Defined Words: comfort zone, absolute truth, tether
Among all the resources in the world, there is only one that is truly nonrenewable: time. Time only moves in one direction, meaning you cannot ever get back the time spent on something. You protect your time carefully and want to make sure it is spent on pleasurable or productive activities. Businesses like to use contracts to guarantee profits for a set amount of time to set their worries at ease with a cemented agreement. Similarly, marriage allows for a guaranteed partnership and removes some uncertainty which gives us comfort.
How many times have you passed up on a night out to stay home and watch TV instead? When you build universes for each possibility, going out has the potential to end poorly while watching TV is more likely to result in pleasure so it’s the safer choice.
We often make the safer choice because we understand our time is limited and we don’t want to waste it. Time is money because time allows you to do anything, including earn money. However, it’s important to remember that money is not always worth time since money is renewable.
The future is inherently unknown which means it stimulates our fear due to uncertainty. You have spent years learning and preparing to survive in the world. You’ve honed your abilities to socialize and make enough money to stay alive; after all, you’ve been practicing all your life. That practice often turns into automation of neural paths, meaning they can activate without your attention. Trusting the unknown is trusting in your automation to be able to handle anything that you face. When you have confidence in your automation, you can remove fear from your future.
You can trust in the automation of empathy as well as your body. Empathizing with others allows you to see people’s intentions and can trust that they are roughly the same as yours. You probably aren’t interested in hurting anyone and can trust that most people are similar in their intentions. Of course, you should still recognize the possibility of danger. However, a few statistical anomalies should not remove your trust in unknown people. People are people, most are much more like you than you would expect.
If you are having trouble trusting in the automation that has been built up by Past You, try an example using statistics. Throughout your life, you’ll have tons of experiences and if you were to rank them between each other, half of those experiences will be above average while half are below. The below average experiences are often thought of as “bad” while above average are “good.” If you are about to make a new experience, there is a 50% chance that experience will be a bad one which means there’s an equal chance of a good experience.
You can trust that, throughout your life, roughly half of your experiences will be good while the other half is bad. When you are in the midst of a sea of bad experiences, you can remember that your luck has to even out eventually. Conversely, when you have several consecutive good experiences, you can remember the bad times you’ve endured. Statistics helps you to see the whole picture, even when you’re in the middle of it.
We are most comfortable with how our time is spent in the future when we have certainty, which can only come from information. All information can be broken down differently for everyone into four categories:
- What you are aware that you know
- What you are unaware that you know
- What you are aware that you don’t know
- What you are unaware that you don’t know.
Three of those four categories involve uncertainty which is programmed in your brain to stimulate fear. That doesn’t even mention the relative size of each category; of course category 4 is the largest for everyone. Categories 1 & 3 are the neural clusters to which you have easy conscious access; it’s often called your comfort zone. Category 2 represents your automation, to trust in it is to accept that you do know despite being unsure.
Categories 3 & 4 are inherently filled with uncertainty which is bound to stimulate fear. In facing your own fears, or confronting your uncertainties, you need to establish absolute truths, within Category 1. I like to use the term tether to describe a truth that you can hold onto while jumping into the abyss of the unknown. When confronting your uncertainties, you will naturally feel uncomfortable and will start to panic and attempt to escape. Escape doesn’t have to be running away; it could be simply changing the subject.
The best advice I was ever given by a friend came as I cringed through an incredibly uncomfortable play involving rape and child abuse. She told me, “Let it happen because afterward, you’ll still be here.” In this scenario, the established truth was that I would still be alive and unharmed after viewing the play. With that truth, I could remove any danger from the uncertainties that terrified me during the performance; I was still okay.
We grow when we leave our comfort zone because we synapse new neural paths and gain new perspectives. Establishing an absolute truth helps to tether you to reality while you explore the terrifying unknown. Gaining information to become more aware of reality only strengthens your tether as you explore the unknown.
During the play, I knew that a performance could do no physical damage to me meaning no danger so I could put away the fear. When you explore the unknown, you will begin to question many of the absolute truths you’ve had throughout your life. The solution to those fears comes in the form of education. Learn about your existence to see how the guided randomness led to right now.
When you look back at the entire story of the universe, everything that is or ever has been has existed and happened that way because of a series of random events. Those random events are firstly guided by the Fundamental Forces to form the natural universe. The intellectual guidance of humans shifted the randomness along a somewhat more planned direction.
Our universe exists because of randomness and yet it has gotten to this level of complexity upon complexity. When you decide to marvel at the guided randomness of the universe, you can see the amazing feats that just so happen to randomly align to allow our story to take shape the way it has.
No matter what happens, you exist and you can hold on to that because you understand exactly how. You know your story from the beginning. You know that you will always adapt because life persists. You know our society has reached the point where your safety is almost guaranteed, save for a few individuals. You know that the greatest triumphs come in the face of the greatest strife because we wouldn’t adapt without the necessity.
If you want to grow, put yourself in a position where you are forced to adapt. You can trust that you will rise to the challenge because, if you don’t, you can approach the challenge from another angle. Living in the present is a bit like science: we can only ever observe our past to guess about the future. You’ll always be wrong until you’re right, so being wrong is nothing to fear. A scientist never gives up and neither should you.