Into The Gray

photo credit: Volkan Olmez

“What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.”
 -Ellen Glasgow

How are you feeling right now? Yes. In this exact moment?

How is your energy / confidence / motivation / sense of accomplishment?

Is it exactly where you expect it should be?

If not, there is a high likelihood that you have slipped into the gray.

As a creative and endurance athlete, I have lived in this zone for much longer than I care to admit. Stagnant in achieving higher level results and basking in the glow of ease and comfort. Putting in time and effort but mostly remaining stuck in place.

The reality lies in this analogy:

A runner regularly runs the too fast for recovery and to slow for growth. She is talented and does well on a competitive level but never gets any better. To those around her, she is an amazing display of grace, poise, and speed. Top it off with a successful career and loving family. She looks great, but the edges of her happiness are shrouded in gray. A daily sense of mild dispair or even depression has appeared for no apparent reason.

The problem for high performers is that they are creating so much more than the people around them. This causes a slide into underperformance without even a sliver of realization they’re doing so.

Without a person or group to hold one accountable, the temptation to operate in one’s comfort zone indefinitely is nearly irresistible. I have found that by joining groups where you are the smallest member will produce the greatest growth and light a fire under my ass to move, create, contribute and shift into a flow state. Putting yourself in these situations is purely by design and by forcing yourself to think in an entirely different way will get you completely different results.

Another emotion pushing us further into the gray is fear. By wielding cunning skill, fear creates powerful limiting beliefs and keeps us small.

I work with a lot of veterans and have the pleasure of seeing an occasional WWII veteran. The wisdom and insight never cease to amaze me. The best interpretation I’ve heard is the following:

“Having the mistaken belief that you will get out unscathed creates hesitation and fear. Those two elements will do nothing but get you and your buddies killed. The way I approached D-Day was merely by operating under the assumption that I was already dead. After accepting that, everything else was manageable despite the hell going on around me.”
-WWII veteran

The temptation to defer life and living for a better moment or another year or when x,y,z happens is to miss the point. Death is not binary. Our bodies are dying every second of the day. Cells die, tissues degenerate, and the common belief that death is the finality of breath also misses the mark. Living in the gray sacrifices the challenge and beauty of a full life. We are meant to enter the grave with scratched and dented bodies marred by a wealth of experiences, challenges, and adventures — not pristine and looking unscathed.

When you enter a new situation and feel slightly uncomfortable; then you can be assured you are in the right place. If full on panic takes hold, then I offer that you may be stretching too far. The concept of flow is relevant here.

The line between challenge and skill predicts how you feel and react. A perfect equation leads to a state of flow.

Take a moment and step back to assess life. Craft your plan and begin the adventure of stretching into discomfort to achieve growth and move out of the gray.

Listen to this here: Into The Gray

Further on this:
On Flow:

Photo credit: Volkan Olmez