Go outside and play? “It’s too real!”

“Go outside and play,” Mom told us all summer long when we were young. Mom meant it literally, and Mom is always right of course. It’s also great advice metaphorically. But get outside what exactly?

We have a comfort zone where life is easy and enjoyable. And we have a panic zone where life is too hard, too scary, too overwhelming, too…much. There’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where he complains about being outside his TV-watching comfort zone, explaining, “It’s too real.”

comic

We call this ‘too real’ zone the challenge zone. The challenge zone is built between the comfort and panic zones. It’s where we learn. It’s where we grow. Too much reality and we’re panicked. Too little and we’re stuck trying to stay comfortable, what Walt Whitman railed against as “indoor complaints”.

Comfort Challenge Panic zones

The literal outside is not always comfortable. It’s often too hot, too bright, too humid, too buggy, just as Calvin so astutely noted. And the metaphorical outside is the same – it’s really real outside the comfort zone. Yet if comfort is our highest priority, we can give up the hope of learning and growing.

Every team development session we lead has lots of new concepts, research and ideas to help teams and individuals grow into the challenge zone. And I pair every training with team building activities to try those concepts out, an immediate leap into the challenge zone. That’s where the growth happens. High hopes accompany new ideas. That’s great! And then there’s the reality when trying to put them into play. It’s not easy to see enthusiasm get a dose of direct experience. But that’s the beginning of learning, of “going where I have to go” as the poet Theodore Roethe said.

Happy summer! Now get outside and play.

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