It seems that by nature, we are creatures of comfort. We want to feel safe. We want to feel known. We want to anticipate what’s coming around the next corner. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with desiring these things in and of themselves. However I do think, if we are not careful, it can be detrimental to our success to prefer and seek comfort.
For me, I see this tendency to seek comfort in the relationships that I have. It’s all too easy to get comfortable with my current friendships, circles, and business networks. When, the reality is, the world of relationships is so much bigger than my immediate or presently known circles. There are many more people to meet and relationships to build.
This tendency to stick with what or whom we already ‘know’, instead of looking for new opportunities and relationships, can limit our success and stunt our growth, causing our networks to shrink and falter. Before long, if we’re not careful, we can become stuck in a series of relationship ruts within a network that has closed in on itself.
Sound dismal? Good. This is serious stuff. Your future success and life satisfaction very much depend on the quality and composition of your relationships and networks.
Junior High, Mean Girls, and Cliques
This is not a new problem. Remember junior high? For many, it is the first time we can recall our longing for the security of acceptance, instead being met with the harsh sting of rejection. For me, it was a certain group of girls who decided that, instead of getting to know me (and realize what a freaking cool person I am!) they would instead chose to alienate me and stick to their own comfort level in the form of a clique.
Of course, I’m an adult now and realize that it was too bad for them because they would have had a lot more fun if we were friends. However, at the time, it was not only painful for me, it also made it extremely difficult for that network to grow. I found other friends but those girls chose to keep things to their small circle within a closed network.
College Parties and Limitless Networks
That experience taught me quite a lot about networking (although I didn’t realize it until college), because through that experience, I committed to consider the feelings of others in relation to acceptance and feeling ‘in’ network with others. As my college friends can attest, that resulted in my rarely having small gatherings (my average Friday night get together was 50 people deep) because I wanted everyone to feel welcome.
Since junior high, it’s been my desire to work hard to protect others from being alienated by a negative clique to the best of my ability. You can be a ‘cool kid’ and still be approachable and open to new friendships. In fact, the people who can pull that off are the really cool kids. The ones who are clique-prone and consistently prioritize their own agenda, actually limit their potential and stunt network growth.
Push Away from Your Comfort Zone
In business, this seeking of comfort and alienation of others can be detrimental to success. Unfortunately, our comfort-seeking nature can sneak in and, before we know it, we isolate ourselves into boxes of relationships instead is seeking new opportunities. All because it feels more comfortable to hold still and stick to what and who we know.
It’s fun to be part of the ‘in’ crowd. It’s true. But instead of seeking a group of colleagues that may alienate others or limit your network reach, why not, instead, strive for an open network where people can become known and share in the wealth of relationships? Now that, sounds like a win-win.
What steps do you take to keep yourself from sticking to your relationship comfort zone? How do you stretch yourself to expand your network? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below …