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Are You A "Comfort Zone Addict"?

A wise person once said that, "Great things never come from comfort zones."

Inspiration

Back when I used to write for the major paper here in Nashville, a rule of thumb when it came to sourcing was Wikipedia was an absolute no-no. There are a billion reasons why, but when it comes to what a clear and concise definition of comfort zone is, I think it breaks it all down pretty well. According to Wikipedia, a comfort zone is "a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment". On the surface, that sounds pretty good right? What's wrong with wanting to be in familiar surroundings that put you at ease and make you feel like you are in control? Nothing. To a point.

Stuff starts to get weird and unhealthy when what's familiar—whether it's a person, place, thing or idea—is no longer serving you, when "being at ease" is synonymous with being stagnant and, you're so in control that you won't allow life to teach you anything or introduce you to something new. When your world gets to this point and place, you are well on your way to becoming a comfort zone addict—someone who habitually remains in a space that keeps them from flourishing and thriving.

And that's what we're going to explore today; eight signs that you very well could be addicted to your comfort zone and why you should go cold turkey and stop if you are. A wise person once said that, "Great things never come from comfort zones." When it comes to living one's best life, I would definitely have to agree. Are you ready to know for sure if you are too comfortable in your comfort zone?

Your Daily Routine Resembles a Hamster Wheel

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Don't get me wrong. A lot of people could stand to have more of a daily routine because the benefits of doing so are endless. Daily routines can help to keep you organized. Daily routines can help you to manage your time better. Daily routines can hold you accountable to getting things done. Daily routines are necessary; very much so.

But as I share, as often as I can, Aristotle once said, "The excess of a virtue is a vice." In other words, anything that lacks balance can end up being totally unhealthy—or, at the very least, counterproductive—for us. When it comes to daily routines, if they are so rigid and regimented that you don't leave room for trying something new or even taking time off when your mind or body says that you need it, well, you could find yourself being more busy than productive.

Remember, the hamster spends a lot of time running around in that wheel. At the same time, at the end of the day, he's not really getting anywhere. Moral to the story is, if your daily routine doesn't ultimately help you to make great progress, you need to switch things up because it's actually working more against than for you than you think.

Risk Is the Ultimate Four-Letter Cuss Word to You

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Some people hate to take risks. To a certain extent, I can see why. One definition of risk is "exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance" and who wants to be here doing stuff that is considered dangerous? However, another definition is "to venture upon; take or run the chance of" and yes, that is always worth, at least the consideration of doing. The key is to do your best to take risks that are wise and will serve you well.

How can you know for sure what those are? Ironically, that's where the risky part comes in. But what I will say is prayer, meditation, common sense and creating short- and long-term goals can help immensely. For instance, when I decided, 20 years ago this year, to write full-time, believe me when I say that it was quite the risk; especially financially. But before I did it, I spent time making connections, building up a portfolio, creating a personal mission statement (so I could be clear on what niche I would serve best in) and I disciplined myself to write daily (to the point now that sometimes I am able to pen 10,000-15,000 words on a daily basis, if needed). I didn't just up and decide "I'm a writer" and throw all caution to the wind; I prepared to become one. No one said that taking risks don't come without preparation. Only foolish people believe otherwise.

Best-selling author, Paulo Coelho once said, "If it's still on your mind, it's worth taking the risk." From an overall standpoint, I agree because, if something won't seem to let you go, that means it is something that is unresolved (and needs to be addressed) on some level in your life. Just make sure that you take some time out to process why it weighs so heavily on your mind. For example, if your ex keeps taking up space in your head and heart and he mistreated you, I wouldn't say that you should "take a risk" and try and get back with him. What you might want to do, though, is "take a risk" and see a therapist, counselor or relationship coach (even if it makes you uncomfortable, at first) or, take a risk and date someone who isn't your "typical type" (check out "Should You Consider Dating Someone You're Not Attracted To?").

Some people treat the word "risk" like it's the ultimate cuss word because they automatically think if something makes them uncomfortable, they shouldn't do it. The bigger focus should be if the risk is going to result in self-harm in some way. A lot of things that make us uneasy won't kill us; they will simply encourage us to step out from our usual norm. That's exactly what a "wise risk" does and that's almost always a good thing.

You Think Peace Means Always Being Comfortable

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Let's touch on that uncomfortable thing a bit more. I know some people who are always complaining about how unfulfilled they are, but still, they won't make any real changes in their life. When I inquire why, some of them say that even though they aren't exactly "thrilled" every day with how their life is going, things are peaceful, so why should they rock the boat? Listen, silence is one thing. Peaceful is something else. If you've read enough of my articles on the site, you know that I totally adore the Hebrew language (because it's the original language of the Bible) and the Hebrew word for peace is "shalom". Shalom ultimately breaks down into being whole and complete (among a few other things).

Keeping that in mind, say that you're currently working at a job that pays you well. Problem is, it doesn't really challenge you, there's no room for promotion, and you don't feel like your strengths are being utilized. Sure, your bills are getting paid on time (and that's certainly a valid point), but that doesn't change the fact that you almost feel like a dead woman walking on a daily basis. Sis, that's not peace. If where you spend 6-10 hours of your time each day isn't helping to make you feel more whole and at peace with your life, you are actually in a state of anti-peace. It's time to do something different. Sooner than later, too.

