The Comfortable Rut: The Worst Place to Be

I suppose in October, the month of ghouls, goblins and generally everything that scares us, it’s only fitting to talk about fear. For now, I’ll talk about mine. Be ready.

It was nearing the end of 2005 and I was a sophomore in college. Everything was panning out as any 19-year-old’s life would: hang out with friends, take a couple classes at a junior college, get average grades, and that’s about it. I was floating. It was also the year the thing I feared most as a kid happened.

Fear is an interesting emotion. It’s meant to warn of legitimate dangers to our well-being, like illness or accidents, and cause us to be alert, take action, and prepare.

More often than not though, it has a paralyzing effect. At a time when many of the dangers that once threatened our lives have been neutralized through technology and medical advances, we still live with fear. Only it isn’t fear of haunted houses or zombies that we’re afraid of.

It’s change.

Fear keeps us from making the changes that we know deep down we need to make. It keeps our broom in hand constantly sweeping our growing discontent under the rug.

Many people live in their comfort zone, a place that feels safe and familiar. It’s the shallow end of the pool. A place we can daydream about a better life without actually doing anything that calls for uncertainty.

Some of you may find yourself in this place. You go through the motions feeling stuck and stagnant. Things aren’t terrible but they just aren’t what you want. You’re not sure of how to get out of this funk, so you do nothing.

This is the place called “The Comfortable Rut.” The wasteland where you wish things were different but it’s just not bad enough to change. It was where I was when I was 19 and my father died. I was forced to reevaluate everything.

It was when he passed that I seriously looked at everything I was just tolerating. My health, my future, all of it, and I realized I was incredibly complacent. I woke up. I got my act together, took my education and my fitness seriously and dropped a lot of the low-value things I was doing. But it took a painful experience to do it.

How many times have you talked to someone who wants more of life? Every time you see them they tell you everything’s going to be different this time next year. They’re going to leave a dead-end job, finally get in shape, and yet they go on year after year never actually doing anything.

How are you doing on your goals? Are you making steady progress with consistent action everyday? Or are you no closer today than you were a year ago? Or maybe like many people you’re just going in circles but never really getting anywhere. Maybe you’ve given up trying all together.

Ask yourself, what am I tolerating? What did you imagine for yourself that you just gave up on by convincing yourself that you’re too busy, too old, or simply don’t have what it takes? What has you at the side of the pool dipping your toes in the water, afraid to jump in?

If that thing is getting in shape, here’s some advice:

Feel the fear. Do it anyway. The very fact that you’re afraid is a good indicator that it’s really important. Sometimes the most important thing to do is just start. Do this and the fear will disappear (eventually).

Quit swinging for the fences. Aim for singles. Everybody thinks they have to completely overhaul their lives to get fit. Start with small steps done consistently. Week after week, just show up.

Have someone who’s been there to push you. I recently started training for a triathlon. I never could have swum a mile in the ocean without a coach to guide and talk me through it. A little handholding is the fastest sure-fire way to conquer fear and reach your goals.

And remember, the pain of regret is more painful than the pain of changing for the better. spt

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