One of my best friends recently shared this Medium article with me and it really struck a chord as it’s something we’ve been thinking about and talking about a lot recently.
To summarise the article, it talks about people who use travel as a way to escape and try to get outside the ‘box’ that is holding them back, aka their day to day lives or routines. The writer basically argues that there is no cure for the troubles of your mind, and that wherever you go, it’ll follow you – in a nutshell, personal growth has to come from within the box itself and not from the new environments you try to put yourself in.
Reading the article really got me thinking. This line in particular struck a chord, as it’s not something I necessarily feel on a personal level, but I know it is so rife in so many of the people I love:
“The world is your playground, and you are certain that these unexplored areas will become sources of adventure, wonderment, and ultimately, happiness.”
I’ve never really been much a dreamer. For as long as I can remember I seem to have always had my feet very firmly on the ground. I’m ambitious, don’t get me wrong, but have never really been one to buy into dreaming of grand plans or suffer from wanderlust. I see it in some of my friends who never seem quite able to settle. They always want one more drink, one more adventure, never quite ready to call it a night for fear of getting stuck back inside their ‘box’ and, honestly, I just think it looks exhausting and it makes me yearn for my own safety net. But I often also feel bad for thinking that way.
In this golden age of social media and comparison, I think it’s become a bit of a trend to be the biggest dreamer out there, the one having the wildest adventures or doing the most exciting things. It feels like it’s become really uncool to be happy with your lot and to be content not to be reaching outside the box for something more. There’s this idea that to live life in your comfort zone means you’re not truly living. We’ve all heard that haven’t we? The rise in social media and the internet means that we are privy to a constant flood of information about ‘outstanding’ people doing amazing things, which is slowly but surely conditioning us to change our minds about what ‘normal’ is. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone!” and all those other cliches. And, since we can rarely compare to this new norm, we are left feeling pretty bloody insecure and desperate to fit in. So we feel that we must compensate, and as a result we dream, which has seemingly become the new normal.
I’m writing this today because actually, on the whole, I’m pretty happy in my little bubble! I’ve got a great job, excellent friends and a loving family who provide a wonderful roof over my head (I promise I will move out at some point this year Mum and Dad…). I’ve also got hobbies – I read, I sing, I like to cook and love to eat. In isolation, no one of those things is particularly ground breaking or exciting, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy and I’m pretty fed up of other people pushing their ideals onto me and my brain making me feel bad for not feeling the same way.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt in my 26 years on this planet it’s that to grow, you have to embrace your comfort zone and to do so you have to truly respect yourself. It means knowing your boundaries and being secure in them, and not letting outside influences make you feel bad for your choices. In my opinion, there’s a fairly common misconception about the ‘comfort zone’ (or ‘the box’ as the writer of the article puts it). That is, that to be in your comfort zone means to be stuck in one place, both mentally and physically, refusing to try anything new. To me though that isn’t the case, being in my comfort zone really just means that I’m living the life that puts me most at ease, whatever that entails. For me, at the moment, that means going to work and doing well and progressing there and that enabling me to have the funds to do whatever I want in my personal life. Right now, that’s saving to buy for a house to get me closer to work, so that I can do more with my friends there and build a new life for myself. I think that’s really exciting, and actually not something that people should be down on, but I’m hearing and reading so much negativity about living a ‘traditional life’ at the moment that it’s making me reconsider. I don’t want to get too political but, of course, it’s to do with today’s society and the nature that our generation are living in. House prices are high, graduate salaries are low – the traditional route seems more and more out of reach for a lot of people and therefore people aren’t in such a rush to ‘settle down’. Whatever path you’re on, it’s really great if you’re figuring it out and doing your thing, but it has definitely, from my experience, bred a bit of a feeling of contempt towards those who are still following a relatively ‘traditional’ route. I feel as if we’re being classed as dull, boring, safe and not enough.
In my opinion, embracing your comfort zone definitely takes a certain level of confidence; it means that you need know what makes you happy, and therefore means that you don’t need to constantly search for new things in an attempt to make your life more satisfying or interesting. Why are we criticising these people? What’s more attractive in a person than being secure and knowing what they want? I can’t think of much, besides that level of confidence and a beard.
And just to clarify, I’m not being critical of travel or those who travel or have great adventures. That’s amazing in it’s own right as it can teach you so much about yourself and other people. I love going to new places and learning about new cultures and I’m a genuine advocate of trying new things as I think it’s a pivotal part of personal growth. But, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be at the detriment of being able to be happy with your day to day life too. It should enhance what you have, rather than being a total escapism from what you have. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to switch up the routine and get away from the day-to-day for a time – who doesn’t like a trip away – but I don’t think it should be seen as the only path for excitement or happiness.
Again, the writer of the Medium article summed it up brilliantly with the following:
“We tend to grossly overestimate the pleasure brought forth by new experiences and underestimate the power of finding meaning in current ones.”
I’m not suggesting that we all get stuck in a rut and never want for new experiences, but that we should all merely take the time to appreciate what we have, rather than looking elsewhere constantly for validation, as from my experience, that can still leave you feeling pretty empty. If you spend all of your time with your head in the clouds, you’re bound to be neglecting everything else and everyone else around you. And, in doing so, you’re actually the one missing out. Ironic really, when it’s the FOMO that we are all chasing in the first place.
I think a lot of people are afraid to plant their feet on the ground and accept what they have because they consider it to be mediocre. And to accept mediocrity means that you’ll never do anything with your life, right? Wrong. Lately I’ve tried to flip those thoughts whenever they enter my little peahead and rather view the comfort zone, the box, the mediocrity (however you want to look at it) as a safe space. To me, my day-to-day routine provides me with the perfect platform to formulate my thoughts and ideas in, meaning that they can become a reality. I’m grateful for the box for providing my daily routine, which keeps me moving forwards. Without it, I don’t think I would be where I am today. So don’t disregard yours, try and embrace it and all that it has to offer; both the exciting and the mundane! Let me know how you get on.