One of the biggest challenges that we can put before ourselves is to overcome our own comfort zones, to step beyond the place where we feel safe and into a world of unknown opportunities. We love the prospect of success but the disappointment, failure, and frustration lurking in the shadows proves to be a formidable deterrent.
I think this is true for many areas of life: relationships, athletic challenges, our careers. The interesting thing in my case is that I’ve hit a comfortable spot in just about every area of my life. I’ve got a good job with great hours and good pay; I’m healthy and my marathon training has made me more fit than I’ve been in years; my husband and I are trucking along, making our house more of a home; my friends and I see each other more than we did this time last year. Everything is fine. Just fine. And I’m feeling a little antsy.
I’ve always been someone to focus on forward momentum. While it served me well as a student (I graduated in the top of my class from high school and college) it now seems like a curse. I’m not comfortable being comfortable. I feel like I always need to be doing something else, achieving more, finding an area that I’m comfortable in and forcing myself to exceed it somehow. Being ambitious isn’t a bad thing but it isn’t good for being zen, either.
For example, I just finished a long 9 mile run, the longest of my life. Too bad. Now I need to focus on running ten and ultimately 13 for the half marathon. In the summer, I wasn’t even able to run three miles and now I’ve tripled that. Yet I haven’t settled for happiness with that accomplishment. I can do a half marathon, by God! Stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing forward has helped me during my training. That’s good!
But I’ve been doing a lot of reading on gratitude and meditation. So many of these sources are encouraging me to slow down, to appreciate where I am and not be so preoccupied with the future. If we’re always thinking of what’s next, we’re not truly enjoying the present. We’re trying to live in a reality that isn’t guaranteed and we’re taking the present reality for granted. That’s true.
Unfortunately the two concepts seem like polar opposites to me and I’m not sure how to balance them. I don’t know how to be satisfied with nine miles when I know that 13 miles is the goal. I don’t know how to really be in “the now” because I’m constantly thinking forward. Did I mention that I suck at meditation? My yoga practice is a joke: in every pose I’m thinking about how I can stretch farther, go deeper, and I can’t wait to do those tricky ones where you balance your whole body on one hand or an earlobe.
So…is this just an east meets west philosophy challenge? Do I need to chose? Or is there a golden place of maturity where I can be both the empress of my future and the master of the here and now? How do I get there? Dear readers, help me! Literary and podcast recommendations are welcomed!