If It’s Not Already Been Done Before, You Talk Yourself Out of Doing It

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Let's bring Scripture into this conversation for just a moment, shall we? If you look at Genesis 1:1(NKJV), the Bible says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Our first introduction to God is Him being a creator. To create is "to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes". When you read that, what's the word that immediately jumped out at you? For me, it was "unique". To create is to do something that is unique. Something that is truly unique is something that exists only as one, something that is totally incomparable and, something that is unusual.

I dig creatives. Not just people who profess they are one, but those whose life stories and inventions reveal that they truly are creative beings. They're the ones who didn't feel like they needed to follow a blueprint or do what someone else has already done in order to make things happen. They are the individuals who come up with an idea or concept that has people looking at them like, "Ninja, are you crazy?!" A risk-taker responds to that question with a grin and an up-and-down head nod. A comfort zone addict takes that as I sign that they shouldn't step out. To them, if other people don't "get it", it shouldn't be done.

If you tend to fall into Category B more than you'd care to admit, here's something to keep in mind.

The ideas that come to your mind that you can't really compare to something else, 8 times out of 10, those are the ones that you should consider to be the truly creative ones. And since your Creator does unique things (like creating you, for example), it is actually an act of honor and worship to God to give it a shot. Just think if the Spirit rethought making you because you hadn't already existed before. Just think about how much the world would've missed out because of it. Create, sis. If you don't do anything else in this life, make sure that you do that!

You Don’t Fully Utilize Your Gifts and Talents

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Listen, anything you're doing (on the professional tip) that is not encouraging you to make the absolute most of your God-given gifts and talents is wasting your time. Wasting? Yes, because waste means "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return". The happiest and most self-satisfied people I know aren't the wealthiest. They are the ones who get to get up, each and every day, and do what they love—what they are good at, what makes them feel like they aren't even really working (minus the required self-discipline, of course).

By no means am I saying that if you realize you aren't using your gifts and talents that you should quit your job today (you also can't use them if you don't have a place to live after getting evicted for not paying your bills). What I am saying is that, at the very least, you should ponder over what you can do that will help you to tap more into the things that you were naturally born with. A lot of people don't realize that comfort can be a real waste. Please don't be one of them.

Even If You’ve Got a Bucket List, Nothing Is Checked Off on It

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It's my humble opinion that everyone, even kids, should have a bucket list. They help to give our life (more) meaning and direction. They hold us accountable to have fun and try out new things. They are a great way to create wonderful memories. They are one way to set short- and long-term goals. They teach us things about ourselves, others and the world around us as a whole. They also help to make sure that we aren't stagnant; that we keep moving forward.

I once read a study that stated 95 percent of people have bucket lists. It also said that 66 percent said they intended to check one thing off a year. A year? With some of my clients, every time their birthday rolls around, we jot down their age and then come up with as many things as their age is to do before their next birthday rolls around. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. One way to make life feel bigger and even better is to create a bucket list and commit to knocking at least 10 things off of it on an annual basis (because who said that you can't edit or add to your list as time moves on?).

You Are Mad Impatient

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An author by the name of Laura Teresa Marquez provided some great fortune-cookie-and-beyond insight when she said, "When we get impatient because something is taking too long, we should remember that Life waits on us a thousand times more than we wait on." To me, this means that life is waiting on us to line up with the plans that it already has for us than we're waiting on life to reveal them. This quote definitely came to mind while I re-watched KevOnStage's documentary, A Calculated Risk. This youth pastor-turned-comedian-turned-9-to-5 person-turned-self-made man has quite a wonderful yet super-sacrificial story about how he took risks in order to live out his dreams. If you know anything about Kev, you can vouch for the fact that while he's not an overnight success, years later (not 2-3 either; several) stuff is really starting to pay off—BIG TIME.

A lot of people who are comfort zone addicts, they've already got all that they need to thrive in their own lane too. But if they don't see things that they attempt manifest in one year or less, they tend to quit. Unlike with Kev's journey, what that ends up doing them is costing them—BIG TIME. Stepping outside of one's comfort zone requires waiting, delays and disappointments. Your being willing to push through all of that for the greater goal is what will make it well worth your while. It's what some of the best success stories are made up of as well.

You’re Bored. Most of the Time.

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"Bored" is a great word. The reason why I say that is because it's got a ton of different meanings, and all of them can alert you to whether or not you're living your life as "BIG" as you should be.

What are some clear indications that you are currently bored with the way your life is going (or not going)? You complain a lot. You always need somebody or something to keep you entertained. You tend to have many vices. You rarely feel inspired to get out of bed in the mornings. You wrestle with the green-eyed monster (envy). You're irrationally competitive with other people. You're critical—including super self-critical. I could go on and on, chile, but it all basically boils down to being weary with your life…because you're existing more than you're actually LIVING it.

Author Charles F. Glassman once said, "Even the smallest changes in our daily routine can create incredible ripple effects that expand our vision of what is possible." If you just read all of this and recognized that you are way more stuck in your comfort zone than you ever thought, the good news is that today you can make some real and significant changes. Try something new. Plan to do something that will help your strengths to shine through. Stop ignoring that voice in your head that keeps telling you to make that phone call, send that email or start that company.

Comfort zones may be comfortable but don't confuse it with stagnation. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest. And that oftentimes requires breaking totally out of your comfort zone(s).

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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