Published in C&K Magazine: Vol #1 Issue #2 – Date: 2006

We all have an imaginary safe haven. From our youth to our senior years, we create a corridor allowing us to function within the daily perception of safety. Each individual expands and contracts this area through different experiences. Some of are content at 200 miles per hour circling a racetrack, while others will faint on a Ferris Wheel. Nevertheless, each person’s comfort zone is important for a sane and productive existence.

Many individuals, however, choose to hold onto their comfort zone as they mature with clenched fists. As a result, they create a very unhealthy disdain for new adventure. Ironically, many of these same people gladly teach their children to try different things.

Why, then, do so many become entrenched in their personal routines and cynical about reaching beyond? Even high achievers can find themselves stuck on personal plateaus resulting in depression.

Instead of being a crutch, the comfort zone can be prodded in many interesting ways leading us to discover almost limitless boundaries. Allow me to provide a personal example. My experience has been that personal growth often occurs as an unintentional reaction to a planned event. During a summer fishing trip to Canada, several friends and I inadvertently had such an encounter in the sub-arctic. We reached our destination by traveling eight hours north of Toronto by car and then sixty miles into the wilderness by seaplane. I can vividly recall the pilot dropping us off with a cigarette dangling from his lips and a rye smile. “You’re here for five days-hey, no radio-hey, if someone breaks their leg just string him up in a tree and we’ll pick him up on the way back-hey.” He made his point. This place of awesome beauty had no way out except by the way we got in. It was priceless. Lifelong bonds of friendship were forged and now, us whenever we get together, that trip always comes up in conversation.

You do not need to be so dramatic. Stretching is critical and can be easily accomplished. Perhaps that is where the problem lies. Our human condition does not like common sense answers. We like to make things complicated. Let’s give it a try anyway. Besides, as my father is apt to say, “without common sense, education is no more than books piled on the back of an ass.”

The solution is in your organizational skills. All you need is 2 minutes a day. Write one item in your daily planner that will break your ordinary patterns. You will want to make it easy at first and repeat this each day for a week. At the end of the first week, you should attempt to accomplish it. This item could be as simple as making candlelight dinner or talking to a stranger. If you are successful be sure to congratulate yourself. If you fail, who cares? At least you tried and next week offers another opportunity. You can strengthen comfort zone muscles like training with weights, which will allow you to experience your life. Simple solutions work.

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