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Nothing of Significance Was Ever Accomplished in the Comfort Zone

There are two quotes that have been at the forefront of my mind recently in terms of living a meaningful, productive life, and in terms of forming constructive habits.

“We are what we repeatedly do” (Aristotle)

“What I focus on, shows up in my life” (Marc Leach KYD)

It always surprises me how different things we are learning all seem to come together like the pieces of a puzzle at the most unlikely of moments. Something you heard from one source is further confirmed and built upon by the next, reinforcing that your train of thought is indeed on the right track.

I recently listened to a podcast between Rich Roll and Andrew Huberman (Neuroscientist, UC Berkeley), Change Your Brain: Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman | Rich Roll Podcast, and some of the take-aways furthered the mental direction I was already heading.

  1. “We need to get comfortable as a culture in trying to understand our species and how we work, that the early stages of hard work and focus are going to feel like agitation, stress, and confusion because that’s the norepinephrine and adrenaline system kicking in.” - Andrew Huberman

  2. Adult and child brains have the same degree of plasticity but for the adult, it takes a higher degree of focus to form those new connections.

All of this reinforces the greater foundational thought that nothing of significant was ever accomplished in the comfort zone, and I find myself challenged to evaluate how much of my time and energy are spent in the comfort zone . . . watching the same comforting shows and movies over and over again, listening to the same music, going to the same places, eating the same food. This can be applied to any of those comfortable and comforting habits that, while they make you feel good, lead to no constructive outcome . . . sleeping in, eating junk food, drinking alcohol, smoking, etc. As Sheldon Cooper (the Big Bang Theory) said, “they call it the comfort zone for a reason.” Speaking for myself, but I suspect you’ll agree with me, spending time in the comfort zone (whatever that may be for you) leads to a “zoned out” and mentally passive state . . . we are just vegetatively entertained or soothed by our comfort of choice. This all meshes well with the book I’m currently listening to, Can’t Hurt Me (David Goggins), where he emphasizes that growth only comes by pushing and challenging yourself both mentally and physically. As the motto of Appalachian Trail hikers goes, “embrace the suck.”

More recently I finished The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch and was reminded that time is the only real commodity (in our occupations, we trade our time for money). In another way of putting it, a patient (world-traveling photographer) at work recently told me that in the end, “all you have are memories,” and to make as many while you can and live a wide and full life. All of this to say, time is such a precious thing, and it would be such a waste to spend it on things that were simply comfortable and didn't lead to outcomes. No one has great memories of all the time they spent watching TV.

It’s so easy to get off-track in terms of pursuing health in your life (physically, mentally, spiritually), but as I continue to seek and become a better and more fully realized person; I am finding the same thing true that I have observed multiple times at other points in my life, and that’s that pursuing health in one area tends to lead to more health in others as well. For instance as you seek to eat better, exercise, become more active, you may also find your mind reaching out to further its knowledge base or learn a new skill.

Not that I’m in any way an expert at this pursuit of maximizing time yet but it’s a journey, not a destination. Here’s to making small changes in the rewards and habits we allow ourselves to fall into and living life to the fullest.

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement . . . If you’re willing to build those small behaviors, and layer one percent improvements on top of each other, they will compound and multiply. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them over time. And that can be true for you or against you. And that’s why its crucial to understand how habits work so you can make sure they are multiplying in your favor and not to your detriment.” - James Clear

Taylor Mountain Regional Park | Santa Rosa, California

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