“Golden Handcuffs” — I most recently heard this term while listening to an episode of The Learning Leader Show, in which nutrition and body weight fitness expert Natalie Jill explained how she left a well-paying corporate career in dental sales to launch her own fitness brand/business.
Of course, the imagery of the metaphor is perfect when it is the lock-in effect of a high salary, generous benefits, or a contingent bonus or stock option that makes it very hard for an employee to seriously consider leaving. But money is just a unit of transactional measure. To think of the power of “golden handcuffs” in terms of dollars alone is to create blind spots that prevent us from really seeing what’s going on.
Money can buy all kinds of things, including intangibles like Influence or Status. However, in those moments when an Idea beckons in one direction but the power of the “golden handcuffs” locks you in place, it’s really one of two things (or both) at work: Security & Comfort. But for the fears of losing Security and forfeiting Comfort, is there any doubt more people would leave their current, unhappy situation and head off to create something better?
By recognizing what’s really at work — not the money or benefits, but the security and comfort they provide — we are in a much better position to see other ways in which Security and Comfort lock us down and hold us back:
- The emotional security of hanging onto known relationships, even if not healthy;
- The psychological comfort of resting behind conventional wisdom;
- The occupational security of sticking to the tasks you know by heart;
- The intellectual comfort of never listening to contrary views.
In reality, all of these promises of Security and places of Comfort are mirages. All too often, job and income security are just one corporate reorganization away from evaporating, and the places we find most comfortable can be the worst places for us to stay.
Make it a practice of identifying where feelings of Security and Comfort have put down roots in your life and loosening their grip. Expose yourself to new ideas, and force yourself to try some of them. Embrace the risk of trying things you didn’t think you could do. Develop a habit of doing these things when it doesn’t involve your income, and when Opportunity does show up, those “golden handcuffs” will be much easier to unlock.