Answer. Your Comfort Zone.

How you might ask? Because its the part of the path where the groove and slope level off. Its the called the autonomous phase of learning and growth. It follows the momentous associative groove phase where no more traction is encountered and you reach a plateau. At first, this may seem like an ideal place to be. You have attained a certain level of proficiency, skill, financial stability,  and perhaps a steady relationship and community status .Your daily efforts are met with the least amount of resistance and you are somewhat satisfied. You feel safe and secure and comfortable. So where is the danger in that?

The danger comes from the long term effect of a prolonged repetitive rhythm.  Its when your mindset stays the same, your structure and environment stay the same and your behaviors and actions are a monotonous rhythm of automatic routines. You become stuck in a rut. A rut is a deeper groove that occurs where all the force along the path cannels to. Think of water running off a sand dune after the rain. As the groove gets deeper, all the water will only channel down that path until it forms a very deepened crater. The same is true for hardwired neurological circuits. In the brain, the more primitive parts ,which involve less conscious arousal, are summoned and utilized over higher cognitive and creative centers.

The danger of this is that you start to stagnate. Most of your routine is on autopilot and so you function in a less conscious , less aware state. This can cause many problems in life. Relationships suffer because of inattention, lack of connection and conscious effort. Careers become stale because of lack of challenge or boredom. Life seems to be endlessly and mindlessly going through the motions. There is no defined psychological term for this but it has been referred to as the Groundhog day effect(aptly named after the 1993 movie starring Bill Murry- a must see! and very poignant for understanding a lot of principles of change, and growth.)

This may prove to be the hardest phase to break out of for most people. Ask any musician, artist ,athelete or writer how difficult it is to break out of rut or plateau . No matter how intentional your desire for change, you cant seem to break free from the patterns and rhythms of your behavior.

So what is the solution?

  1. Recognize that this is the normal 3rd phase of the neurological conditioning process-plateaus are inevitable
  2. Don’t blame yourself or beat yourself down for being lazy, unambitious or lacking in motivation. Its is normal to feel “stuck” when you are primarily engaging your primitive part of your brain that functions to keep you on autopilot. You worked hard over the years to reach your comfort zone, so naturally its a safe, secure place to be. (But only for so long!. Time to summon the higher brain center and mentally elevate yourself out of the stagnant neurological rut. )
  3. Understand that by recruiting and enlisting the higher conscious prefrontal cortex part of your brain, you can awaken the centers of curiosity and imagination that will resonate into discovering and creating new neurological pathways. It takes, energy, effort and practise as once before when the initial inertia had to be overcome, but it will lead to a new higher level of growth and momentum.
  4. Once again, work all three faces at the same time to get maximum results. If your mindset is in a mode of curiosity and open to learning new things, new actions will follow. Set up new habit loops and rewards and optimize your structured environment to facilitate the changes.

Lets walk through this process with an example

You wish to lose some weight. You decide to have a healthy mindset attitude by answering the question why? You want more energy, more stamina , raise your self esteem by feeling good about the way you look. You structure a diet that involves healthy eating 6times a week(with one day to splurge ). Your action is that you eat the foods on that diet and you get 40 min a week of cardio exercise. You practice and practice this and you get results. Slow at first and then faster and faster until eventually it levels off and you cant lose any more weight. You get frustrated because despite your routine continued efforts, your stuck and cant break the cycle. You need to change all three faces- an open mindset,  different perspective, perhaps a different environment and an additional routine. But heres the most important step. Do not abandon what you have already been doing!You want to augment and leverage your efforts . Say No to yo yo diets. Say No to quitting and trying the latest fad. Remember What you did before worked! Like the bicycle you just need to shift into second gear. So you read more about healty lifestyle practices and learn that by cutting out toxic food substances like high fructose corn syrup(HFCS), you will not be converting as much fat from your diet. So you  structure your environment to remove all packaged products that contain HFCS from your home shelves and office. You practice and develop new eating behaviors that limit sugar intake. All the while,keeping up with the original efforts. Now watch what happens! Your energy level goes up and your out of the rut. Want more help learning HOW to pull this off? stay tuned!

Q. What is the most important aspect of your life that you are too comfortable but too stuck to change? Your relationship? Your career? Your Body? Please share!