Is there anyone who hasn’t heard it said: personal growth happens outside your comfort zone?
I subscribe to that notion. It means, in a nutshell, so long as we stay with the existing state of affairs, we’re not learning, not moving forward, or not meeting the challenges life inevitably throws at us.
And now I’ve found myself in a comfort rut.
What is a rut?
An uninspired routine or pattern of behavior that one continues unthinkingly or because change is difficult.American Heritage Dictionary
Let me note first that I fully recognize having enormous privilege in being able to say that I live a life of comfort. I am grateful for the cozy home, however humble, I live in with my loving, nurturing honey. The stress of putting food on the table daily is not something I need to carry. I don’t crave or need more material things or even people to love. I have fulfilled most of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. In short, in the immediate moment, I have enough. Privileged, indeed.
I’m even comfortable with the uncomfortable. What more could I possibly want?
The danger is that I’m at risk of becoming complacent. Not about the wicked problems of the world, like poverty, injustice, war, climate, democracy. Oh no, those issues interest and rile me still.
It’s only about my own life, how I spend my time, that I’m not my usual go-getting, just-do-it self. What does that rut look like, you might ask?
Over the ten months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I intentionally gave myself grace and focused my attention on getting through the anti-cancer program that was planned for me. During this period, I put all other life and business goals on hold. I’ve already written much about that.
But now that the medical program is over and done, I’m not feeling motivated to return to who I was before.
I am red-faced to admit that I spend far too much of my day on the computer scrolling through social media and reading news and articles that catch my attention. I take online courses I don’t really need. I sit in my comfortable chair in our comfortable home office and don’t move for hours. My honey finds sneaky ways to lure me out of my chair (and I adore him for it).
Research shows that we humans get committed to how things are. We build and keep habits; some good, others not. Yet no matter how bad things get for us, we resist change. And we mostly resist inner change.
So now, having slowed down my pace to a crawl in order to look after myself, it’s going to take a special inspiration to switch from first gear to second or third. Maybe that is my reason for writing in my journal today, to find that inspiration.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Terry Singh, in his 2014 TEDx talk, suggests that the best way to get unstuck is not immediately to look for a solution, but to focus first on our experience of being stuck.
A life coach might ask me: what is your prize (positive reinforcement) for staying in a rut?
The great advantage of being in a rut is that when one is in a rut, one knows exactly where one is.Arnold Bennett
The big prize for me is that I dodge having to reevaluate my stated goals and aspirations. Another prize is that I’m not compelled to act on the changes I/we had already decided I/we wanted, because maybe, maybe, I/we don’t want those changes after all.
Staying in my comfort zone means I don’t have to break my brain to determine yet again what I really want to do/be when I grow up.
The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs.John Dewey
The other side of that life coaching question is: what is my punishment (negative reinforcement) for staying in my rut?
The downside of staying stuck is devastating to me, actually. I don’t consider coasting along a life being lived fully. Ask me what my life purpose is and I answer: living a creative life. There’s nothing at all creative happening in a rut.
My only requirement for life is that I don’t get stuck in a rut.Malin Akerman
That’s me saying that staying in my comfort rut means I’m wasting my time, and time is one precious thing most of us perceive to have too little of (with a nod to my lovely friends who choose not to believe in time).
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that I/we must seek that delicate balance between grace and letting go, and motivation to act. Most of the time, given our natural tendency to beat ourselves up for falling short of our pressing expectations, we need to give ourselves grace.
Wisdom is knowing the times we need someone or something to give us a swift (figurative) kick in the pants. With this journal entry, I’m giving myself at least the first kick.
Next, I’ll be looking at the first steps I can take to remove myself from this comfort rut and get back on track to living a creative life.
It takes guts to get out of the ruts.Robert H. Schuller
How attentively do you stretch out of your comfort zone? When did you last challenge yourself?
Love it, Cisca. You and I are yet again on the same path, which currently is asking the same question: What do I want to be when I grow up???? Too funny 🙂
So Sunday night I stayed up to all hours, constructing teaching materials for a tangram activity I wanted to do with the Grade 4/5 class I was going to sub in on Monday. I was exhausted by the time I finished and then did not sleep well for whatever reasons…nevertheless the activity went super well and both the kids and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot! I prepped another extension activity for Tuesday with the same class and WOW. By Tuesday night I was both drained of physical energy yet exuberant. The joy and engagement of the students gave me back such joy that for this time and space I realize that revisiting my past skills and taking the best to give back is where I want to be. Kind of backtracking, but kind of not.
So I went to the bookstore yesterday and bought a couple of excellent picture books that I will use to try to develop some awesome teaching activities for the fall when schools reopen after the summer break. Have not done that for years. In fact, the last years of fulltime teaching, I did not have the energy to be the best teacher that I could be. So now is my chance. For one or two days a week, until I lose that inner inspiration and joy, I aim to hone my teaching skills further. And further.
I love it!
(But just a note, it has taken almost 4 years to get here after retiring and having my heart surgery. Give yourself time enough. Be kind to your body and soul.)
Yay, you! 🎉💃 Yes, whoever came up with the notion that life was a straight line progression had it very wrong. We circle back to our past to pick up nuggets of wisdom along with skills and knowledge learned. Reminds me of a tongue-in-cheek saying (don’t know who to credit): Blessed are those who go round in circles, for they become the big wheels. Well, neither of us aspires to become a big wheel, but certainly we build new blocks with the skills and knowledge gained before, and who knows what that will end up looking like? I’m convinced that plodding along and taking small steps in a direction that pleases will eventually get us somewhere, even if not where we originally think we should end up. Perhaps not knowing what we want to be when we grow up leaves us open to ideas and opportunities we wouldn’t get if we were hell-bent on achieving some big mission. Trite to say perhaps, but life is a journey, not a destination. And yes, I hear you to give myself ample time and kindness. 🌸💜🌸
Maybe you need the rut while your energy body replenishes itself.
Go with the flow.
You may be right, Jill. Going with the flow is my superpower. And yet my brain is starting to taunt me with the notion that it’s time to get back to more productive efforts; there are things I need to do. Besides, the comfort rut has started to annoy me. 🌸💜🌸