When the comfort zone becomes uncomfortable
Actually, everything could be so beautiful: the house in the country with the Golden Retriever, the career at its peak, the bulging bank account that provides security. There’s nothing to worry about … so our mind sets out to find something to worry about. Thoughts like: Vacation in Southern Tyrol again come to mind. Boring! Rafting in the Grand Canyon – that would be something! Or: I never wanted this bourgeois family car. What happened to my dream of the Porsche 911?
In common parlance we speak of a midlife crisis with thoughts such as these and the frequently ensuing actions. It’s not necessarily about getting older, not even about the station wagon or the holiday home in Italy. It’s about our mind and the fact that it is bored: “I already know, I’ve already done, always the same”. The urge to break out becomes greater. Then we step on someone’s toes, pick an unnecessary argument, burn our bridges behind us. That feels good. For the moment. We want to get excited, because then life will be exciting!
The known becomes boring
The security we supposedly strive for all our lives is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it helps to cope with the complexities of everyday life. Everything is quickly arranged, which saves time and energy. On the other hand, something that has been known for a long time can quickly become boring. If everything has already been seen, done and experienced, life becomes comfortable and the mind slowly but surely goes into standby. And something else happens: our heads make us believe that we really do already know everything in our environment. We only perceive the familiar – the unknown and the new are filtered out directly. In psychology this phenomenon, which inevitably makes life boring, is called Confirmation Bias.
Managers also experience this “sclerosis”. And often before uncontrolled actionism breaks out in the company, because “everything has to be rethought”. This may sometimes be true, but the fundamental question is: What should be overhauled and why? Are there economic necessities because the company would soon be on the sidelines without new technologies, processes, etc.? Or is the management worried because the workforce seems to be “so well established”? Such a diagnosis is often based on a Confirmation Bias in management.
Become a beginner!
In private life, the way out of the desolate life of Confirmation Bias often consists in the clichéd behavior of the midlife crisis: bungee jumping instead of family outing, lover instead of wife, and so on. This is a therapy that will wear off very quickly. A bungee jump, all well and good, but what will it be next time? A higher jump? What will you have to take to keep your adrenaline up permanently so that your ego doesn’t get bored?
You cannot really approach the Confirmation Bias with changes on the outside, but only with an open mind. You can discover new things everywhere because they are everywhere. You only have to open your mind again to perceive these unknown aspects in everyday life. Think of children: for them, every day is new, exciting and full of adventure. Children have an open mind, a “Beginner’s Mind”.
This beginner’s spirit can be practiced: a different chair in a meeting, a different topic of conversation at lunch, a look at the other side of the street in the bus – sounds banal, but has an effect. Look at your life partner as if you were seeing him or her for the first time today.
And what about yourself? Do you really already know everything about yourself? Or isn’t it much more the case that although you know a lot of things, you can still get to know and explore a lot of new things? “I just know how I am” – from my experience this is one of the greatest obstacles to development and inner growth.
Whether you look at the world around you or into yourself – you can only escape the Confirmation Bias outside the comfort zone. Only there will your life be interesting and exciting. You don’t need a new car or a new job to leave the comfort zone. All you need is an open mind and the will to live with a curios and courageous approach. Not by jumping out of the next plane, but by taking the step into the new in the old. Every day.