Let’s do a very, very simple experiment: can you please have a look at the text below and tell me what you understand from it? Take your time.
Chances are that, if you’re not Korean – or studied Hangul – all you got from the text above is just a collection of random noodles. Or, in other words, nothing. The meaning of the text above for you is zero.
And you know why? For a very, very simple reason: you didn’t learned it before. You weren’t previously exposed to this type of language. So, you have no idea what’s the meaning of it.
Believe it or not, this is happening with everything you are exposed to. You can only identify things you’ve been exposed to before. You can find people being beautiful or ugly based on your previous experiences of beauty and ugliness. You can experience joy or depression only if you learned how to experience them before. If you don’t know how to laugh, chances are that you won’t be able to understand humour. If you’ve never been sad before, you may don’t know how to cry.
Every emotion and activity in our lives is identified based on prior experience. It may take a while to turn your head around this idea, but once you really get it, something very interesting will happen.
For starters, you will understand better the meaning of the “comfort zone”. It’s the zone where you already know what’s happening. It’s the zone of all the things you already learned. It’s the place where the world, as you know it, has a meaning. You have all the tools to understand it.
Now comes the interesting part. The “discomfort zone” is the area where you have no clue about what’s going on. It’s the area that you’ve never been exposed to and know squat about it. You simple aren’t equipped to understand it.
For instance, if you never ran a marathon before, you have no idea how it feels. You may understand, theoretically, what other people are saying about marathons, about hitting “the wall”, about going over your own limits, but you don’t “know” it. It’s only after you start doing it that you understand what it means. By practicing, by learning, you slowly create the tools to understand the process of running a marathon. And after you finish your first marathon you can finally understand it. You’re finally equipped with this new tool called “how to run a marathon”. From now on, you will have a common language with other people who finished a marathon.
All evolution comes from the discomfort zone. From the learning zone. And that discomfort zone is, simply put, unnatural.
The comfort zone has a very interesting propriety. I like to call it “the comfort gravity”. The bigger the comfort zone, the stronger the pull it creates to keep you there. Just like a planet creates gravity and that gravity will keep you from escaping into the Universe.
Imagine if you have a well paid job, you’re healthy and young. You get a lot of comfort from that financial security. Enough comfort to put aside the fact that you actually hate that job, hate the people with whom you have to deal during that job, hate the Mondays, the Tuesdays and pretty much every day of the week that you have to be there. But you do have a large comfort zone. That money buys you socially accepted drugs like alcohol, and that may numb you enough during the evenings and weekends so you can forget about the misery you’re experiencing each and every day of the week.
So, if you want to escape from here, you will have to beat this gravity. And that’s a very difficult thing. You will have to break the circle of people with whom you’re talking to, the habits you created, you will have to learn new skills. And that’s frightening. Because that means your entire world, as you know it, will collapse. And maybe you will have to learn Hangul to understand what the fuck is going on.
Breaking out of the comfort zone will shake your current world and rearrange it. It really is a dangerous thing to do. But it’s also the only way to evolve.
If we replace the job, in the example above, with the attitude you have, something even more interesting will happen. Suppose you’ve been depressed and lonely your entire life. Believe it or not, that’s your comfort zone. This is where you feel good. And you know why? Look at the text in Hangul again. For you, joy and happiness is a text in Hangul. You don’t know it. You only know how to be depressed and, although this makes you suffer big time, the gravity you created, by reinforcing that state over and over again, is so strong, that you simply can’t move away. Can’t leave, can’t break free. You always have the option to learn a new language, but, because all you know is all you’ve experienced so far, you may think there’s nothing more than that out there. You may think suffering is the only option you have.
Learning To Be Happy
And it’s the same with everything we want to experience. With every emotion we want to feel or every activity we want to perform. Most people are unhappy not by choice, but because they simply didn’t learn happiness. Their unhappiness became their comfort zone. It’s the only thing they know how to experience, hence they assume it’s the only thing that exists in the Universe.
For them, happiness is like reading Hangul for the first time. They don’t have a clue what’s happening there: c’mon, man, this is bullshit, it’s a bunch of random noodles. Even more, they may become cautious and apprehensive – because they don’t understand anything – and, eventually, they may conclude there must be something fishy going on and back away. In a sense, they’re right: there is something fishy there: their world, as they know it, will be turned upside down. You can’t be both happy and unhappy at the same time, so their current world, the world of unhappiness, will collapse.
Now, you have two choices: you can either try to convince them Hangul will be a very good thing for them, or back off.
I was doing the first thing for years. I was trying to convince other people about the benefits of happiness. I guess the imprint was that I was kinda trying to save them. In time, this proved to be a losing strategy. If they’re so used to speak their own unhappiness language, they wouldn’t have any drive whatsoever to learn something new. Learning happiness would be in their discomfort zone. They won’t do anything to learn that, because they’re already comfortable with their misery. Besides, there’s this guy, Jesus, who does a much, much better job at saving people than I do. So, why bother?
Nowadays, I’m more into finding compatible partners. People who are already speaking the language of happiness. People who can “get it” for the first time. It’s less time consuming, for a change. And it’s also very good for me because it invalidates a toxic imprint that I have, namely the one that I can save other people. Nobody can be saved against their own will. As a matter of fact, it can be really dangerous, if you try to do it. Don’t ask me why, on this one. Just take my word for it 🙂
And since you’ve been so nice to read my article to the end, I will give you the translation of that Hangul piece of text. I’m pretty sure many of you have been exposed to this text. I don’t know how many of you have been exposed to the actual experience of it, but that’s not my business anymore. It’s your business.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.“
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.