Viewing entries tagged
comfort zone

The Pull of the Mundane

People feel stuck — want something more.  They even see a vague path to get there (wherever there is?) but something holds them tight to where they are.  

I recently changed my morning routine in order to grab three uninterrupted hours — moments to work on thought projects before the world awakes.  What a glorious idea!  Did I mention, I’m not a morning person? Day One of this new routine, I awoke at 5:00, did great work, went back to bed at 7:30.  I have never found morning warm and fuzzy.  The benefits that come from these hours of solitude are clear. I’ve already experienced great progress as a result of this change in my routine.  Unfortunately, my body begins to rebel loudly at about 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening.  The rebellion is so intense that daily I consider going back to my former routine.  Why?  Why would I go back when I’m seeing good results?  Shockingly, it takes every ounce of strength to not go back.  

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We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic. Our brain creates neural pathways from repetitive thoughts and behavior in order to make life easier.  Retraining our brain requires real work, work that is uncomfortable.  Psychologist tell us that our reaction to change starts with denial, moves to anger, crosses over to confusion, then dips into depression before it feels like a crisis.  After all that we then move into acceptance, followed by new confidence.  If there are that many stages before we arrive at acceptance, no wonder change only comes with intentionality.  I want the benefits of the change without disruption.  

While we are creatures of habit, we are also creatures of comfort.  It’s just plain uncomfortable to change something you’ve done for years.  Discomfort is typically a signal to retreat, go back, change course.  Like me, you may have to decide that you are willing to be uncomfortable to have the results that you want.  

What are you doing to get un-stuck?

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Uncomfortable

It’s been two years since I’ve walked into a yoga class.  My muscles have formed a very tight union.  Like most unions, they typically get what they demand.  When I entered a yoga studio a few days ago, they quickly took to the picket line.  The class I participated in purposely used gravity to assist in stretching out muscles that resist.  Let’s just say, “My body will never be the same again.”   

But it’s what happened in my mind that’s most revealing.  With each new pose or position, the instructor would leave our bodies in a pretzel-like, inhuman kind of situation for what appeared to be weeks.  My mind would tirade, “This is too much.”  “You can’t do this.”  “You’re going to get hurt, really bad.”  While the calming music played, the soothing instructor spoke words of encouragement and the participants quietly breathed in and out, my mind was in all-out-panic mode.  Finally, I realized — I’m uncomfortable.  That’s all it is.  I’m uncomfortable.  I’m not dying.  I’m not being mistreated.  I’m not in a threatening situation.  I’m just uncomfortable.  

I wonder how often my all-out-panicked mind gets me to bail when I’m feeling uncomfortable.  It was shocking to recognize how unwilling I was to be uncomfortable.  Especially when I’ve been taught that staying in our comfort zone kills our adaptability, our growth and our inspiration.  And I want all of that.  

No new experiences, no challenges, no risks . . . may keep us warm and cozy but I suspect you wanted more out of life than that.  Pushing ourselves helps us uncover what we are made of.  Settling for warm and cozy is too big a price to pay.
 
Dan Stevens, an English actor known for his role in Downton Abbey, has said, “The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears.” Go gain new perspective and conquer some fear by making small changes in the every day and the familiar.

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New Perspective

In 1959, he darkened his skin tone in order to experience life as a black man.  Segregation marked the streets of the South.  It was dangerous to be a person of color. Under the care of a dermatologist, John Howard Griffin took large doses of a drug that darkened his pigment and spent fifteen hours a day under an ultraviolet lamp.  As soon as his skin was dark enough, he began to travel.  Griffin, a journalist, daily documented his experience for the magazine Sepia.  Basic needs like for food, shelter and bathrooms were difficult enough to meet in the segregated South. The thing that was most disturbing to Griffin was the hatred he encountered from the white world.  He repeatedly referenced the “hate stare.”  One passage that sums up his experience:

Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you.

Over 30 years ago, I read the book Black Like Me that was published as a result of Griffin’s travel as a black man. All I knew about John Howard Griffin was these six weeks of his life.  Last week, I was exposed to his larger story.  Griffin developed blindness as a young solider after a near miss with a bomb. Eleven years later, much to Griffin’s shock, his sight began to return.  Griffin had lived eleven years making decisions and judgements based on his intuition, not on his sight.  When he begin to see the state of the world, he was appalled at what he saw.  He could not understand why people would judge anyone based on what they looked like.

