Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Comfort zone

One of the buzz words I hear often when I transcribe business people doing motivational talks is the term "comfort zone." Fear of leaving one's comfort zone is why we are resistant to change. Change implies we will probably be uncomfortable -- at least until we become comfortable with it. But only the very timid can be happy in the same old, same old famliar rut. Most of us want to try new things, if we don't we get bored. Strangely those business motivational types never utter the word "bored" and yet bored is a fairly pervasive state in most workplaces.

I'm not a motivaional speaker and I don't read self-help books, but I think, once we escape the tyranny of our school years, we become responsible for avoiding boredom. The world doesn't promise us rose gardens or freedom from boredom. If we want a rose garden, we'd better plant it and if we don't want to be bored, we'd better find out what interests us, and get involved even if that means rolling out of that comfort zone just as we've got to throw off the comfy blankets when the alark clock rings. Get up and get on with the day -- get on with our lives. Is that what those overpaid business consultants tell people to do when they say to step outside your comfort zone? Actually it seems they often mean try a new business approach that might fail but the current one is failing so try something new.

I might note, if anyone wonders why such a subject should be on my mind -- my job means I listen to a lot of people talk about a lot of subjects and some of it gnaws away at the edge of my mind. Today it was a woman exec telling others that to be successful they must sometimes give up their comfort zones. In that case it usually meant taking a different job, often a higher paying one in a somewhat different field.

The picture above is an elderly Chinese couple from Lijiang who asked to have their photo taken [then wanted, and got, a tip] -- I've lived through what seems like many changes in my comfort zones. When I think of this couple, I suspect they have lived through so many DIScomfort zones, we in our much more stable country can't even imagine. For me it is valuable to have seen people in many parts of the world who have had very different lives than I ... it gives perspective on "comfort" and much else.

Someone who is not a traveler, once read a poem I wrote about traveling in India The poem mentioned various uncomfortable situations. "Why go to someplace you'll be so uncomfortable?" she asked. I don't know what I said; I can't imagine not traveling somewhere interesting just because I will not have the familiar comforts. Isn't that how we understand the world and ourselves in a broader context?

No comments: