QUOTIDIAN SERENDIPITY: The Big Bang Theory and the Comfort Zone Paradigm

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The other day I was watching The Big Bang Theory –a re-run. Penny and Sheldon were fighting and taking revenge on each other. He would use her careless attitude against her, while Penny would use Sheldon’s over planned routine to counter attack. It was funny to realize that they represent two types of people in this world: the ones that go with the flow and the ones that live and die in their comfort zone. In the show, Penny has more fun, but Sheldon seems to be more in control of his life. Not in vain, and according to the experts, the comfort zone (the space where activities fit a routine and have a pattern), provides a state of mental security and reduces stress. Now, back to the show, Sheldon has a very restricted comfort zone, hence, he controls what happens in his life, while Penny has no comfort zone whatsoever, but she has lots of fun. So, in a way, it’s clear that Sheldon is clever, but isn’t Penny smarter for having a wider, less strict comfort zone?

Encouraged by this dilemma and my fear that I would be too much of a Sheldon, I started a very non-scientific experiment in which I listen to every spontaneous and (why not) stupid idea I have. These days, I push myself in all directions and I try to go with the flow. From a philosophical perspective, I know what I like and what I am good at, but I was once unaware of those skills and preferences. So how can I know something will be uncomfortable if I never try it? At the same time, and from a practical approach, stepping out of the comfort zone can prepare you for future events and trigger productivity. In fact, in 1908, psychologists Yerkes and Dodson showed that a higher performance is achieved in a state of Optimal Anxiety, after stepping right out the limits of what is comfortable. So, in a way, being more like Penny is actually not that dumb.

Regardless of whether you are a chaos junkie (Penny style) or a Sheldon-like-comfort-zone- lover, you probably agree that sometimes you have to take snap decisions. Even a control freak like me have had moments of total spontaneity. You have probably experienced a moment of unreasonable behavior, too. If not, trust me: you will. But it turns out that if, on the contrary, you are a YOLO person, at some point you will feel the need to relax and go back to what feels comfortable, according to the experts. Considering it all, you actually cannot just pick a side. But lucky for us, life is not scripted and you can choose to be as Penny-like or as Sheldon-like as you please, depending on your mood. Because my experiment was about being more out there –and because being in your comfort zone do not need much instruction- here are the experts’ tips to embrace your self-spontaneous chaos lover:

  • Think of the benefits
    Doing new, spontaneous things in purpose can help you cope more easily with unexpected situations. As some say, practice makes the master!
  • Do everyday activities in a different manner
    Do whatever you do, with a twist. Cook something you always cook, with a different ingredient. Try a new sport. Start small. Experts suggest a mere change of perspective can make your daily activities more interesting and, with time, your comfort zone, wider.
  • Trust your instincts
    Listen to your inner voice. According to a study by Canada’s University of Alberta, when it comes to predicting good outcomes, your unconscious mind is smarter than you think. So next time you find you debating with yourself about a crazy idea, go Nike style, and «Just to it».

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