What do you see, a young women or an old women?

What do you see, a young women or an old women?

Griffin had a completely different perspective because he’d been forced to live without sight.
Perspective is everything.  When all you can see is the view from your own front porch, your perspective is very narrow.  When you get beyond your comfortable spaces and begin to see things through other’s eyes your outlook shifts and all of society benefits.  

What can you do today to get a broader view?  

 

Discomfort that Inspires

Three days after the Thursday ambush that left five officer’s dead in the City of Dallas, Black Lives Matter supporters and their counter-protesters walked across the dividing line and introduced themselves to each other at a protest in Northpark Center.  Those introductions led to embraces and culminated with praying together.  It turns out they had more in common than they thought, and with a little determination they decided to find that commonality.  

At the memorial service Tuesday for our fallen officers, Former President George W. Bush said, "Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.  This has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose.

In the City of Dallas, the two supposedly opposing groups Black Lives Matter and Back the Blue have decided to unite their causes and work together to close the gap that exists in our nation between races and end the violence that impacts us all.  No one is real clear on how it happened but together they found unity, hope, and a higher purpose.

In the wake of all the senseless violence we’ve seen in this nation over the past few days and weeks, you are likely sitting in front of your TV stunned.  The tragedies that are beyond words can sometimes drive us to gather the people we love and go into hiding. I’m grateful to the two protest groups who chose to leave the comfort of their home and stand up for what mattered to them.  Leaving the comfort of the line of people with whom they held common beliefs and ideas and introducing themselves to people they seemed to be opposed to was a courageous and heroic step.  I want to be like them!  

This desire to pull into our shells will not help our city, our state or our nation.  It might not even be good for our families. The comfort of familiarity kills our ability to adapt,  grow, and find new inspiration.  In light of what’s been modeled to me in Dallas, I will be intentional in stepping across the invisible lines of division and introduce myself to places that bring discomfort, so that I can be part of the solution, so that I can learn to adapt, so that I can grow and be inspired.  Will you do the same?

 

Watch Me Dance

A friend of mine loves to say, “I am women, watch me dance.”  It’s her personal twist on the old slogan, “I am women, hear me roar.”  She loves to dance and considers it part of her self-care regiment.  Last week, I heard Lee Ann Womack’s song, “I Hope You Dance for the billionth time. I thought of my friend and all the difficulty she’s been through in her childhood, in her tour of Iraq, in her health battle . . . It dawned on me that she forced herself to dance at times when it would have been so much easier to quit dancing.

Twenty plus years ago, my mother and I were walking down the sidewalk of an outdoor shopping mall with my two-year old when a car blaring some serious hip hop on the radio drove by slowly.  Of course, the two-year old started to dance.  My mother’s response was sheer horror.  She thought he was having a seizure. This is a true story! Children drop everything and just dance for no good reason — even when others don’t recognize it as the best response.

The first line of Womack’s song, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder . . .” and a later verse, “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. . .”  encourage us to keep that child-like quality of awe.  Amazement and curiosity drive children to explore and uncover everything from ants on a piece of bark to buttons on a shirt.  If you find that you aren’t marveling at things anymore, maybe your world has become too small.  (Let me say that another way, if all you can think about is yourself, your world is too small.)

Dancing is simply a choice. It's not limited to the circumstances or a specific event. You make a mental decision to dance every day.  “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance.  I hope you dance.”  Having choices is a huge liberator.  It moves us from passively letting life happen to us to actively designing our own life.  Sure, there are things we can’t control but we can control whether we dance or sit this one out.  

What are you sitting out of today?  Where do you need to dance?

Experiment with me this week.  When you feel down and out, crank up the music and dance.  When you feel alone, get up and dance.  When things are frustrating, go ahead and bust a move. If there is something to celebrate, dance.  After you try it for a week, tell me what it felt like to choose to dance.  

 

Cushy Comfort Zones Cost

Comfort Zones are such sweet, secure places to be.  Why would anyone want to leave them?  Take a look.