One of the defining features of military life is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. At times it seems as if decisions are being made and orders given for the sole purpose of increasing discomfort and making things more unpleasant. The reality however, is that being constantly pushed beyond our comfort zones and having to deal with pain, fatigue, fear and loss of control was exactly what tempered our capacity to achieve beyond perceived limitations.
These lessons are not easily forgotten. In every situation we continued to seek opportunities to push ourselves, to challenge ourselves. Because it is through challenge that we grow. And if we begin to forget those lessons, to remind ourselves, we remember our heritage.
Serving in the military, you became very familiar with operating in two distinct zones. The ‘green zone’ is safe and secure. In this zone everything runs smoothly and there are no issues. A relaxed place where you practice and prepare for active duty.
But when you deploy, you do so in the red zone.
Operating in the red zone is different. You are alert, aware that this is where your opponents also operate. A place of consequence where your actions can get you hurt, or killed. The red zone is where you execute and challenge yourself. Where you put all of your practice and preparation to the test, and find out if you measure up.
Civilian life is, by any measure, vastly different. Most people here seem to live eternally in the green zone. It is a comfortable existence, working in a predictable, familiar environment. But how much does it challenge you? When was the last time you did something that truly scared you? That you took a risk and operated in the red zone?
The red zone doesn’t always mean being involved in trench clearing operations, defusing IED’s or breaking down doors. The red zone is the place you operate in when you are confronted by something which scares you, hurts you or attempts to incapacitate you emotionally, physically or socially. A good operator will have prepared for this through ongoing training and continued exposure to the red zone. To get comfortable with the pain in order to get used to it. So when you train, or practice, or prepare for life, you need to be working in a zone which on some level makes you uncomfortable. For it is only through challenge that you grow.
When you are in the red zone, pushing your limits and going to exhaustion, you are learning that being uncomfortable is transient. But it tempers you, and makes you stronger and more resilient. So that the next time you can go a little bit further, then a little bit further again. The red zone remains a place of challenge, but it is a place where the challenge is something to be overcome, not an insurmountable obstacle.
In the next blog, we discuss what a life lived in the red zone looks like. In the meantime, take some time to reflect and ask yourself, when did you last operate in the red zone? And what’s holding you back?