What road are you on?

balance, breathe, connection, growth mindset -

What road are you on?

In an episode of Seinfeld, the eccentric founder of Kramerica, known as Kramer, adopts a mile of highway outside NYC. With his typical unbridled enthusiasm, he sets out to enhance his mile, including widening the road to offer drivers a more luxurious escape into Upstate New York.

Who wouldn't want a bit more spaciousness?

A few years after Kramer's unique take on transportation innovation, Dr. Dan Siegel introduced the term 'Window of Tolerance' in his book, 'The Developing Mind.' He discusses the range of emotional intensities that we experience in life. Similar to Kramer, he suggests, and I'm paraphrasing, that a more expansive window can make our journey through life more enjoyable.

Life has always been uncertain and unstable. However, today, it feels distinctly different, partly due to the rapid pace of tech advances. This is why it can feel like we are in a hyper-to-hypo-arousal roundabout. 

What Dr. Siegel calls the 'Zone of Arousal,' I prefer to refer to as our 'Performance Zone.' Driving through our Performance Zone, we are alert, calm, responsive, and better equipped to handle the unexpected, like avoiding a suddenly bounding deer. In this zone, there is also space for what we consider to be outside our comfort zone, where we can learn to be comfortable with uncomfortable tension. 

Now, occasionally, we might need to swerve to avoid a road hazard or two, temporarily shooting us into the hypo or hyper-arousal shoulders of the road. But usually, we can navigate safely back to the smoothness of our Performance Zone.

However, given everything happening today, it's common to experience chronic stress. It's like we are trapped driving on the shoulder, which is no fun for anyone. 

Now, here's the awesome sauce: Although we don't choose our initial Performance Zone width at birth, we can actively work to expand it and become more resilient amid today's chaos.

Imagine how much better your drive would be if your road were wider.

Now, back to our friend Kramer. It didn't work well when he tried to widen his adopted stretch because, well, he's Kramer. Unlike his well-intended attempt, you have the wisdom and capability to succeed.

Here are a few things we can all consider to help widen our zones: a mindfulness practice like 'Pause, Breathe, Reflect,' engaging in therapy, or physical activities that generate some heat. You can also consider a safely-minded cold plunge, eating with a whole-foods, plant-based approach, and enhancing your relationship with nature.

When you find yourself driving on the hyper-arousal shoulder, try mindful meditation or calming breathwork patterns, journaling, yoga, being in a peaceful community, or even using a weighted blanket.

If you're navigating the opposite shoulder of hypo-arousal, consider a body scan meditation, an invigorating breathwork pattern, dancing like nobody is watching, reigniting your brain with puzzles, or being with someone who cares for you.

As leaders, and we are all leaders, we are responsible for creating environments that help us widen our Performance Zones. Divisive acts that seek to separate us will narrow our road, create a traffic jam, or leave us broken down on the side of the road. 

However, we can take a different route and make the journey pleasurable for all of us, not just some of us. We can call it 'The Ripple Highway,' which I hope all of us can adopt.