The Comfort Zone Factor: How to Help Clients Embrace Change

Man wearing name tag on his shirt which reads "Hello, I am leaving my comfort zone!"

Imagine this; you and your client work hard to prepare for their next career move. They ace the interview and the final step in the hiring process approaches; they are presented with a lucrative job offer. But here’s the catch; they quickly turn the job offer down! Why!? Why would the client turn down a long-desired job offer that guarantees career advancement? In a nutshell: the comfort zone factor.

Comfort Zone vs. Empowerment

If the client accepts the job offer, it would undoubtedly cause disruption, uncertainty, and some anxiety. It may involve uprooting the family, altering routines, making compromises, and throwing work-life balance into free fall. It would mean no longer working in a role that offered a sense of comfort, security, and predictability. And, inevitably, a question arises in the client’s mind; one that stirs up fear and concern — “What if things don’t work out in the new job?”

The irony is that careers are not linear, but neither are career choices. According to the Chaos Theory of Careers, the ever-changing world of work is fuelled by a complex web of numerous internal (the subconscious mind and personal values, as examples ) and external forces (such as economic conditions and the job market). Sometimes, there are few explanations as to why someone takes a different path in their career — one they had not expected. As career practitioners, we can put the Chaos Theory of Careers into practice by helping clients make plans and set goals, while encouraging them to remain curious and open to future possibilities for their career. Clients who are able to adopt this mindset report feeling hopeful and empowered.

Change is a Dynamic Process

Change is more than a common buzzword these days; it is a process. Yet, it brings a lot of uncertainty and fear. Change involves transforming mindset, perception, and attitude, while reshifting priorities and making sacrifices. Often, I have witnessed cases of people having to choose between their family and their career; clearly, a painstakingly difficult decision. COVID-19 has completely shifted our ways of thinking, learning, working, and living. The former structures of society and outdated ways of thinking have been altered significantly.

The concept of time has changed as well. The concept of work-life balance is being replaced by a desire to achieve harmonious work-life integration. Remote work has taken on a new, heightened status in the world of work. It requires leveraging creativity and productivity to achieve goals. Home has become both a sanctuary for work and for personal life, where people attempt to balance the joy and chaos of each realm.

Adaptability: Accepting Change as a Constant

A colleague of mine mentioned that change is stressful because people tend to see it as something impermanent that happens occasionally or unexpectedly. But the reality is that we are faced with change every day and these changes have implications for every facet of our lives. Our ability to adapt to ongoing change in the personal and professional sphere and tap into our resourcefulness and tenacity is absolutely essential for success. The CERIC June 2020 Career and Employment Services Recovery Pulse Survey revealed that 83.9% of clients labeled this period as a stressor, while only 16.1% perceived it as an opportunity for empowerment.

Our ability to be able to identify our “comfort zone mindset,” and then subsequently adopt a mindset based on courageous risk-taking and empowerment, is imperative. If we are not challenged, we cannot change and, therefore, we fail to grow. The decision to embrace change comes from within. It’s a commitment to remain proactive, to seek out new horizons, and trust that the process — however daunting it may seem — will work out in alignment with the universe’s highest intention.

Understanding Change: The Change Cycle

The best thing we can do to navigate change is understand the process through the Change Cycle. If we understand change holistically, we can see that adapting to transition — stepping outside our comfort zone — is a progressive and non-linear process. This six-stage model is helpful in guiding clients through the change cycle.

Stage 1 – Loss to Safety: During this stage, it is normal to experience feelings of fear and disempowerment as the loss brings shock and overwhelm. Thoughts are often cautious and behaviour feels paralyzed.

Key Questions:

What are my specific concerns?

How can I understand this situation more clearly in a positive light?

How can I maximize my feelings of personal safety and security?

Stage 2 – Doubt to Reality: Once we have processed the loss stage and begin to move to a safer place, we transition to doubt and we begin to experience feelings of resentment or anger. Our thoughts can become skeptical and our behaviour is resistant. We slowly start to see and understand the reality.

Key Questions:

What is true in this situation?

How can I translate my fear or anger into empowerment and action?

How can accurate and valid information be gathered to understand the context behind the change and the impacts of change?

Stage 3 – Discomfort to Motivation: In this stage, we move from discomfort to motivation. Feelings of anxiety are common, and thoughts can become confused. Behaviour is often unproductive. This stage sets us up for motivation to align ourselves with the change.

Key Questions:

How can I rechannel my discomfort into empowerment?

What does the next step look like?

How can I gain more clarity about the present situation?

Stage 4 – Discovery to Perspective: In this stage, feelings of anticipation are experienced. Here is where we can leverage our resourcefulness and energy to move forward with reassurance.

Key Questions:

What are all my available options?

What are my best choices?

How will I know that I have made the right decision?

Stage 5 – Understanding to Awareness: After progressing from Stage 4, we find ourselves able to understand the change. We have greater awareness of the impacts, but also come to realize how we can make a difference. Feelings of anticipation shift to confidence, and thoughts are pragmatic with productive behaviours emerging.

Key Questions:

What have I learned about myself through this experience?

What have I learned about the change itself?

How can I make a difference in a positive way for myself and others?

Stage 6 – Integration to Flexibility: Finally, we reach integration where we experience greater satisfaction and harmony with ourselves and the environment, as well as with the situation. We become more focused and our behaviour reflects empathy and generosity.

Key Questions:

What insights have I gained about the ramifications or consequences of change?

What are the rewards of this change?

How can I remain flexible and resilient to change so that I can better embrace change in the future and achieve a sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction?

Find out more about the process of change through the Certified Work-Life Strategist program and elevate your work-life strategy skills to a whole new level. Learn more about all of CPC’s certifications.

Lori Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone. In her spare time, Lori enjoys dance, blogging, watching comedies and reality shows, yoga, and taking long walks in nature.

Photo by iqoncept on 123RF

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Always a guaranteed insightful read when your name is attached to it, Lori. Well done!!

Many thanks, Gayle. Honored to receive your valuable feedback and support 🙂