The Danger of Comfort: Lessons from the Cubicle
By Maryanne Pope
Updated March 21st, 2014
“Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth than everything else combined. Happiness doesn’t come from living a lukewarm life, always wondering what could have been. Happiness comes as a result of being in our natural state of growth and living up to our fullest potential.”
Back when I was a report processor with a police service, I remember being in my cubicle one day and feeling a profound sense of security – I mean, besides the fact that I was working in a building filled with police officers.
By that point, I’d been doing the job — taking incident reports over the phone from police officers and inputting the data into a computer program — for over a year, so was familiar and comfortable with the process. The occasional call would still come in that threw me for a loop but for the most part, the stress level was definitely manageable.
I remember thinking that day how safe I felt in my little cubicle. I was warm and cozy, had a cup of coffee and a yummy treat sitting on my desk. I was likely looking forward to going outside for a walk on my one forty-minute break (during a 10 hour shift).
Oh yes, I thought to myself, life is good! I know this isn’t my dream job of writing but it is SORT of writing…I mean, I’m writing the narrative sections of the police reports, aren’t I? Well, okay, the officers dictate the exact words to me over the phone and I just type them in but…
If I could go back in time, this is what my forty-six-year-old present self would say to that sound asleep thirty-two-year-old version:
Hello! Earth to Maryanne… you’re not just in a cubicle, sweetheart, you’re in a CAGE! Wake up!! What’s wrong with you? You’ve fallen asleep at the wheel…what happened to writing a book? Making the world a better place? Starting a business? Have you so numbed yourself to your own dreams and your concept of freedom that you actually believe you’re HAPPY sitting in a cubicle forty hours a week, taking dictation over the phone? That’s NOT writing; that’s TYPING.
Secure. Manageable. Safe. Comfortable. Familiar. Those were the words I was describing my work with. That alone should have been my wake-up call. But it wasn’t.
Now don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely nothing wrong with the job of report processor. It’s just that I wasn’t taking significant steps in my non-work time to further my goals of becoming a writer.
What I was doing in my down-time was complaining about having to go to work at a clerical job to pay the bills…and then telling myself that maybe the job was good enough after all.
Well you know what? If we lie to ourselves long enough, we’re going to start to believe our lies as truth.
Sadly, it took my husband’s sudden death several months later to wake me up. And the fact that he died of brain injuries as the result of stepping through an unmarked false ceiling because it appeared to be a safe surface (there was no safety railing warning to warn him of the danger) is perhaps no coincidence to my own journey.
I never returned to the false safety of my cubicle. I finally realized that despite its cozy feel, it was the most dangerous place in the world for my soul to be. Instead, two weeks after his death, I started writing what would become my first book, A Widow’s Awakening.
“Finally you begin to realize that the safest thing you can do feels risky and the riskiest thing you can do is play it safe.”
– Seth Godin, Tribes
Every day, we have choices as to how we are going to live: are we going to stay with the safe, familiar and comfortable – even if our situation is no longer working? It takes tremendous courage to make a change. But one way or another, the Universe finds a way of getting our attention.
Then it’s up to us to get ourselves back on back on track.
“Most people live within the confines of their comfort zone. The best thing you can do for yourself is regularly move beyond it.”
– Robin S. Sharma, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the upcoming book, Barrier Removed; A Tough Love Guide to Achieving Your Dreams. Maryanne also writes screenplays and play scripts, including Saviour. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund.