Is Your Job a Comfort Trap?
There's nothing like a break from work to remind you just how much you really think about your job. On the day you went back, how did you feel? Did the commute, crossing the work threshold and knuckling down feel good? Were you thrilled to be back or did you feel more like a galley slave, rowing in time to the beat set by the drum-master? Quite possibly you felt something between these extremes? Maybe work doesn't exactly float your boat so much as it has become a comfort trap?
I suppose many people are used to a way of life in which, so long as a job is tolerable, that's good enough. Maybe we've become more realistic or maybe we find reasons not to change? In some ways jobs that offer no prospects, that are poorly paid and badly managed are easier to leave, simply because there's no reason to stay. People in the comfort trap are in a different place. They suppress the idea of a job change or even a career change because there are all sorts of reasons (excuses) why they shouldn't. Despite the fact they may secretly wish to do something else it creates too much tension thinking about the potential risks, the bills that have to be paid, the people who depend on you.
Some people feel guilty about allowing their minds to wander. Here you are, at the top of your game, with a decent income and you keep dreaming of owning a little bistro, or driving a train, or writing a book. You've maybe even speculated openly about change over a glass or two and found your ideas laughed off or met with a frosty reception. Is that it? Are you doomed to live out your working life in ‘that place'?
The most common way for people to displace such anxieties is to justify work as a means to an end. A friend of mine has a number of hobbies and projects on the go. He's an intelligent and highly capable person who has slowly but surely become more critical and jaundiced about his job. For him, the primary purpose of work is simply to fund these interests. I've met so many other people in exactly the same situation. They aren't disruptive at work, they do their bit, they are competent, capable, bright, but dissatisfied and often bored. Despite this, they simply can't envisage an alternative. It's immensely appealing to find a niche at work where you are left alone, where nobody is breathing down your neck, where you know the job like the back of your hand and they pay you.
In such a situation it's easy to see why people don't want, or don't choose, change. There are however many thousands of people who, every year, take the bull by horns and decide they just have to do something different. If this is you, but you find yourself anxious about the prospect of change, there may be a few things you can do to pave the way, reduce your risks and the associated stress.
First, don't just throw in the towel and look for the dream job. If you've stuck at your job until now there's no reason not to continue for a while longer until your plans are more structured. Next, if you haven't already done so, start some real research into the alternative(s) you are interested in. Every job or activity has good and bad points so try to speak to people already in the area to get an idea of what these are. Next, see if you can try the alternative job for a while, maybe as a volunteer or on your day off. You may not be able to do the exact job but you may get near. This may give you a hands-on feel that may boost your commitment further, or maybe explode a few myths that may have developed during those day-dreams. If it all works out the way you hoped, then only you can judge when and if it's time to make the change.