One of life’s biggest lessons is mastering the art of moving forward. Yet, it’s one of life’s greatest oxymorons, for as simple as the behavior is – it is difficult. For some reason, it can be tough to take a step outside of one’s comfort zone, no matter the direction. And during these days, in particular, it is easy to feel that we’re caught in a rut, trapped on a hamster wheel, experiencing groundhog’s day over and over and over again.
Comfort zones are neither good nor bad. They are one’s definition of that personal sweet spot of security, happiness, and low anxiety; and they serve a purpose at times. But it is that next level, just outside one’s comfort zone, of “optimal anxiety” that challenges us all and propels us forward. So how can you nudge your loved ones to continue moving forward during good times and in bad?
Life is designed with dynamic twists and turns. Remind your kids that we can’t have the highs without the lows. What we can’t do is let indecision or fear paralyzed us. We need to push ourselves in a healthy way to try the new, embrace the different, and take a calculated risk. Model talking about the ups and downs with your kids to help them develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills.
Just outside our comfort zone is an area called “optimal anxiety.” This level of challenge actually leads to more productivity and better performance. Author Daniel Pink speaks of it as a place of “productive discomfort,” and he gives the analogy of Goldilocks: too little challenge is too comforting; while too much challenge can backfire and cause a negative result, often that of disengagement. Challenge your kids try a new dish, attempt a new sport, or make a new friend.
Life takes grit and hard work, and mistakes are the hallmark of trying and learning. We all need to reach beyond our own horizons, challenge our confirmation bias, and problem solve through different lenses. In doing so, we will strengthen our sense of self-belief and self-confidence, and own the notion of being a lifelong learner.
Remember the power of long-term goals and the need for short-term steps to get there! Use the Reach for the Stars! activity to look beyond the current circumstances and explore something new.
Habits take practice. We need to practice moving forward even in the shadow of doubt and uncertainty. By being ever vigilant about our own well-being, we can help our family and friends. With a mental shift and gentle step, we can move forward with the grace and strength of resilience.
Darri Stephens is a former member of Teach for America and a seasoned educator, with more than 10 years’ experience in Los Angeles and New York City public schools. She’s a published author, who has also worked for education-focused media companies including Nickelodeon, IMAX, EdSurge, and Discovery Education. With master’s degrees in education from both Harvard and Stanford, she’s passionate about creative curriculum development that pushes boundaries, especially considering the influx of today’s technologies. Her most recent positions as Senior Director of Content at Common Sense and Director of Education at Wonder Workshop underscore her love of instructional design, writing, and the ever-changing edtech world – so much so that she has now founded her own content consulting agency, Darrow Ink.