As I get older, which seems to be happening with increased rapidity these days, I become more and more convinced that what we all truly need is someone to frequently push us out of our safety zone. Such a gadfly (or motivator, depending on your point of view) is necessary, not only for our own personal growth as individuals but for our very survival as a species.
When we are young, pretty much every authority figure serves this purpose. I know I serve this purpose for my children on a daily basis. I am reminded of my role in their lives every time they look at whatever I made for dinner. "What's in this?" my oldest son always asks me with an accusatory look on his face. "Oh, the usual," I say, "raw meat, nitrites, trans fats, gasoline, and thumbtacks. Oh, and a dash of ketchup." And then I make him eat his spinach frittata.
When we grow up and we have no one to force us out of that comfort zone. Sure, we do the minimum amount possible to keep ourselves healthy...usually...but at a certain age, we develop a voice that says, "I don't HAVE to eat that if I don't want to. And no one can make me. Nyeah."
Of course, everybody's comfort zone is different. I once worked with a woman who brought rice cakes and yoghurt for lunch EVERY DAY. She was an avid biker and a consummate health nut (which means that she was healthier than me). We were talking once about Pesach and having to go without grain products for a week. "Oh, I could never do that," she said somewhat dismissively, "I could never deprive myself like that."
I thought, "Oh, yes, you could! You just don't WANT to and there is no one out there to MAKE you."
I am reminded of the commercials I constantly see on T.V. that go something like this:
"After my triple bypass, my doctor told me that I had to cut back on my salt and fat intake. I didn't know if I could do that. I didn't want to sacrifice taste. But then my wife told me about Honey Fiber Crispies." [Man puts handful of sugary looking snack in his mouth and lights up with a huge smile] "I guess this is a sacrifice I'll just have to make."
Whenever I see a commercial like this, I want to jump through the T.V., smack the man in the back of the head with a 2 x 4, and shout, "Listen, you idiot! You are 55, you look about 50 pounds overweight, you probably haven't seen a vegetable that wasn't batter-fried in 2 decades, and you just had a major cardiovascular event. If your doctor tells you to EAT this 2 x 4 that I'm beating you with, you will do it gladly without ever asking for ketchup!"
And then I would keep on beating him with the wooden board for good measure. Just to make my point.
I think I need that voice of "in loco parentis" to constantly push me a little further outside my comfort zone. Sure, I became the president of the Indiana Chapter for the Society for Technical Communication 2 years ago. Sure, I started working out a year ago with Krav Maga (until my doctor made me stop a month ago while my herniated disc heals). Sure, I cut back my caloric intake to record breaking levels...for me. But that was yesterday. What have I done today?
Well, I suppose I could beat myself with a 2x4. Or maybe I could eat the 2x4. But I'm dipping it in ketchup. We all have our limits, you know.