What motivates us to get out of our Comfort Zone at work

Comfort Zone and Motivation

How to discover what motivates us with a simple but empirically tested method to identify our unique blend of core motivators can help us get out of our Comfort Zone at work.

The Comfort Zone, which is personal, diverse and different for each of us, has clearly a high correlation with our Motivations.

Traditionally defined as a psychological state in which a person feels familiar, at ease, in control and with a moderate level of anxiety and stress; I believe the Comfort Zone is fluid and the result of education, experience, and habits. I like to think of curiosity to fuel the circle, but it is not the only element. Motivation is another great ingredient and the outcome of a step-by-step method to identify our unique blend of core motivators aligning our work with what drives us should help.


I came across the Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton book “What Motivates Me” a few months ago when I was still trying to understand how to shape the storm of thoughts in my mind in the form of a blog. One of the book’s reviews said, “Once in a great while a business book comes along that everyone is talking about. Trust me; this is the book”. It was the right advice for me at that time, and I believe it should be a good suggestion if we want to understand and get out of our Comfort Zone.

The literature on motivation is extensive, so in this case, we narrow the focus on motivation at work. We spend more than 50% of our lives there. We can’t underestimate the effect that the quality of our work-life has in our entire lives. Some people love what they do; we all probably know few of them. They come to work motivated, and they give their all. Some others folks – talented and smart folks – don’t. They just keep going.

Job satisfaction and employee engagement represent a global crisis: 87% of the world’s workers are not happy in their jobs. Happiness, fulfillment, and comfort seem to identify few people that have found a sense in what they do while a sight of discomfort or even worst, depression and anxiety, are predominant in individuals who have not found their direction (yet). Of course, the situation is not black and white; shades of gray are limitless.

As individuals, we have all need for meaning. Just because people are successful doesn’t mean they are satisfied. What is the secret behind happy and engaged people? Based on the approach I discovered in the book, those people have aligned more of their work with their core motivations. If this is true, why don’t we all do something about it? The problem is that most of the people don’t understand what motivates them or even if they do know, they don’t know what to do with that. As sometimes happen in life, it is better to remain in our Comfort – or in this case Discomfort – Zone instead of doing something to improve the situation.

Let’s try to change the game – shake things up – and get out of our Comfort Zone at work, and as a result, in life. Where do we can start?

1) We need to dive deep on motivation to understand what motivates us

It is not easy (be prepared); human psychology is complicated, and motivations are also complex. While we develop our personality when we are children, and our strengths often remain more constant through life, our motivations can change as we age.

2) We need to be eager to step out of our Comfort Zone to understand our personal mix

To help in this direction, the authors of “What Motivates Me” have identified a final set of twenty-three workplace motivators:

Autonomy, Challenge, Creativity, Developing Others, Empathy, Excelling, Excitement, Family, Friendship, Fun, Impact, Learning, Money, Ownership, Pressure, Prestige, Problem Solving, Purpose, Recognition, Service, Social Responsibility, Teamwork, and Variety.

Even though we are all different and unique in our personal way, we all do share this group of fundamental drivers. Nuances show up in A – which of the specific motivators are most important for each of us 2 – our personal order of priority from one to twenty-three. On top of that, if you look carefully, some of the twenty-three motivators seem naturally linked to others.

From this assumption, and with the goal of identifying a set of general types of individuals – archetypes – the authors have created five clusters of commonly related motivators they have called Identity.

Motivators & Identity

The Achievers: those who thrive on a tight deadline, tackle ambitious goals, and love a good challenge and solving a problem. Achievers usually like to be in charge of others, or at least in control of their destiny.

The Builders: those purpose-driven individuals who are hardwired to develop others and serve those around them. They cultivate loyal friendships and thrive in strong team environments.

The Caregivers: those caring souls who are often more tuned into other’s emotion. They are more motivated when they have regular fun at work, and believe balancing time at work and time with their families is necessary.

The Reward-Driven: those who are typically more extrinsically motivated, driven to win prizes – whether money or applause or the admiration of others.

The Thinkers: those who are often more creative, who love lo learn, enjoy a different routine, and like to feel an adrenaline rush now and then. Most Thinkers get frustrated with red tape and bureaucracy and want their work to make an impact on the world around them.

We all have each of these five Identities to some degree. Nobody is 100% Achiever and 0% Caregiver or any other black and white combinations. It is why human nature is so fascinating.

I believe “the Motivators Assessment” Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton included in the book is an excellent framework to understand what motivates us at work. With the book – and the unique code inside it – you have access to the online empirically tested and personalized method. The online assessment was my “aha” moment, and this blog is part of my personal action plan.

If you don’t want to start from the book, there is always the “home-made” alternative approach (scientifically non-correct but better than nothing to start).

1- Look again at the list of twenty-three workplace motivators

2- Learn and reflect on the meaning

3- Define the list of your most important motivators

4- Assign to each of them the right priority

5- Create you action plan

Enjoy the deep dive to understand yourself and be prepared to shape your Comfort Zone!