Danger In The Comfort Zone!
By Stephen Doherty
“The greatest moments of our lives
are rarely filmed in our comfort zones!” –Stephen Doherty
The last several weeks, I have watched with parental pride and vicarious fascination as my son has traversed Asia for a month, post college graduation. Phuket, Jakarta, Bangkok, Bali, Tokyo, Singapore, Indonesia, Viet Nam, etc. I wake up daily to see where his wanderlust has deposited him. My excitement is exceeded only by my pride in his grasping of a key life concept-“To SEE more..is to BECOME more!” My son has adopted this mantra as he seeks to live a life that balances adventure with responsibility. He is a stark reminder to me that not seeking activities that open wide our eyes, make our hearts pound, and take our breath away – is spiritual negligence.
While each of us have vastly different definitions and visions of adventure and excitement, we all share one thing in common. We have a “comfort zone” that acts as restraining force to seeking out risk and pursuing the reckless, the hazardous, the dangerous, the perilous – in pursuit of those rare but special moments that make us smile and tingle with excitement forevermore. As human beings, our very survival at the dawn of civilization, hinged upon caution, steadfastness, and risk aversion. As human beings–we are “hard wired” for only three things; find food, find shelter, reproduce. That’s IT! We are actually hard wired from caveman days to avoid seeking out adventure as just surviving another day was adventure enough. Their comfort zone was confined to these three critical pursuits.
“As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure
was about to happen!” –Winnie the Pooh
Today? While the world has changed, little has changed in our hard-wiring. We are risk averse by nature. Expanding our life experiences beyond our comfort zone can be as stressful and debilitating as it can be exhilarating and liberating. It takes practice. Channeling the adrenaline that we used to use to escape danger into life-changing positive experiences, can be difficult, but oh so necessary to our well being. Different smells, different sights, different adventures, aren’t just augmenting our existence-they define our existence. A life well-lived demands that we take with us a highlight reel mostly comprised of those times that made us very uncomfortable but provided us with the excitement and exhilaration that only the edge of the cliff can give us.
I remember watching a documentary once about a group of African-American kids that grew up in Hell-hole ghettos in Chicago, or DC, or the Bronx. What amazed me was how many of them had grown up never having left the square mile of their concrete jungles. In a way, a million years later, they epitomized the early caveman in that their entire lives became a pursuit of survival. A 15-year old in the South Bronx isn’t dreaming of exploring the islands of Tahiti – he’s just trying to get home another day and hope a meal awaits him. A program was created that took several dozen of these inner-city kids to working ranches in Montana. To say they experienced “culture shock” would be an understatement. Over the next several months, they rode horses, fished, climbed mountains, and experienced the majesty of a world that existed only in their imaginations. While the experience was definitely beyond their comfort zone, each one of them made spiritual discoveries that impacted their rest of their lives in a postitive way. Seeing more allowed them to become more.
In closing, I would only remind you that creating memories outside of your comfort zone doesn’t require jumping out of airplanes or navigating river rapids or scaling Mt. Everest. It merely requires each and every one of us to pursue something that tests our mettle and challenges our own inner fears. For me, there is nothing I enjoy more than racing through the mountains on my motorcycle. That said, the single greatest fear of my life was getting up in front of a crowd and trying to convince them that I was worth listening to. Each one of us needs to look inward and pick something worthy of the effort. The greater the fear you have of something, the greater the joy and exhiliration you’ll experience when you throw down and take it on. Go for it! Our lives begin and end in a nano-second. Leave a mark on something as proof you were here..
“It is not death most people are afraid of.
It is getting to the end of life,only to realize, that you never truly lived.” – Prince Ea