Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Comfort? or Limiting?

Sad days. Hiking and traveling gear is being put away, normal daily routines have begun and ski season is still just out of reach. Fortunately we are left with the memories and (tons of) pictures from our tour of Europe. While perusing some of these many photos I was reminded of a -I wouldn’t say completely recurring- but what was a common theme; the idea of “comfort”, more specifically focusing on the theory of the Comfort Zone.

For many of us home is where we have the ability to be the most comfortable with our surroundings and environment. For the most part you know what to expect. You go to work, you pick up groceries, and you go to your local pub... These things are comfortable to us. But think back to the first day of a new job or the first time you walked into that local pub alone… All eyes are on you and everyone is wondering “who is this new person?” This is usually not within our comfort zone. It takes time to fit in or become accepted.

We understand that removing ourselves from our established comfort zone is a common thing on basic terms and even in small occasions. These events build character and experience. But what we sometimes avoid are those times where we could face intimidating and, somewhat, freighting experiences. These experiences can result in a very positive growth for the individual. I say “can result in positive growth” only due to the fact that if the challenge or new environment is too experimental or harsh the individual could result with obvious behavioural reactions.

But before I go further this is not a place where we can add excuses i.e. we can not say “I am not going to try that as it is out of my comfort zone and I could come out the other side completely mental.” No! Shake that off immediately. The idea behind this, in its entirety, is to push yourself beyond the point of comfort. Once this boundary is passed the anxiety and stress raises our level of awareness and ability to complete the task at hand. This is regularly referred to as our Optimal Performance Zone where the skills you were not sure you had come out at their very best.

We can not go past this OPF as our skills will be unable to handle the situation and we will fail. This line is hard to see for those who do not attempt to push themselves. Once you have attempted to reach this zone you will begin to understand where the line is and realize that it should not be crossed. For myself personally I am constantly pushing my limits in mountain biking but know when to pull back. Or at work volunteering to present orally is important as I know if I do not it will only get harder to present in front of a group.

Ok I am coming to the final point sorry for the babble. To ensure we truly find that optimal zone we have to understand that a “comfort zone” is merely a mental boundary that WE have created in our own mind. Don’t get me wrong, these can be good i.e. I know not to go down a well known violent and drug infested area with crack addicts that would do anything to get my money.

Once these are established our mind tells us we can not go past certain points for fear of negative outcome. This can hinder our experiences in positive situations i.e. don’t make a radical change in your life for fear of failure; don’t travel for fear of plane crash or violence…; don’t attempt to introduce yourself to new individuals for fear of rejection…

Finally the picture above is probably one of my most comfortable moments in my entire life. It actually wasn’t even posed Parker just happened to snap it. I was completely at peace in my little moment in time, at a 2443m (8000ft) high mountain hut surrounded by nothing but mountains, other similar minded mountaineers, clean air, a can of beer or two and the best hiking partner.

For me to get to that point where I was the happiest on my trip, I understood and accepted all the possible negative, or better yet, character building experiences along the way. We had many trials and tribulations while training and preparing for this trip as well as many small and larger incidences while on the trip. Parker and I know that we are most happy in the mountains and/or in mountain towns and villages. Although we loved Paris, Rome and Venice, those are “second” stops for us. We are truly at home in the mountains hence why we strive to travel to them as our focal point. Consequently there were many barriers and boundaries that were removed during the positive experience of foreign travel.

Essentially in the end if we don’t seek that zone or go outside our known boundaries or whatever, we are merely accepting things as they are, avoiding change and never taking a risk to truly learn who we are and what we are capable of. We all know that when that faithful time comes, we only regret what we DIDN’T do.

Res Ipsa Loquitur.

1 comment:

  1. Relating this to physical activity/sport it is essential to be able to move out of your comfort zone to excel. As we've discussed many a times that mental preparedness can be far superior than physical preparedness (not that it is not important) in reaching your optimal performance, as it increases one's concentration, focus and nakes one more perceptive to their surroundings. And if you are like me sometimes I push outside of the Comfort Zone too far and let my mental ability push beyond my physical ability and end up with injuries. So certainly there are boundaries that you must be aware of as well.