Back in July, visiting Croatia, I found myself shocked upon realizing that I had fallen back into some familiar patterns. And the writing that follows was created during my time there.
I can already tell this will be one of those articles where I’m leaning into my edge. Where I’m uncomfortable with some of what I will share. Because, I’m going to start with sharing something that I don’t want you to know about me…..
That after six months of travel, I find myself living like I did in the states.
That I have fallen into a pattern of avoiding learning and failing at the local language.
That I have not been exploring as much in my environment.
It seems that I have spent more time in my head, thinking, versus experiencing the various nuances of my new environment. This is a story about a love hate relationship with comfort. Something we all have, in varying degrees.
There’s the part of us that clings to ritual, certainty, systems, and consistency. While another part of us screams from the rooftops, “damnit, I need some excitement in my life. Some surprise. A challenge.” There are entire industries built on our need for both. We need both, and the amount of each depends on the person.
Each person with different thresholds. Thresholds that can expand or contract depending on the context and willingness. Well lately, it seems my world has been shrinking a bit. Shrinking in perception, anyway.
I’m currently sitting at a cafe in Zagreb, Croatia as I write this, and it feels weird to say this. It feels weird saying my world is shrinking. It feels weird because I’m currently halfway across the world, and after traveling to seven countries over the past six months, it feels odd saying, “I need a challenge”.
It feels odd because six months ago, I remember the “what the hell am I doing?” moment when I took off from the Austin airport. Embarking on a trip that combined a desire for adventure and learning, while serving a higher purpose for a social mission that I am creating.
I remember, fondly, that feeling of “oh sh**, I’m really doing this!” That experience fueled my excitement for life. And fulfilled my need for uncertainty, surprise, and the unknown. At the same time, the part of me that likes structure, consistency, and systems, was freaking out a bit.
Fast forward through many experiences that I’m still learning from. The people I have connected with. The places I have seen. The travel blunders. The languages. The food. The travel. And so on.
Waking up this morning, I realized I’m hungry for challenge. Hungry to stretch myself further. Hungry to get uncomfortable. Hungry to identify my edges and lean in. Truthfully, I am embarrassed to share that.
But that’s where I’m at. The truth is, after traveling for six months, it has become a part of my life. The new norm. The standard I’m living. My reality. My life.
Like when we get in a new relationship. It’s super exciting. The sex is often great. The person has no faults. The hits of dopamine seem like they will last forever. Then, weeks or months later, the newness seems to wear off. We fall into a pattern. We talk about the same things. We go to the same places. We are certain of what will happen next.
That’s why we get excited when we move to that “next step” “I’m so excited”
We are moving in together
We are getting married
We are buying a house
We are having kids
Each new “level” of the relationship exciting. And each reaching a point where our need for surprise, and excitement plateaus. Everything becomes “known”. Everything becomes a pattern. Everything is the same. Unless we recognize the need for both and do something about it.
But here is the challenge we face. Part of us loves this. The known. The predictability. The repetition. It makes us feel safe, and protected. While at the same time. Craving adventure. Something new. A feeling of being alive. A sense of aliveness.
Many of us have experienced what I described in a relationship. For me, traveling has become (at the time of writing this), a relationship on auto-pilot. And, I have allowed myself to fall into living for comfort and perceived safety. Comfort vs experience.
It’s comfortable (for me) to…Wake up every day meditate, read, write, workout, meet and coach with fun an interesting people, and check out a couple local places. That has become my predominant pattern over the past month.
Those actions in and of themselves are not bad, or boring from my perspective. BUT….
What I have noticed is a couple things..
1) If I don’t create ways to shake up those things, to try something new within them, I start operating on auto-pilot… and live in my head
For example, when I joined a gym for the month I’m here in Croatia. My workouts had become so routine that they bore me. When I would workout, I was doing more thinking, than pushing my body. So, when I saw they had a punching bag at the gym, I committed to using it. Which, has been enjoyable to say the least.
2) It’s important to interrupt our patterns with something that throws us for a loop
As I’m writing this, I’m having an “opposite day” – because I woke up with the mental chatter that we are often plagued with. That chatter saying what we “must, have, need” to do – followed by a sense that we are somehow already failing the day. That happened to me today. This morning, I woke up three hours later than intended.
I woke up at 11am, even though I said 8am would be the latest. And even though today is a day where I don’t have anything planned, my mental chatter chimed in.Telling me that it was wrong that I slept in. Telling me that I have so much to do. Telling me that sleeping in means I won’t get enough done. (“Enough done” on a day with no plans)
An interesting observation made. Interesting in that before I had even sat up, and opened my eyes completely, I was already failing myself. I was already somehow destroying my life. Destroying my future.But I digress.
Life is often about the ebb and flow of what is known and unknown. With too much consistency, we are like hamsters living in a cage. Food pellets. Water. Bathroom. Spinning wheel.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. (Oh my god, someone stop this thing)
Too much uncertainty and our nervous system will be on overdrive all the time. And our hair likely would be as white the doc’s from the movie “Back to the Future”. And while I joke about extremes, what I have found is it’s not about balance. That indicates there is some point of destination.
No. It’s about balancing. Some days, we crave more challenge and adventure. Other days, we want to know it consists of food, a couch, and a movie.
For me, I find myself balancing my need for certainty and uncertainty in varying ways, days, and areas of my life. Most importantly, I have learned to stop letting what works for other people become the right answer for me. Guiding principles are great, but I have be clear on what is best for me moment by moment.
A question I ask my clients..
What does balancing the need for surprise (that feeling of aliveness), and the need for certainty (that feeling of safety) look like for YOUR life?