by LaJoia Cannon
My comfort zone has always been isolation. Even as an adult, I find that I am most comfortable alone or in smaller groups. It made navigating through academics, my career and personal life so much “easier” …at least, that was my rationale.
In college, I elected online-learning. Professionally, I opted for jobs that allowed me to work by myself, and personally, I maintained a routine that did not include space for a lot of people. No, I do not have a phobia, or anxiety and can function well. It’s just a “preference”. A choice that I never considered would come with such a high price.
There is nothing wrong with having a comfort zone- a place, person, or thing that alleviates some of the pressure. However, a comfort zone should never be the only place you exist. When that happens, it becomes a crutch and cripples your ability to grow or set and meet goals. What do I mean? When you rely solely on your comfort zone, it depraves you of opportunities that could cultivate or develop your skills. It prevents you from connecting with your peers, learning new things, and overall reaching the goals you set for yourself.
For example, I have 2 professional goals. 1. Get a JD and 2. Run for public office. Pretty straight forward. Well, in 2010, I participated in a two-day seminar hosted by Running Start. This organization positions young women to run for and win elected offices. At the conclusion of the seminar, we all decided that we would exchange information – keep in contact. We would continue to network outside of the organization, and help each other reach our goals.
I started off very active, responding frequently to the emails. I even agreed to join them for happy hour. Of course I retreated back into my comfort zone before the date arrived. Not only did I miss the happy hour, I missed the opportunity to get connected. It just so happened that one of the young women surprised the group with a special guest …a congresswoman who was in town on business and was more than happy to meet with and provide support to the group. As a result, many of my fellow participants successfully ran state and local campaigns throughout the country and are now holding public offices.
Take a moment and think about your comfort zone. Ask yourself what, if anything it has cost you. Your comfort zone could be procrastination. You might be most comfortable waiting until the very last minute to complete homework or work-related assignments. Your comfort zone might be popularity or maintaining certain relationships. What is the cost? Is it worth it?
As I continue to navigate through my personal, academic, and professional journey, I have committed to doing the uncomfortable thing. I have challenged myself to focus on my goals and that means being in settings with more people that I don’t know, inviting people into my personal space (figuratively), and preparing myself to take in-person classes for the law program I will eventually enter.
I can’t predict the future and I can’t tell you that it’s going to be easy. However, I can tell you that always being comfortable costs too much!