It’s easy to live within our comfort zones, and get used to the “status quo.” This state usually means we’re comfortable with how things are, so much so that we lack the motivation or interest to make any changes – big or small. Things are officially “okay” in our lives; there’s no harm in smooth sailing and familiar routines. Yet the problem with comfort zones is that they’re well… maybe a bit too comfortable. What happens while we simply go about our business and not rock the boat is that we’re not exactly growing or expanding our lives. What also may happen is that this state of automatic pilot puts us in a place where we fail to notice how good we’ve got it. Here we risk taking it all for granted, thinking things will always be the way they are.
I was in this state as I prepared for the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee just about a month ago. I was skating along, taking each pre-run for granted, thinking all would be just groovy in my upcoming marathon. Then, one day, BAM! The status quo changed. Struck by a mysterious shoulder injury that got worse and worse over the course of 10 days, I was in essence sidelined with not only the marathon out of the question, but also every other activity I had taken for granted each day – from being able to run five miles or go to my Bikram yoga class (or do both) to simply being able to lift my hand to brush my hair or take a sip of my beloved Starbucks. Throw in some pretty earth-shattering pain, and I had a chance to take a close look at everything I did each day that I completely took for granted.
Suddenly, the “status quo” was something I longed for more than anything, and I vowed that when my shoulder got better, I’d appreciate ALL of those things – even the simple ones. Thanks to help from a chiropractor, acupuncturist, a sprinkling of pain meds, and a great crew of physical therapists, I can say that I am better… and better for it. I now have some new thoughts on our comfort zones & the status quo:
1. Don’t get so wrapped up in the “status quo” that you don’t even notice what your status quo is. Life is crazy and moves at warped speed. Our routines tend to get lost in the speed of life, and as a result we don’t even realize what we’re doing, or how fortunate we are to be doing it. Take note of what you do daily, and appreciate your ability to do so. You never know when things will change.
2. Your comfort zone is a great place to be. Yet also a dangerous one. If you keep on doing the same thing, I’ll tell you what. You’re going to keep doing the same thing. Look for little tweaks you can make to your daily activities to shake things up a bit – small improvements, variations in routine, or opportunities that present themselves to change course. If these opportunities sound good, consider taking a risk.
3. When we’re in our comfort zones, it’s easy to complain about all of the things we see that we don’t like. Realize that there are negative points to anything we do. Next time you complain about the things you do – whether it’s a job, daily life routine, or hobby – think about the good points of that particular activity. Consider how you’d feel if it were suddenly taken away from you. Then appreciate it for its good and bad.
4. When we do something long enough to be really good or particularly comfortable with it, realize that it has come due to hard work. Appreciate that activity and offer up a little gratitude for having it in your life. Many people would kill for the chance to do just what you take for granted each day.
5. You gotta know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em. Kenny Rogers was right. Sometimes the status quo or your comfort zone does need a major upheaval. Maybe it comes involuntarily (in my case), or maybe you simply get to the point where you realize that activity is not serving you any longer. When this happens, step out of the comfort zone and listen to the signs that it’s time to try something new. Then, go at it with everything you have, knowing that you’re ready to grow and move into a new comfort zone.
For me, I’m about 95% back to my normal “pre-shoulder crisis” routine. I’ve gone from my comfort zone to my (literal and figurative) discomfort zone. Now I’m settling into a new zone – one where I am grateful for the comfort of doing the tried and true, but perhaps a little curious to see what else I can do both in my running and in my life… quite simply because I can.
So friends, keep doing what you’re doing. Run, swim, bike, knit… whatever it is you do. But when you do these things, please appreciate the fact that you can do them… and never stop trying to do them better, or move on to do more. Because you can.
by abbey algiers