One reason people can be out of work for a long period of time is that they can fall into a a ‘comfort trap’. A comfort trap is whereby people feel unmotivated to change due to a combination of fears about changing the situation, not being able to see the benefits of change, in conjunction with being in a situation that’s comfortable enough though not necessarily a happy one. Here we shall explore some of the factors that can keep people stuck in their rut. Factors that could keep people stuck in their rut include;
- Fear of not being able to cope with work
- Home environment
- Social network
- Financial incentives
- The belief that they’ll be worse off in work
These factors can affect people’s motivation to look for work in the first place. Nobody is intrinsically lazy or useless. it’s a matter of understand the factors that keep people stuck in their comfort zone.
Fear of not coping with work
People who’ve been out of work for a while will often fear that they won’t be able to cope with work, or that they will end-up in situations that they won’t be able to cope with. The reasons people might fear they won’t cope with work could include things like being tired all the time and fears about how one would cope with social situations. They will be looked-at in more detail in further posts. Whatever they are, they can have a profound impact on motivation. What’s more, such fears an become exaggerated the more down people feel. If coupled with some of the other factors it can lead people may believe that they’re better-off staying where they are rather than risking stepping out of their comfort zone.
The home environment
Living at home can be both a curse and a blessing. Sometimes living at home can be a bad thing if your parents mollycoddle you, stifle your independence and prevent you from learning and practicing life skills. If you’re living rent free and having things done for you, this is not a good thing. Such an environment is potentially dangerous not just because of the above, but because it can make you too comfortable to the degree that it can affect your motivation. What’s more, it can even teach learned helplessness.
People who’re out of work often withdraw socially for fear of being judged by their circumstances and having to explain their situation. The same fear can also lead people to gravitate towards people in similar situations out of the expectation that they won’t be judged. Again, this can be a good or a bad thing. It can be a negative influence if you’re mixing with people who themselves are in a comfort trap and who themselves have fears preventing them from taking steps. This can also profoundly affect people’s motivation.
Being unemployed and having lots of money can be a blessing, but can also be dangerous. If coupled with factors such as living rent free and having things done for you, it can lead to becoming too comfortable.
The belief that you won’t be better off in work
Another factor that can keep people in a comfort trap is that some believe that working will be miserable, people might fear not having freedom. There may also be previous unhappy experiences with work which itself can be a factor affecting people’s motivation to work. If people have been out of work for a long time, they might have a hard time believing that being in work will improve their life, or that they’d lose certain aspects of their life. When these factors are combined with some of the other factors that make life comfortable, it can affect people’s motivation to look for work.
Escaping the comfort trap
It’s entirely possible. It’s important to be able to see beyond any short-term discomfort of taking steps to change our situation to the longer term comfort and happiness beyond. If we’re not focused on that, we might struggle to find the motivation to make the changes we need;
- Remind yourself of what you cannot stand about your situation and what you won’t miss about being unemployed
- Be focused on all the benefits of being in work and dispute any of the beliefs and lies that keep you in your rut
- Address any specific fears about what you might and might not cope with. Some fears may even be exaggerated
- It’s important to realize that if you have had negative experiences in previous jobs, that not all jobs are the same and not all employers are the same. The benefits of being in work generally outweigh the costs
- Spend time with people who’re forward moving, people who’re successful and who’re an inspiration
- If you’ve recognized your home environment is making you comfortable or preventing from learning life skills, consider bringing-up the issue
Everything I’ve identified here is very real and keeps unemployment going and keeps people in a stagnant, yet comfortable middle-ground. Comfort traps can apply to all sorts of negative circumstances in life. If people are long-term unemployed or inactive, the comfort trap almost certainly has a part to play. It’s critical to addres the factors that affect people’s underlying motivation.