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The bus driver told me in broken english to sit back down because the police were coming for me. This had to be a misunderstanding. I was on a night bus in Portugal when I noticed my ipad missing from my seat. Maybe it fell down the side and slid to the back of the bus? While the bus was moving, I got up and looked chair to chair hoping to locate it before everyone got off at the final stop.
Long story short, I never got it back, someone had clearly stolen it, and the police decided not to charge me for disobeying the drivers orders and standing up while the bus was moving. I was frantic. I just lost my ipad with all my vacation plans on it, pictures of my late father and many business documents. It was my fault. I’d lost concentration momentarily on the bus and someone took advantage of that. I didn’t know how to react. I hadn’t and don’t make careless mistakes (or so I thought). So my reaction was pretty bad.
My father passed away unexpectedly mere weeks before, it was midnight in a town I’d never been in, and this inconvenience was not scheduled within my 6 month trip around the world. So I broke down crying, as a grown man at a bus stop. Not for the ipad, but for the slap in the face life had given me.
What this lesson taught me is that we have it too good. I had it too good for too long, and as such, my mental bandwidth had shrunk.
Our day to day is filled with activities and emotions that are quite confined. That’s why we call it the grind, monotony, or the rat race. Up to 95% of what we do is habit based, meaning we tend to repeat the same stuff over and over, even if (like me) it’s in a different place.
What does your day look like? You get up, make breakfast, go to work, come home, make dinner, and go to sleep. Your day might have its own challenges with a bus running late, or your boss busting your balls, but you get to go to sleep safe at home at the end of it.
Everything that occurs from waking up to sleeping is pretty much standard, bland almost. How much variability can there truly be? Your life exists within a certain bandwidth of emotions and mental states.
That’s why the theft caught me so off guard. It had been too long since I had been shaken up and exposed to the realities of the world. There are people out there more desperate than me who will steal to get ahead. This is why expanding your mental bandwidth is so important.
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” – Steve Jobs
Your every day will include many instances of contact with people. Within that exist certain societal structures that allow you to get things done. There are policies and protocols at work, which ensure that most people are polite and professional in the workplace. No-one wants to get sued or fired. We stay within that range.
We are mostly on autopilot in developed countries, where taxis run by a legitimate meter, and public transport is mostly safe and relatively on time. It’s not a hassle to get around logistically, and it’s rare that you’ll be robbed or ripped off. Supermarkets have everything we could possibly ever need and are sometimes open 24 hours. Many even deliver to your door.
In the first world, our challenges are more benign. In terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, we’re at the top. Pushing for the stuff that gives us fulfillment. When travelling through less developed countries, you see the opposite.
People do things just to survive. Kids leave school at 14 to drive covered rickshaws around angkor wat, so that you can get from temple to temple without getting too sunburnt. As such, it’s easy for us to become complacent, float through life, and not have to think too hard about fending for ourselves.
Our emotional responses to things only fit between a certain range, and it takes something pretty drastic to shake that up. Do you remember in school when a bully decided you were his victim that day, week, month, or year? When’s the last time you were harshly rejected for a job you really wanted or for a love interest you really liked? It’s these types of emotions we need to get back, but in a positive way.
Losing my ipad wasn’t so much about being stolen from, but more so around my mental state being radically altered. It was the realisation that more of life existed outside my normal bandwidth. It had been challenged and changed, with a clear before and after.
It all comes down to personal resilience. How do we deal with things outside our normal range? We need to seek out challenges that put us in similar situations. You’re familiar with your job and competent at your hobbies. Try and think of the last time you tried something new, that really put you out of your comfort zone, when you started from the bottom.
I joined a kickboxing gym, and despite working up to it over weeks, sparring with an experienced fighter scared me to death. But you know what, I’m still here.
No-one can predict losing a loved one, being stolen from, losing your job, getting in a fight, crashing your car or any one of the many events that can shake up our life. So, in the meantime, we need to look at what and how we are truly challenged, and only then can we expand our bandwidth. This will help us grow and prepare us for when the unfortunate does come our way.
“Most everything that you want is just outside your comfort zone.” – Jack Canfield
Do an honest audit of your life. Write down 3 activities that scare you. Then go do them. This video shows how much benefit Jesse Itzer got from motivational figure David Goggins when they spent a month together.
What Jesse gained was being pushed outside of his comfort zone. While we can’t all get a navy seal to live with us and coach us for a month, we can be our own coach.
For your 5 activities, utilise SMART planning to ensure that you can achieve your goals. Think of it like a project and break it down into manageable chunks you can work towards on a daily or weekly basis. If it’s to go skydiving solo, get in contact with sky diving schools, commit and buy your first 3 lessons. That way, the money commitment will keep you incentivised to attend your sessions.
Book them in your diary and inform some friends or family, so that there’s a level of accountability. Repeat for your other activities. Eventually life will test your mental bandwidth or you can choose to tackle it head on. Don’t be the adult crying at a bus stop over an ipad. Grow your bandwidth on your own terms.
What’s the last thing you did that took you out of your comfort zone? Share your experience below!