- Education and Science»
- Psychology & Psychiatry
Stuck between dull and a hard fate: the strange paradox of "leaving your comfort zone"
From self-help gurus to well-meaning friends, the message in today's fast-paced society is quite clear: the key to a fulfilling and exciting life is to "leave your comfort zone". Cheap air travel and a commercialised world have opened up to us a range of possibilities to face our fears and add life to our years, be it scaling up mountains, whizzing down rollercoasters, running marathons, jumping out of planes or indeed any of the other nutty things that ordinary everyday folk submit themselves to.
It is true that as human beings, making progress and breaking boundaries has been in our DNA since the dawn of time. However, until relatively recently the club of inventors, adventurers, thrill-seekers and discoverers has been pretty exclusive being either very rich or very stupid, sometimes a combination (c.f Franz Reichelt). You can verify with a social anthropologist but it seems that most people throughout history have mucked on without too much rip-roaring stimulation bar the oft-fatal adrenaline rushes of military conflict that unfortunately pepper human existence.
However, today, thrill seeking and the notion of challenging oneself in the extreme has been democratised. It is true that there is still only a small band of daredevils that take it to ridiculous levels but for quite some time it has been taken as gospel that it is the necessity of the common man to go on adrenaline-pumping holidays or commit to punishing workouts in the gym.It has even acquired a bourgeoise name: this activity is known as something enabling you to "leave your comfort zone".
A strange dichotomy
However, we live in a funny world: whilst the impetus and provision for "comfort-zone leaving" has become greater than ever before, so has the provision for escapism from reality. If anything the multi-faceted escapist industry of cinema, digital television and of course the rabbit hole of the internet has expanded far more significantly .A few thousand years ago, Ancient Greece was content with a few Homeric Epics. Even a few hundred years ago, Georgian England was content with a few Jane Austen novels. Now, millions across the world can indulge in endless film, TV and music consumption as well as broadcasting an array of social media avatars online. To paraphrase Bob Marley, now it seems imperative to "upload the life you live; live the life you upload".
I've read many a critique of western civilisation. Be it Gandhi's censure of the materialism rife in our culture and the measuring of progress through money or Nietzsche's denouncing of the straightjacketing obedience of western societal norms, minds greater than mine have hammered our way of life. Yet in the 21st Century, no such issue seems as disconcerting.
How can such mass escapism be juxtaposed with this "YOLO" notion of thrill seeking and living life to the max? And is the rupturing effect of these two divergent poles responsible for the confusion and malcontent that seems to envelope much of the developed world?
What do you think?