Tuesday, 8 August 2017

In Defence of The Comfort Zone

I’m going to go against conventional advice here. Well, not entirely, but partially. I’ll begin by sharing one of my favourite quotes from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Booyah! Put that in your embroidery hoop and stich it! Actually… that’s a great idea. I’m so going to do that…but I digress. Let’s just keep that golden nugget of wisdom in mind as we progress.

Today I want to write about the ‘comfort zone.’ Have you noticed that comfort zones are predominantly demonised across the board lately? We hear over and over again that we must keep striving, we must go further, do more, be more, keep forging ahead. We must vigilantly push beyond these comfort zones of ours otherwise we’ll stagnate, go stale and turn into boring, unaccomplished, mouldy pieces of bread that no one wants to toast. Now I am all for stretching ourselves so we can grow but whenever opinions start getting a little kooky, kooky is the word I’m choosing to use today as a synonym for dogmatic, then I call a time out.

Geoffrey says "Sometimes we need to go outside our comfort zones in order to grow. Even if it feels a little uncomfortable."

How is comfort zone defined, exactly? A hangover from my academic writing days means I can’t help but clear this up before I go on. So here we go.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
The level at which one functions with ease and familiarity.
A place, situation, or level where someone feels confident and comfortable.

The Oxford Dictionary:
A situation where one feels safe or at ease.
A settled method of working that requires little effort and yields only barely acceptable results.

The Collins Dictionary:
A situation or position in which a person feels secure, comfortable, or in control.

Notice anything? With the exception of the Oxford Dictionary who changed their mind mid-stream, interestingly enough they’re not all bad. Most of them are actually quite positive. Observe the words ease, confident and safe. We know that it is good to be at ease in life because too much stress is bad for our health. We know that healthy self-confidence helps us shine our light brightly so we can share ourselves with the world. We also know that we deserve to be safe and so we strive to keep ourselves and our loved ones out of harm’s way. Furthermore, we know that in many instances healthy boundaries are necessary. So what happens when we juxtapose all of this good stuff with the current doctrine which tells us to kick comfort zones to the curb at all costs?

Let me personalise this a little.

A hefty neck injury and later the need for a tonsillectomy meant that I couldn’t sing for a very long time. For someone who loves to sing this was extremely difficult to say the least. Fast forward to today, after quite a hiatus, I have finally returned to singing lessons and am strengthening my vocal abilities every day, yay! I stepped beyond my comfort zone, got the ball rolling and it feels wonderful to be do-re-meing once again. A clear win for the push. Yet last week I was practicing a song that I’ll be performing on stage in a couple of weeks and my neck muscles became aggravated. I got to the second verse and then uh-oh… hello tension my old friend. Cue a migraine. Lots of fun. Not. Next lesson my singing teacher was very helpful and told me that it wasn’t necessarily what I was singing it was how I was singing it. We began focusing on altering my technique so it can work for me not against me. What did this reveal? I realised that in order to express my creativity and passion through singing I actually need a comfort zone right now. When my muscles strengthen and my technique improves I’ll definitely move forward but not before that point.

Geoffrey also says: "Other times we need to let ourselves enjoy some time in a comfortable zone where we feel at ease, safe and confident. It's all about balance."

So here comes the newsflash peeps: comfort is not a dirty word! It is okay, even necessary, to rest where we’re at before taking things to the next level. This helps us to consolidate what we’re learning as well as allowing us to feel a sense of accomplishment. If we skip the comfortable part we run the risk of living in a constant state of anxiety and struggle. Lo and behold comfort and drive are actually friends not enemies! So I totally support propelling ourselves beyond our comfort zones but in the same breath I am unabashedly defending them too. I honestly think they have been misunderstood and given a bad rap. True comfort zones, not the lazy, can’t be arsed variety, hold some value.

Is it possible to make room for both in life wherein there is a time for pushing and a time for comfort? Can we allow a little comfort in when it is needed without feeling guilty?

Personally, I think it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate this pervasive, black and white ‘comfort zone bad, pushing good’ approach that many motivational “experts” seem to be promoting lately. Nietzsche reminded us that there are many different paths and options in life if we remember that “the only way…does not exist.”

