'Overcoming adversity' versus 'stepping out of one’s comfort zone'

April 23, 2023 - 08:27
Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is a serious dilemma among the younger generation who are surrounded by unconditional support from family and constant connection.


Illustration by Trịnh Lập

By An Phương

Is 'overcoming adversity' more challenging than 'stepping out of one’s comfort zone'?

Being born in the early 90s, I’m more familiar with the concept of overcoming adversity. No Google, no cell phones, no social media. I have been told numerous stories about excellent individuals thriving despite hardship right from the first days of elementary school.

Differing from overcoming adversity where prosperity is usually the ultimate goal, stepping out of a comfort zone requires one to let go of favourable life conditions and take initiative to seek and accept new challenges.

Recently, while conducting a project with some Generation Zs (born between 1997 and 2012), I realised that stepping out of one’s comfort zone is a serious dilemma among the younger generation who are surrounded by unconditional support from family and constant connection.

Thục Anh, 23, told Việt Nam News that she has no motivation to enter the professional job market after college as she is comfortable being a barista at a small coffee shop.

“I’ve done it for almost two years. It was initially a part-time, but I have decided to make it my full-time career,” she said, adding that she enjoys the smell of fresh coffee in the morning.

Thuý Anh, 34, was surprised when she discovered that her little sister Thục Anh was experiencing an early existential crisis where she kept questioning her weaknesses and strengths, while finding a reason for living.

“When I was at Thục Anh’s age, I was eager to secure a challenging job that comes with a rewarding salary. I wanted a better life compared to my parents and was not blessed with sufficient time to question life. Near-poverty experiences have shaped how determined I am today, and Thục Anh’s way of life bothers me, honestly.” Thuý Anh said.

As Thuý Anh spent more time with her sister, she realised that technology, social media and how almost every single piece of information is readily available via a click away has had a significant impact on younger generations’ perceptions of life.

“I love watching YouTubers living a minimal lifestyle, both in hectic cities and romantic countrysides. Work-life balance certainly outweighs a well-paid job, especially after coming out on the other side of extended lockdowns due to the pandemic,” Thục Anh said.

In my view, there’s nothing wrong with living a peaceful, quiet life. Money should never be the only factor that drives humans to greatness. It’s just with staying in the comfort zone, there isn’t much incentive to reach new heights of performance, especially when Gen Zs have potential to grow further.

“Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is, to me, more difficult than overcoming adversity. When people are put under pressure, they only have one way to move forward. Seeing how my parents have been working hard to provide a quality life for me, I feel guilty sometimes for not doing great things like they did,” said Quốc Việt, 24, who works at a public service agency.

“The thing I acknowledge is how blessed and capable I am. Though I’m fully aware that a career leap is necessary for my growth, I can’t help but feeling at peace with my life progress. The comfort zone I’m in is not about how wealthy my family is, but how my parents will support me unconditionally.” 

On a different note, my friend Thế Bảo, 30, who works in HR, said that even though Gen Zs are creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial and thrive on equality, sustainability, self-care, and authenticity, they have too many choices.

Choice overload can actually decrease a person’s ability to act and step out of his or her comfort zone.

“The digital age distracts and pulls everyone in all directions, making it difficult to go deep into what they really want. Social media can easily connect everything, yet it fails to help each person connect with themselves,” Bảo said.

I totally agree with Bảo and realise that Gen Z tends to have a shorter attention span than previous generations due to being constantly bombarded with information on the internet.

Ngọc Thảo, 18, said that she is confused with multiple choices that life has to offer.

“I’m uncertain whether to study abroad or at an international university, with a major that I believe I can do well yet quite uncertain whether I really like it. I've sought advice from parents, friends and via TikTok videos, but all I can think about now is taking a gap year before turning to the next page of my life,” she said.

“My parents told me to do what I truly love, my friends told me to attend the same classes as them, whereas TikTokers told me to avoid general majors. These are noises that I’m trying to clear in my head.” 

My friends and I all agree that the only time that one is actually growing is when he or she is uncomfortable. People’s perception of life is vastly different from each other, but breaking a habit, trying something new, taking a risk, making new connections, or putting yourself in a completely new situation will always be worth it.

It’s exhausting but rewarding.

Discomfort can be the joyful key that opens up everything for those who wish to step out of their comfort zone.

“Gen Zs still have many years ahead to enjoy life. There’s no such thing as 'stable', especially with the development of new technology and AI. Everyone should be prepared to stay and adapt and be a problem-solving thinker so that when life throws you some lemons, you can make lemonade,” Thuý Anh said. - VNS