Breaking new ground

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Breaking new ground threatens existing structures, but can add to the richness of life.  Photo by Andrew Buchanan on Unsplash

It’s not a comfortable thing for most people, to break new ground.  That is why we call it ‘getting out of your comfort zone’.  Unless your comfort zone happens to be exploration, the task of challenging social norms and expectations is difficult to achieve.

COMFORT ZONES

Why do we talk about comfort zones?  Well, we are organic beings, and organic beings function (via evolution) on the basis of preserving some kind of semblance of repeated order.  Predictability is the basis for much cultural and social development, and biologically, too, a system can only develop if similar things happen under similar circumstances.  So, in your social sphere and in your bodily sphere, you thrive on repeated actions, and become nervous when unusual things happen.

WHY BREAK NEW GROUND

However, there is a place for breaking new ground.  Even in the most predictable of herds, there are one or two members who have an increased tendency to explore, or to differ from their peers.  Like the crust on a loaf, these people benefit the loaf, but if the whole loaf was that way, it would not really be viable.  In plain English, we need pioneers, though we need not all be pioneers.

Major advantages of ground-breakers, through history, have been:

  • a greater capacity to come up with inventions, such as ways to improve our bodily health, and ways to make living more efficient
  • a richness of perception in terms of works of art, whether they be working with sight, sound, words, or all three
THE SACRIFICES THAT HAVE TO BE MADE

To break new ground, there are a few characteristics that help:

  1. A firm belief or hope in a new way of doing things
  2. An ability to perform research, and turn it into working models
  3. An ability to work in different media, and to communicate to peers and others
  4. An independent streak, and a freedom from current social norms
This means that sacrifices have to be made.  Comfort may have to be sacrificed in the name of doing things differently.  Time may have to be sacrificed, because research and the generation of working models can take huge amounts of time.  Friendships may have to be sacrificed, if friends’ value systems are not sufficiently flexible.  And social networks may have to be sacrificed, because many of them rely on norms, and hate divergence.

AN EXERCISE

Reflect on whether you would like to be a ground breaker, and if so, in what area of your life.

Is there something you feel should exist in the world, but doesn’t yet – an invention or a work of art?  What do you want to create that doesn’t exist yet?

Ask yourself:

  1. Where is my motivation, my hope, my belief?
  2. What are my unique technical abilities, and how can I maximise them?
  3. What media am I happiest working in, and where is my expert network?
  4. Am I prepared to challenge the status quo?
If you have something to bring, something that motivates you, and something that you feel capable of, then why not have a go?

Equally, if none of this appeals to you, then relax and wait.  Everyone doesn’t have to be a pioneer.

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SUMMARY

It can be uncomfortable to break new ground in your life.  This is because we are built to preserve the status quo, and not to break it.

However, were it not for pioneers, new inventions, and new art, would not happen.  We need people with the motivation to challenge norms, to research diligently and passionately, to communicate what they have found, and not to be afraid of standing out from the herd.

If you have always wanted to contribute something new, what is stopping you?  One day, if you want to, I hope you bring something new to yourself and those around you, something that enriches life.

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