Into the curves of happiness.
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. — Haruki Murakami
During my life, I've seen people react very differently to positive and negative experiences and how they incorporate those events into their lives. It has always seemed to me that although we are all facing ups and downs in our happiness levels some people seems to be fairly unhappy no matter what and other people pretty happy regarding their struggle.
The comfort zone is often described as a behavioral space where activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risks. In other words, it’s a state of energy conservation that we use to deal efficiently with the many tasks we do every day without constantly wasting excessive mental resources.
However this natural strategy of our mind has a fundamental flaw, although you feel safe hidden in your routine, it could make you stop experimenting and exposing yourself to new experiences with the potential to make you better and to bring happiness to your life.
Some people are better than others in maintaining their drive, they try new things and push the boundaries in whatever activity they do. However most of us need some external stimulus and a bit of practice to move away from the inertia of routine, it’s not enough to be conscious about it to escape.
Breaking from the comfort zone it’s not only about overcoming the fear of facing new challenges, but also gaining perspective about the world and what you could do. You gain perspective by talking to positive people, relating to others, seeing what they do and what you could do too. You also improve your perspective by making mistakes. Sometimes it requires that your boss, your teacher or trainer give you direction and tell you to do something to finally realize that you were able to attain a goal you thought impossible. I've seen it many times at work and Crossfit.
Some forces that keep you moving forward:
- Motivation: You are really skilled at math! keep on the good work!
- Authority: I want you to do 50 burpees, yes you can do it, no excuses!
- Perspective: Why don’t you get a Master’s Degree in Marketing, I think it would be great for your career? Don't you think?
- Competition: I bet you that I run faster than you.
- Curiosity: A strong internal desire for knowing more and trying out things.
I found a theory about happiness that it’s called Hedonistic Adaptation. It says that happiness is not a state that we reach and we stay comfortably, instead one must continually “work” to maintain it at a certain level. So there is a baseline level of happiness that depends on the person, and when we experience positive events we feel better, but eventually the effect wear off and the change begins to be seen as the new normal.
But…how can we stay on the fun side of the curve?
One way is to avoid adaptation as much as possible, and that means staying outside your comfort zone, turning off autopilot and adding variety to your activities, learning new things, taking risks. Outcomes can be positive or negative but I bet that your experience will be far more valuable.
Whenever we face a new task or challenge we feel odd, embrace that feeling, the excitement of doing something new and incorporate it as part of the set of tools that help you dealing with your life.