Once there lived a mischievous young disciple at a Zen monastery. He always thought that the Zen master was getting more respect than he deserved. He didn’t think the master was really wise. So one day he decided to test the master. Holding a bird in his hands behind his back, he asked, Master, they say you are wise, can you tell me whether the bird in my hand is dead or alive? The boy thought if the master said it was alive, he would wring its neck and kill it. If he said it was dead, he would let it fly. Either way he’d prove the master was wrong. The master smiled knowing what the boy thinking and said, ‘The answer is in your hands.
I wanted to introduce this topic with a short story, called “The Answer In Your hands”.
I asked myself some questions: you are thirty five, are you happy with your life, what have you done until now, and what couldn’t you do, did you achieve your full potential, did you push your limits? It was a terrible moment for me because “this moment” was the time that I understood I was in my comfort zone. I recognized I had been living in the same safe place since I was born, fifteen minutes away form my family. I’ve known everyone around me for at least ten years. I was in automatic pilot in my rest area, no risk, no anxiety, always following the same routine. To protect my comfort zone, I got my undergraduate degree, my master’s and my Ph.D at the same university.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is a motivational theory in psychology, there are five hierarchical levels within a pyramid. These needs go from the bottom of the hierarchy upwards:
- physiological needs: air, food, water, warmth, rest
- safety needs: security, safety
- love and belonging needs: intimate relationships, friends
- esteem needs: prestige and feeling of accomplishment
- self-actualization: achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities.
According to this theory you must satisfy lower level deficit needs before you can meet higher level being needs. Although satisfying physiological, safety, love and belonging, and esteem needs decreases motivation, satisfying self-actualization needs increases life motivation. So self-fulfillment needs are extremely important in order to be able to say to life while dying “I lived you.”
Then, what I did was, I decided to go out from my comfort zone. For this reason I moved from Turkey to the U.S. That would be full of adventures: a new job, new friends, a new environment. I would see how I could overcome life. I would grow and learn, have different experiences, have unplanned actions, taste the uncertainty.
Then do you know what happened, I expected to go to the learning zone, but I found myself in the panic zone. The below picture shows, the panic zone with lack of water. This is exactly what you feel. You don’t wish to be in the panic zone because you feel there danger, personal fears, fears of the unknown, stress, that learning is impossible, and generally full of panic. Motivation and performance decrease. I mean you turn to the lowest level of the hierarchy of needs on Maslow’s pyramid. Then I learned the word “resilience,” it means the ability to recover from illness and be stronger than ever, to rise from the ashes.
This is my story, which taught me the existence of the panic zone and resilience. You probably cannot go from the comfort zone to the learning zone freely. Therefore I needed one step to the learning zone, which is hopefully a place of growing and learning more, success, and different experiences. As Albert Einstein said; “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” So, I tried to go one dimension further. So in which performance zone are you?
Author: Neslihan Eti