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Discomfort in your comfort zone

February 28, 2014

Life is very confusing at times, especially when so many things happen that don’t make “sense”. For instance, anyone remember the story or rather the theory of evolution? I remember when I was in school I was told that people evolved from some kind of monkeys, or was it chimpanzees? At that time the story seemed very logical and I “bought” it without questions. After all, my teachers were meant to know everything, right? Then during a religious lesson, we learnt that God Himself created human beings. The confusion for many of us began right there; on one hand scientists, archeologists, professors among others were telling us that human beings evolved from the ape family, then on the other hand, the Bible, my Sunday school and CRE (Christian Religious Education) teachers were saying human beings were created by God Himself…. So whose theory were we to believe?

Fast forward to the present: if it is true human beings evolved from apes, how come they stopped evolving? How comes we have all these different species of monkeys? Or are human beings the cleverest of all monkey speicies? At this point I have to agree with the person who said that in life, there are more questions than there are answers. In addition, many things that happen may not make sense in life especially if we use our natural minds to try and understand them. But as far as I am concerned, I am nobody’s monkey. I am God’s creation made in His very own image. That’s my story/theory/belief and I am sticking to it.

Speaking of monkeys, ever heard or read the story of the 5 monkeys? If no, you are in luck. Here goes...

Once upon a time there were five monkeys who lived together for a very long time. Each morning they would wake up and go up a tree that was close by, with a bunch of bananas to feed on for the day. Each evening they would go down the same tree to rest for the night before starting the same routine the next day. Though they lived in a very big forest, all they were familiar with was the tree they spent their days on top of and its immediate surroundings, where they slept at night.

One day one of them asked his mates, "we have been doing this for a long time, following the same monotonous and repetitive routine like clockwork every day. Though we live in this big healthy forest, all we have ever done is pick bananas from this banana tree that is next to us, drink water from that small river on our right and sleep up this wonderful tree. Why have we never thought of exploring the rest of the forest? What if there are better things on the other side than we have on this side? Is there a possibility that we could do better with our lives than we are doing now?

The other four were silent for a few minutes, evidently thinking hard about what their mate had said. After what seemed like a century, finally one of them said, "it is true we have not done anything worth talking about all our lives. I think it's time we left this tree and explored other parts of this forest".

The first monkey, together with the youngest of them all agreed with the one who had responded. In total, three monkeys unanimously thought and agreed that it was time to leave the tree. Question is, did they leave? Unfortunately that's all they did; THINK. However they did not ACT on their thoughts.

I agree with the scientists on one thing; many of us are like these five monkeys. We have great ideas, great thoughts, great potential but all we do is think but never ACT. You cannot have one without the other. You need to think before acting and act after thinking through your plan. In order to be progressive, we need great ideas followed by a deliberate decision to take action. Like someone said, most of the problems in life are because of two reasons:

1.     We act without THINKING, or

2.     We keep thinking without ACTING.

Putting myself in the shoes, I mean in the hands of the monkeys (or is it feet, since they don’t have paws), I believe their greatest concern was change. They were so used to their environment that even though it was limited in terms of its resources, they had made it comfortable for themselves and liked it as it was. I believe they knew all the sights and smells of the area they had lived in for all those years. I’m sure they knew all the predators by name, they knew all the escape routes incase of any potential danger, and they had nothing to fear. In other words, they had become comfortable in their uncomfortable zone.

Just like these monkeys, many of us fear change because change means uncertainty for a period of time. Say for example a situation where one company is being bought over by another company. The uncertainties created by this process are many. Say you are a manager in the bought company, you may not continue operating at that same level and there is a possibility of losing your position, thus making you feel that you’ve lost control and lost your “face”. In addition, the new management may have its own culture they would like to bring into the company they have bought, meaning things will no longer be the way they used be with the old management. Maybe there were no proper structures with the previous management but with the new one, things have to be streamlined and proper procedures properly followed. The new management does not allow for shortcuts or shady deals, whereas this was the norm with the previous management. Maybe in the previous regime there were no key performance indicators or key result areas. With the new management, they have implemented this and now your remuneration will be based on your performance…. probably the lack of these measures is why the company was not performing so well in the first place, hence its being bought over. In a nutshell, everything has changed in the company. Question is, will you change as well, or will you still keep holding on to the past? Chances are likely that unless you change you will get kicked out.

This is just one scenario but the truth is, in life, every aspect of our lives is subject to changing without notice. Indeed like Heraclitus said, “the only thing that is constant is change”. So, whether you initiate it or not, at some point in your life you will have to face the reality of change and at that point, your action or inaction will determine how your life turns out to be.

Going back to the story of the five monkeys, it is not wrong to think about something. In fact it is very important to reflect back on your life every so often and see where things are not going as they should be. What is wrong is when all you do is think but never act on your thoughts. If you are tired of doing the same thing day in day out then step out of your comfort zone and do something different. Take the risk and see how it works for you. Remember, the higher the risk, the higher the returns. So instead of sitting there and whining about your job and bad boss every day, take action and go find yourself another job or start your own company… but be ready to deal with the challenges that come with either decision. If you are tired of how monotonous and boring your marriage or relationship has become, then don’t just think about it. Do something to rekindle the fire that you had before.

In conclusion, each one of us has the ability to create and re-create our own destiny a million times over. What makes this possible or not is our ability to think through our plans and then implement them. Just thinking about them will not make them work. You have to plan your work and work your plan, because that’s how it works. As for those who are just comfortable sitting on the tree eating bananas every day, please note that if you do not design or plan your own life, chances are very high that you will fall into someone else’s plan. Besides, isn’t this the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting DIFFERENT results?

So as you go about your routines this coming week, ask yourself whether you are any different from these five monkeys, then prove the difference to yourself by acting.

Wishing you all an ACT-ION packed week.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 23rd February, 2014, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".




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