Handcuffs We Wear Without Knowing It

By Thursday, October 2, 2014 2 0
Being resilient is a key way to be rich in what matters. When we’re resilient, we can adapt to a wide variety of situations and still be happy. We can flex our choices, our behaviors and the amount of resources that we use.

Rigid comfort zones can confine us like handcuffs.

When we have narrow, rigid comfort zones we are the opposite of resilient. They can confine us so that we might as well be wearing handcuffs. Unfortunately, the mainstream culture encourages these, and it’s easy to embrace narrow comfort zones as our own, without even knowing we’re doing that. Examples of narrow, rigid comfort zones:

  • Got to have the room temperature at 70 degrees
  • Must have hot coffee first thing in the morning (um, this would be me)
  • Can’t have a silent pause in a conversation
  • Got to go by car, even if it’s one mile away
  • Single people should live alone
  • Couples shouldn’t have housemates
  • Must have ice in our drinking water
  • Got to have people agreeing with us
  • Got to agree with other people
  • Yards must have lawns
  • Lawns must be green year-round
  • Got to have wine/beer/cocktail in hand while socializing before dinner

Narrow, rigid comfort zones can weaken us, even as we feel like they are taking care of us. They handcuff us to the familiar. They lower our resiliency. Moreover, they often lead to behaviors that impoverish the earth’s resources. Green lawns take enormous amounts of water. Heating and cooling things requires boatloads of energy. Burning the fossil fuels that produces that energy is what drives climate change.

Here are a variety of ways to expand our comfort zones, in both our social lives and the way we use resources. I enjoy spending time around people who have expansive comfort zones. Role models are powerful, not necessarily because they say anything profound, but because of how they are living.  Finally, the blog Zen Habits is by a man who has expanded his comfort zone masterfully over the years by practicing self-discipline and voluntary simplicity. He’s vulnerable and down to earth, with hundreds of helpful posts that apply to anyone’s life.

What invisible handcuffs might you be wearing? How would you like to expand your comfort zone? How have you expanded it in the past?

photo by D.F. Shapinsky

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  • greenpowerguy
    October 3, 2014

    These can also be seen as the velvet handcuffs of the west, so comfortable and perhaps even stylish, all of which ultimately restrain our ability to live a full life. Great article!

    • Alison
      October 3, 2014

      Green Power Guy, I’m glad you got something from this piece. I agree that handcuffs can feel soft and seductive. I notice that my relationship with the outdoors and the elements often helps me to shed my handcuffs. Speaking of which, time to get onto my bicycle to ride to my carpool partner’s house. Dark and chilly outside . . . not my summertime comfort zone :).