You’ll notice it right away when you wake up one particularly cold morning. You’ve got things to do and places to be, but your comfort zone, which in this case extends just to the edges of your warm fuzzy blanket, is sucking you in. In this cozy little pocket of snuggly security, you’re safe and content. But if you stay in bed all day, you can’t accomplish much of anything. It may be difficult to counteract the attractive forces of this comfort zone, but most of the time you steel yourself for the cold and the challenges of the day, and you break free.
Your comfort zone is not always as easily definable as the physical area of a warm, cozy bed. It is wherever you feel safe, wherever you know what to expect. Part of your comfort zone might be the routine you use to get ready for the day, for example, or the friends you sit with at every meal. Part of it could even be as abstract as the things you choose to think about or believe. Staying in a comfort zone makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, because in the wild, if you didn’t get chased by predators or run out of food or get injured yesterday, you probably shouldn’t change things up today. If the goal is survival, a comfort zone is a fantastic place to be.
But what if you want to do more than just survive?
If you want to learn, if you want to grow, if you want to challenge yourself to be in some way better today than you were yesterday, try breaking out of your comfort zone. Do something you’ve never done before. Do something that makes you nervous. Do something you’re not even sure you’re capable of. When I first got to UMass, parkour was all of these things to me. I didn’t play sports or do any kind of conditioning. I was afraid of being looked down on, afraid that others would wonder why I was there when I was so obviously “unathletic,” and afraid of making a fool of myself in front of so many other people. All I had was a desire to improve myself, and while that didn’t seem like much at the time, it turns out that’s all I really needed. Outside my comfort zone, I discovered a whole world of possibility which I had thus far excluded myself from. I could list endless benefits I’ve gained from parkour, but the point is I did something I was completely uncomfortable with, and it helped me grow.
For those of us who are traceurs and traceuses, we’ve all purposefully removed ourselves from our comfort zones in certain ways. The safe, routine way of getting around is simply walking. Pretty much everyone is used to it. But if you stick to this comfort zone, you miss out on a lot of other ways of moving, all the other paths you could take, and all the lessons you could learn along the way. So when you’ve chosen to stray from the comfort zone of walking and move in other ways, you’ve already gotten outside your comfort zone. However, one thing I’ve noticed in myself lately, and that we mentioned quickly in our discussion last Wednesday, is that once you start gaining confidence in certain moves in parkour, it can be tempting to stick to what you know. Gaining confidence is a wonderful thing, but if you only go for the moves you are confident about, you’ve created a new comfort zone for yourself. Playing it safe and staying in your comfort zone can hold you back whether you’ve never tried parkour before or you’ve been doing it for years.
I’ll use myself as an example again. I love turn vaults. I could do turn vaults all day(although I’d probably get pretty tired!). I am far from perfecting them, but I’d say they’ve become a part of my comfort zone. If I’m practicing turn vaults because I am trying to improve my landing or fine tune the movement in some way, great. But if I’m practicing turn vaults because I’m avoiding something I’ve never tried or something I’m not as confident with, I’m removing myself from the situation in which I have the most potential to learn.
So I guess what I’d like you all to consider is this: don’t get so comfortable with monkeys that you never go for the kong. And once you have a solid kong, start thinking about the double. If you get the double, there’s always the triple. There are an endless amount of adventures available to us, limited only by what we can conceive of and what we’re willing to try.
What are you willing to try?