Get Uncomfortable, the title of the new issue of Pirelli World Magazine, celebrates what hap-pens when we leave our own personal comfort zones, the risk we take every day by going out there and pitting ourselves into new challenges to raise our adrenalin, to feel alive. And, deep down, to feel truly human. Pete Cohen’s editorial sets the scene.
Ask yourself how long you would want to spend on holiday? Two weeks? A month? One year? How long would it be before you felt the need to do something, to achieve something?
While taking a long break plays to our desire for comfort and relaxation, humans are teleological – we need goals, targets, things to work towards. And for most of us, our inner voice won’t let us rest until we achieve them – or at least try to.
We can trace this motivation back to our ancient ancestors. They knew they had to keep moving because that was the way to survive. It was only by moving forwards that they could find enough food… or make sure they got out of the way before the wild beasts arrived.
I’ve worked with high-performing people and I know that many of them have such a burning desire to achieve that they wouldn’t even think of stopping. Comfort zones don’t come into it for them.
The drive for self-actualisation
The rest of us might be tempted to rest a little longer, to resist pushing ourselves too hard, but I believe that deep down all of us want to grow. We still feel that ancient drive that tells us we can’t afford to stay still for too long.
Today, psychologists have given a label to this inherent human sense of ambition. Abraham Maslow believed that once we have met our basic survival requirements of food, water, shelter and security, we continue to try to move up the “hierarchy of needs” to self-actualisation, achieving one’s full potential. “What a man can be, he must be,” he is quoted as saying, implying that reaching our goals is good for our mental health.
In contrast, if we take the easy path and settle into our comfort zone, then we might suffer from problems of regret, worry, doubt and anxiety because we know we are not being our best.
For those of us who are fortunate to have met our basic needs and are ready to give “self-actualisation” a go, how do we know if we really are being our best?
Many people who we might think of as successful in terms of status or wealth don’t seem to be happy or in control of their lives.
We are here to flourish
I think a good measure is provided in the work of another psychologist, Martin Seligman, around what he calls flourishing, and his acronym PERMA. People who are flourishing experience Positive emotions, are Engaged with their world and activities, have Relationships that let them be themselves, have a deeper Meaning to their life and what they are doing, and feel that they are Achieving.
They have a sense of accomplishment every single day – whether it’s from eating well or working hard – be-cause that is what we are here to do; we are here to flourish, here to evolve.
Much of this sounds like common sense, but all the signs are that many people struggle to achieve a sense of flourishing, and I believe that’s because they don’t have a routine. If you look at successful people most of them have rituals – patterns of practice, if you like. They will wake up and create their day – they might drink water, start writing, exercise, meditate.
They realign themselves every day with their goals, review their progress and assess whether they are on track.
We all need to set great examples. We all need to be leaders of our own lives. And if we all dedicated our-selves to being our best, imagine what we could achieve.