“If you are not willing to change, then don’t expect your life to, either.” -Anonymous
People love to call themselves ‘creatures of habit’. You have to admit, the catchphrase has an endearing ring, as though we’re these furry little animals with quirky little obsessions. But let’s face it — our routines organize us. They give us structure. And when we finally find our groove, those familiar rituals feel oh so comfortable. Like computer codes designed to execute specific functions, many of us are programmed to get up, hit the floor, and follow the same routines, day in and day out. And why? Because knowing the path to doing allows us to be successful at getting it done.
Just look at our health behaviors. Some of us (robotically) follow the same meal plan and adhere to the same workout — every. single. day. for. years. We strive to establish consistent, effective routines and, when we finally do, we hold on to them for dear life — fearful that changing our habits could lead us back to that dreaded ‘square one’. Of course, there’s a problem with these all-too-familiar rituals that we’ve come to know and love: Sameness can knock the wind out of our motivational sails. It can rob of us of our spontaneity and creativity. And it can dramatically diminish our desire for change. As a platform for predictability, sameness inevitably leads to lameness. And boredom. And blahhh.
Imagine being on a treadmill…and never getting off. In constant motion, yet going nowhere. On autopilot, where ‘mindless’ eventually feels ‘meaningless’. Our desire to raise the bar and go to the next level becomes…well, it may not become, at all. Sameness may provide us with consistency, but it doesn’t allow for the variation that stimulates desire and ignites our motivational fire.
Welcome to your comfort zone — a place where sameness means stressless. For some of us, this depressurized state may sound ideal because, let’s face it — change of any kind can be an uncertain undertaking. However, challenging ourselves to change it up can energize our motivation. It can enhance productivity and inspire creativity. And in many ways, it can awaken our resolve to evolve (the one that’s been hibernating peacefully in our comfort zone). By periodically changing those predictable patterns, we don’t just avoid the ‘stuck’ factor. We obliterate it.
The old adage is true: Nothing happens in a comfort zone, except creating an airtight vacuum where nothing grows. Health warriors, take note: The human body is a very adaptive machine; those monotonous strength training routines can cause us to lose (and never again gain) muscularity. Likewise, if we fail to explore new food choices, we may be missing out on opportunities to jumpstart our metabolism. To avoid plateaus, even the slightest variations in routine can set the stage for desirable, new adaptations that catapult us into better health…and bring us one step closer to the best version of ourselves.
Comfort zones may offer a safe haven from stress, but they also create a state of mindless ease in which no challenge is synonymous with no change. Remember — inspiration dies the moment that comfort wraps its warm, safe arms around us. Our choice to pull the plug on that monotonous treadmill takes awareness, conviction, and guts. But when we finally say goodbye to ‘the safe’, ‘the familiar’, and ‘the dysfunctionally comfortable’, we let go. And that’s how we grow.
About the Author: Joshua GARRIN is one of Your Monthly Mentors. He holds a Ph.D. in health psychology, an M.S. in cognitive psychology, and a B.S. in general psychology and journalism. He currently resides in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Following the completion of his doctorate in 2014, Joshua was the recipient of Walden University’s Harold L. Hodgkinson Award for Outstanding Dissertation Research for his inquiry on health beliefs, outcome expectancies, and stress appraisal in college seniors. Read More…