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Be Creative Anyway: Encouragement for Your Journey

French artist Henri Matisse said “Creativity takes courage.”  I have to holler a resounding “hell yeah” in response to that! If we side with our fears and trepidations, if we over-analyse rather than act then we actually develop what I call “creative constipation.” I have experienced this and it can be rather uncomfortable. Symptoms include frequent frustration, bouts of melancholy and chronic confusion. Yet there are many natural cures for creative constipation and thankfully it does not involve a laxative suppository. One such cure is courage.

View from my window. Rainbows follow the rain.

I have always loved the “Do It Anyway” poem, which is attributed to Mother Teresa. Apparently it may have actually been written by a fellow named Kent M. Keith. I don’t know if this is legit or not but a rose by any other name… I think it is mighty powerful either way. This poem came to mind when I was thinking about the courage we need in order to start and eventually share what we do. Thus, with respect and gratitude to the respective author, here is my adaptation of the Do It Anyway poem for those of us who need some encouragement right now. I have called it Be Creative Anyway.

Soaking up the Qi from this beautiful tree

Be Creative Anyway

People may be unreasonable and disapproving.
Rise and create anyway. 

We may have unrealistic expectations and be too self-critical.
Send yourself love and create anyway.

Even when we make something really wonderful,
we often accuse ourselves of not making something wonderful enough.
Be kind to yourself and create anyway.

If we are truly honest with ourselves we’ll see that we really are making positive progress. The ego will likely feel cheated by this.
Be honest, encourage yourself and create anyway.

If you find happiness in creativity your gloominess may get jealous.
Be happy and create anyway.

What you create today may be overlooked and forgotten tomorrow.
Create what is in your heart anyway.

Even if you show your best creations to the world you will inevitably come across people who don’t like what you do. Never mind them.
We can’t please everyone all of the time.
Just be true to you and create your best work anyway.

Creativity is the essence of life, expressed through you, in your own unique way!
So you see, in the end, it is really between you and the beautiful, brilliant being that you truly are.
It was never between you and those shadows anyway.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Let Your Creativity Bloom

The timing is right, the planets have aligned and my love of creativity is ready to be explored, enjoyed and drum roll…shared. So here I am. Hello and welcome! If you’re a creative person too or if you want to become more creative, then I invite you to join me on this journey.

I’ve always loved to sing and make things. Yet interspersed with the great times I’ve had some hefty obstacles come up when it comes to rolling with it, a couple that completely derailed the caboose for a while there (more about that later).  Yet the hurdles, in addition to many other weird and wonderful experiences, taught me so much about the benefits of creativity to the point where I now see it as nothing less than soul food. So I’ve entered the blogosphere thinking that maybe, just maybe, these insights could be of some benefit to others.

The first thing I’ll say is that I’ve learned that creativity is essential for our health and wellbeing, personally and collectively. It is also wonderful to see an ever growing body of research supporting what we know to be true in our guts.

It gets better.

The creative pursuits we engage in don’t need to be elaborate, complicated, showy or fancy. They may eventually become that way for some, but this is by no means a requirement. Goodies will be gained from something as humble as baking a pie, handwriting a letter to someone special, or getting out the pencils for some colouring in.

It gets even better. Wait for it…

You don’t even need to be good at it in order to benefit! Yep, you read correctly. Let me write it again because this point is really juicy. You don’t need to be good in order to benefit. And with that point perfectionism has just been thrown out like the rubbish on bin night!

There is one condition though. Sorry, we don’t get off that easily. We do need to click on an imaginary ‘I agree to these terms and conditions’ box when signing up for this ride. But hang in there because these terms are awesome. Actually it’s term, singular not plural.

Here goes…

The only condition that I have uncovered in order to gain positive benefits from creativity is that you need to let yourself enjoy whatever it is you’re doing. That’s all. Do it for the joy it brings and it will feed you; body, mind and spirit. Do it for the joy it brings and it’ll be one of the best things in the world for you. Tick that box in your head and heart and you’re on your way to enhancing your life. My motto is one step at a time with ease and enthusiasm.

What creative activities do you enjoy?