesting. I really think you’re challenges mostly come form believing that you can figure it out or think your way out. There lies the rub. We must boldly act in the face of discomfort to create anew, of this I’m convinced.

  21. Brendon says:

    For some people everything falls in place but for many the dreams remain dreams. Some digest and some cant digest. But obviously you have to take the life as it comes.

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