As a habitual wanderer, Tim Mousseau has learned a few secrets to personal growth. His biggest lesson—living in repetition & comfort zones breed mediocrity.
I am writing this a week and half through an 18-day journey. My job requires a steady amount of travel and across this time, the actual trips take me everywhere. I boarded a flight this morning at 5:30 am, will speak tonight until around 7 pm, sleep in a hotel, and wake up tomorrow doing it all again. For three weeks this is my life but I love every second of this experience.
Within these moments, across the travel, at the heart of everything I am doing, I am touched by a thought. One I know well and something I have written about before—there is a beauty in life when we step outside our comfort zone.
Make no mistake, I am enamored with my current journey and lifestyle. I operate in a manner where I am beyond fortunate to spend every day in a new location doing passionate work. Where I have established some form of normalcy, really the biggest constant in my life is the cup of coffee (or ten) that acts as the detergent keeping my soul clean and my mind cycled. I am moving and I am growing but I wouldn’t change this life for anything.
At the same time, just because I love something does not mean it is comfortable. There are times where I miss my bed. Sleeping in hotels has a novelty the first night but by the ninth, it wears. The constant flying, while never terrifying, is a process every time to the point that I am an expert at transferring coffee from hand to hand while simultaneously juggling my bags, a java, and my mobile boarding pass. There is a novelty in much of my wandering yet even this novelty can be taxing.
There is nothing comfortable about going to sleep late and waking up early. There is no joy in the frustrations of waiting behind people in security lines (please, if you are flying, know how to prepare for these moments. We are standing in a line for a reason, you can’t be surprised when TSA asks you to perform an action that is a part of this process.) I miss the ability to work out and leave my gym clothes in a separate bag while simultaneously not needing to count down the spare 30 minutes I have open for a run. And the food, well lets just say there are places you eat and places you don’t, which is an ever growing list.
Living on the road provides little comfort.
This lack of comfort is exactly why I love it. It is something we should cultivate in every endeavor of our life; a willingness to operate far outside of our comfort zones, a learning and growth from the stresses that push against us when we have everything but our standard mode of operating surrounding us.
A life lived outside of your comfort zone is well worth living.
Repetition breeds mediocrity. When we do the same things over and over again we fall into the trap of patterns, habits, and routines. There is a degree of life that requires this repetition. We would go insane or be entirely unproductive if we had to think about every step of the process of waking up or constantly plan simple task such as completing basic chores. Where there is a place for routine, allowing ourselves to sit in too much of a cycle means we become recycled. When you repeat everything in your life, mediocrity settles easily.
I have experienced and seen lives, even partaken in and witnessed cycles of living where life loses its luster. We should be cautious of standardizing and sanitizing things so far that life moves automatically. Wake up to work to gym to home to hobby to bed, repeat. Day after day. Even our time off becomes part of a greater routine. The danger is that this doesn’t force us to grow. Sooner than later we might find ourselves saying no at opportunities of trying new things or turning down chances for growth. Cycles are sometimes necessary and always comfortable, but they are often dangerous.
This is why I love my current lifestyle, the non-routine I have established and cultivated. Even when I am in the city where I live, my life is anything but routine. I do not have a 9 to 5 job and am not sure I could ever move back into that process. I enjoy my current areas of travel, my constant wandering and nomadic life. Is it always the most comfortable? No. But it cultivates the most growth for me as a person.
Through my discomfort on the road, I have learned. I have learned more about my priorities when my time is finite, cut by travel and my luxuries even further lessened. I’ve learned about what relationships and friendships mean to me and how I can best maintain these. I’ve buckled down on the type of projects I want to spend my time upon and the importance of different areas of work. I’ve determined much about my personal limitations, desires for self-improvement, and intended areas for growth. Living outside my comfort zone hasn’t just allowed me to learn these things, it has forced me to walk head first into these questions, reaching a place of mutual understanding where I recognize if I don’t ask these questions of myself, I will never be the person I want to become. I am pushed into these areas of thought not always because I want to go there but because I have to go there.
These are the thoughts I possess as I drive rental cars across 12 different states. As I shower in 14 different hotels. As I fly for 18 days in a row. The flights lonely, the passenger side empty, the bed besides me wide open. Yet so are my chances.
I enjoy my life style because it forces me outside of comfort. I am grateful for what this travel has forced upon me. I wish the same on everyone else. We as a people must be intentional in seeking out such opportunities.
It is important that we seek out opportunities and cultivate chances where we can grow. There is a beauty in living far outside your comfort zone. It can be difficult yes, but it is as fulfilling as watching the sun rise on my flight this morning, discovering a local restaurant in Huntsville, TX that had the best piece of coconut creme pie I ever ate, and waking up to the sound of water along the shores by my hotel in Florida. Even more beautiful than these things.
Not everyone need grow in the same manner as me; not everyone need to experience the same lifestyle in becoming the best versions of themselves. Travel is not necessary for us to be forced outside of our comfort zone but forcing ourselves outside of our comfort zones is necessary for growth.