So I’ve been doing quite a bit of self-assessment over the past couple of weeks. This has basically been looking back over all the notes that I’ve taken over the past year or so—and I can say that my NSV (non-scale victory) is admitting that I’ve been stuck in the “fear zone” for basically the past five years or so (maybe less depending on the aspect of life).
So where does this “fear zone” come from? I decided to look into “ideas” on how to get from the “comfort zone” into the “learning zone” and saw an image that showed there is actually an addition zone between those two—and that additional zone is the “fear zone”.
So the Comfort Zone is basically where everyone feels safe, content, and in control of their situations. Everyone says that you need to get out of your comfort zone in order to learn and live your best life—which is great, but what no one ever mentions is that between the comfort zone and the learning zone is the fear zone.
I recently realized that I’ve been stuck in this “fear zone” for quite a while. The “fear zone” is where you’re worried about what others will think of what you’re doing, you have a feeling low self confidence (since you’re stepping out of your comfort zone), and you’re more than willing to find excuses to get out of things. So looking back at things—I have to be totally honest in that I’ve been in the middle of the fear zone in several different areas of my life:
Health and fitness—I had managed to lose quite a bit of weight in 2013 (and early 2014), only to have life throw numerous different curveballs at me. Instead of hitting (or punting) or catching the balls—I used everything that came at me as an “excuse” or roadblock that I just sat and stared at for years. Now, that I’ve acknowledged that I’ve allowed myself to be stuck in the fear zone—I’m going to move into the learning zone. It will be slow, and I may slide back every so often—but I need to keep moving forward. It has taken me basically five years to pack on the pounds—it will take me months, if not a couple of years to get rid of the weight (and to keep it off) the healthy way.
Career—I’ve given my time in academia (it has been almost ten years since I graduated with my PhD), but have realized that I am not willing to put something first (the job) over my health (especially my mental health). To make it in academia these days, you basically have to put in twelve to sixteen hour days six to seven days a week. To be considered for an entry-level professor position, you almost have to have the resume of someone who has been in the field for twenty to thirty years longer than you’ve been alive.
This has been a hard mindset to get out of—I’ve been raised in an academia household (my father is a professor at my alma mater), so I’ve been around the whole academic professor job field my entire life. I remember when I was younger, I wanted to have my own lab and be doing marine biology research—well, obviously that didn’t happen. Being honest with myself, the main reasons for my stagnant job transition is a lack of self-confidence in being able to compete with others for the jobs (I also know that this is really just imposter syndrome talking), and the opinions of others (basically them wondering/inquiring why it took me so long to either a) decide to leave academia and b) to finally manage to leave academia).
I can also then tie in my anxiety and depression somewhat into the fear zone as well. Though to be honest, the depression isn’t totally tied in with the fear zone—2018 was a horrid year (we lost three dogs, two within a span of four days) over all and I spent most of 2019 slowly working my way out of the deep depression dip I found myself in. I’m not totally out of it—but I’m further than I was three or four months ago.
So I want to now move into the “learning zone”—which is the zone where you are acquiring new skills, extending your comfort zone (while hopefully shrinking the fear zone), and being able to deal with challenges and problems that come up day to day. How am I going to do that? Simple—small, baby steps until them become routine and become bigger and bigger steps into the learning zone.
Starting with small things, and at times possibly silly things for me is the best way to show myself that I can deal with various different things. It has been shown that having a disorganized, clutter environment can have a negative effect on your mood and health. So I’m going to be slowly working on organizing and decluttering various parts of the house—I’ve actually started this over the weekend, I’m working on my bathroom. Once I have that room cleaned and organized I’ll move on to another (while slowly working on my bedroom at the same time). I’m actually trying to embrace the idea of less is more—i.e. semi-minimalism.
I just finished reading the book “The 12 week year: get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. One of the things that I’m going to be doing is trying to implement the idea of the 12-week year starting in March (I decided that I probably will need about two weeks to work through the exercises and plan things out)—but having a written plan will help more than just my usual winging and hoping that things fall into place.
So the 12-week year is the idea that instead of trying to set annual goals—and having no way of knowing if the processes will work four or five months down the road, you have your larger “why” or vision. You then break the goals down to ones that you focus on for 12 weeks at a time—not every goal, but one or two. At the end of the 12 weeks, you gauge where you are at in terms of how you performed over the past 12 weeks, and how much closer you are to the larger goals. Then during the next 12 weeks, you focus on the next task or two that will continue to move you towards your larger goal.
One of my problems has always been setting future goals, but at the same time not always breaking them down monthly or weekly. The only one that I think I’ve broken down that way is the step goal (and currently I will be having to rework that one, since I’ve been sedentary more than I would like to admit for the past six weeks or so).
This way I will be able to focus on different aspects of life (career/job transition, health/fitness, personal/professional development and crafts) at the same time—knowing that I’m going to be going after the little steps that will merge several of the paths into one. The next few weeks will be trying to figure out the best metrics for measuring the success of moving forward in the job transition (I already have ideas for how to measure the other areas), and then writing out the first 12-week year and my first weekly tracker(s).
Hopefully by implementing the idea of a 12-week year, I will be able to move out of the “fear zone” and into the “learning zone”. I know that I will probably have a week or two where I slid backwards—but with the tracking, I will know and then be able to readjust and continue moving forward. Because one of the quotes for the year is “progress not perfection”.
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