Friday, August 2, 2013

The Pinoy comfort zone

When we get into times of social, political or financial instability, our comfort zones get smaller. The more afraid we are . . . the more impenetrable our comfort zones buffers become.” [Tiptoeing Out of One’s Comfort Zone (and of Course, Back In), Alina Tugend, The New York Times, 11th Feb 2011] There was a huge shift after 9/11 . . . in just how vulnerable people were willing to be in their personal and work lives. When we feel vulnerable . . . we often feel fear and shame. And, since those are some of our most difficult emotions, we want to avoid them.”

Our response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and international terrorism has been remarkable, including an intelligence apparatus in which some 1.4 million people (including, until recently, Snowden) hold “top secret” clearances.” [How Could We Blow This One, Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, 3rd Jul 2013] That’s more than twice the population of the District of Columbia . . . [S]ince 9/11, the United States has built new intelligence complexes equivalent in office space to 22 United States Capitol buildings. All told, since 9/11, the United States has spent $8 trillion on the military and homeland security . . .”

Some of that money probably helped avert other terrorist attacks (although some of it spent in Iraq and Afghanistan may have increased risks). We need a robust military and intelligence network, for these threats are real. An Al Qaeda attack is an assault on the political system in a way that an ordinary murder is not. And overseas terrorists do aspire to commit mass murder again, perhaps with chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, and our government is right to work hard to prevent such a cataclysm.

But there are trade-offs, including other ways to protect the public, and our entire focus seems to be on national security rather than on more practical ways of assuring our safety. The imbalance in our priorities is particularly striking because since 2005, terrorism has taken an average of 23 American lives annually, mostly overseas — and the number has been falling.”

Moving out of our comfort zones is supposed to be a good thing. We challenge ourselves, we grow and take on new risks. But is this always true? After all, over the last few years, many of us have been pushed out of our comfort zones, forced to seek new jobs, even careers.” [Ibid.] “The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position. Judith M. Bardwick, author of “Danger in the Comfort Zone” (American Management Association, 1991) . . . cites a famous experiment conducted by the psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson, way back in 1908. Using mice, they found that stimulation improved performance, up to a certain level — what is now known as optimal anxiety. When that level is passed, and we’re under too much stress, performance deteriorates.”

We need a place of productive discomfort . . . If you’re too comfortable, you’re not productive. And if you’re too uncomfortable, you’re not productive. Like Goldilocks, we can’t be too hot or too cold . . . The objective is to reach that optimal level so that our skills increase and we become comfortable with that new level of anxiety — then we’re in an expanded comfort zone. And ideally, we will get more used to those feelings of “productive discomfort” and won’t be so scared to try new things in the future.”

I often talk about my Eastern European friends and from living and working with them for ten years, I’ve witnessed how much of a struggle they have gone through to “expand their comfort zone.” And so I would always say, “been here ten years and counting.” What more of one hundred million Pinoys? Friends have asked me, do you really think we could change our culture? Probably not, but over time we could expand our comfort zone and be more receptive to change? Man has proved himself adaptable since the time of Eden. And even Steve Jobs would admit: "All the work that I have done in my life will be obsolete by the time I'm 50," he said in a previously unreleased video recorded in 1994, when he was 39. “This is not a field where one paints a painting that will be looked at for centuries, or builds a church that will be admired for centuries.[The Times UK, 21st Jun 2013]  

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