what we’re doing and why we do it
We lean in to our edge because this is where we learn and grow. This is where change happens.
Leaning in to your edge means you do things outside your comfort zone but not so far outside that you’re in any real danger. Just coming to an Authentic Montreal event may satisfy this for you.
Those two short paragraphs may be all you need to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, but I will go into some more detail in the rest of this article.
When we have a goal of learning or growing there are three psychological states we can have in relation to that goal: comfort, arousal, panic. Those are broad categories varying greatly in terms of size, content, and quality from individual to individual. The earliest references to these three states that I could find are from Yerkes and Dodson (1908) and has been dubbed the Yerkes-Dodson law. Though they were researching this in terms of optimal performance. The model has been since adapted to learning. We are further adapting it to growing in a personal and spiritual sense. The idea that this kind of growth is a kind of learning.
I like to think of the zones in terms of what happens in them. In the comfort zone we feel safe. In the arousal zone we grow. In the panic zone we’re in danger (at least that is what we perceive, the reality of this may vary, but in general it’s wise to stay out of the danger zone).
We feel safe in our comfort zone but do not learn. We feel a heightened state of arousal in the arousal zone, which may involve a bit of fear, discomfort, anxiety, or hesitation. It could also manifest as excitement or aliveness. Certainly, it involves the possibility of new things previously unknown or unexperienced: growth. We feel panic, overwhelming fear, frozen, dread, or excessive anxiety in the panic zone. In this zone our body and minds may shutdown, we may be traumatized, we may lash out, we may run away, we may be physical injured. This is the danger zone.
In our comfort zone we are not trying anything new or unfamiliar. You may be able to see clearly from that one statement why we wouldn’t grow while in our comfort zone. Growth involves something new or different. These things cannot be found, or rather discovered and experienced, when we are only engaged in activities that are familiar and safe.
This isn’t to say that we don’t receive something valuable by being in the comfort zone. The comfort zone is the place to recharge. In fact, it’s where we sleep. Without comfort we would be constantly expending more energy and be more alert. The body and mind need a break. You also just may enjoy being in familiar safe places. I know I do!
When we are recharged and full of the joy of the comfort zone yet remain in the comfort zone, we may experience boredom, restlessness, or agitation. This is a sign that it’s time to move, to do something, to shake things up.
I remember having exactly that feeling of agitation once and I chose to sit with it for a while and give it some attention. After some minutes I realized it was a creative energy in me that was wanting to express itself. So I picked up my fiddle and began playing… yet I played the same old tunes I always played; I felt bored. I listened to that feeling as a guide and began to putz around making random notes or sounds that I enjoyed until something began to happen… the notes began to sound like something and I felt an inspiration and surge of energy. The next 30-40 minutes I frantically played out this energy in different forms until a waltz emerged. The waltz had a distinctly middle eastern sound to it and so I dedicated it to my Egyptian friend’s wedding that was coming up in a month. I was amazed at this process!
Creativity is one thing that may come out of this zone as described in my previous paragraph, but we’re interested in growth for the sake of the work we do in Authentic Montreal. Growth also comes out of this zone.
The zone was called the “arousal zone” by Yerkes and Dodson. In this zone there is a heightened state of alertness which gives one the ability to notice subtle things that may otherwise slip by, the courage and energy to try things that may otherwise be too scary or difficult.
At Games Night we provide activities to help you be in that state. But ultimately it is your choice to enter it. When we ask you to complete a sentence stem, for example, like “in this moment I feel ____” you may answer “fine”, which is likely in your comfort zone. You may also answer “afraid of what everyone is thinking of me” or “sad that my partner broke up with me yesterday” or something else.
I do want to emphasize here that whatever you choose is not good or bad. You may very well need a break and recharge in the comfort zone, so a simple less revealing answer like “fine” is… well… fine. We have an agreement to “honor other” where we will accept you and not shame you if you give such an answer. Though sometimes the facilitator may ask for more detail in the spirit of encouraging you and welcoming more vulnerability.
What you may find in this zone is comfort and a met need of being seen when you dare to express vulnerably your feelings, desires, and other things. What you may find is an unfamiliar way of being actually suits you and brings aliveness.
Though spending time in the growth zone may bring aliveness, it may also wear you out. Many people feel drained at the end of a Games Night. This is also neither good nor bad. Don’t take it as a sign of doing something right or wrong. Whether you feel energized or drained after a Games Night, take that as a sign that _something_ happened and with some awareness and repetition this something may result in growth.
As I mentioned earlier, we try to construct the Games Night to help you enter the growth zone… and stay out of the danger zone. Just like the growth zone requires you to make choices to enter it, the danger zone requires you to make choices, sometimes hard choices, to avoid it.
This zone is characterized by panic, freezing, overwhelming fear or anxiety, strong emotions like rage, or high adrenaline. It’s a real sense that there is real danger. Though there is no physical danger at Games Night, the emotional danger can be real.
We ask that you listen to your intuition about where your growth zone ends and your danger zone begins. This listening is encompassed in our agreement “honor self”. You cannot know for sure where the boundary is at all times, so part of the learning that happens is about the location of the boundary between the growth zone and danger zone.
When the feelings of panic, freezing, etc. arise marking the entrance to the danger zone, our ability to learn and grow shuts down. Our ability to perceive narrows and more subtle things escape our awareness. In fact, really obvious things can escape our awareness as we focus in on some very specific things. Our body says “we’re in danger! focus on the danger!” Whatever that danger is will be the only thing we see until it is removed or disarmed or we remove our self from it.
Approach Games Night however you want. Please don’t feel pressured to do anything. If you’re feeling bored though… consider trying something a little scary. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or panicky… consider playing it safe or stepping out to take a break.
My hope for you is to feel engaged and alive. A little anxiety or fear won’t hurt… it may even help growth. I’ll let you decide how much is too much and we’ll honor you! May you grow and thrive.