Push Your Boundaries: The Context
In this article, a definitive look at what philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and scientists throughout history have thought regarding the importance of and how to expand your horizons by pushing yourself and leaving your comfort zone.
Modern Philosophy, Psychology, & Science
Modern science and psychology recognize the importance of personal growth and development in achieving well-being and a fulfilling life. Research in positive psychology, for example, emphasizes the importance of setting and achieving personal goals, cultivating positive relationships, and finding meaning and purpose in life. Additionally, the concept of "flow" describes a state of being fully engaged and absorbed in an activity, which can lead to increased well-being and personal growth.
Modern philosophy, particularly existentialism, emphasizes the importance of personal freedom and individual responsibility in creating one's own meaning and purpose in life. It encourages individuals to push themselves out of their comfort zones and take risks as a means to develop their potential and achieve personal fulfillment. As Jean-Paul Sartre stated, "Man is condemned to be free." (Existentialism is a Humanism)
Axial Philosophies Overall
The Axial Philosophies, which emerged during the first millennium BCE, emphasized the importance of self-transformation and personal growth through introspection and self-reflection. They encouraged individuals to expand their horizons by pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and embracing challenges and new experiences as a means to live life to its fullest potential. As Confucius stated, "The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones." (The Analects 2.4)
Confucianism & Daoism
Confucianism and Daoism were two prominent Axial Philosophies that emphasized the importance of personal growth and transformation. Confucianism stressed the cultivation of moral character and social harmony through self-reflection, education, and ethical behavior, while Daoism focused on achieving harmony with nature and the universe through non-action and spontaneity. Both philosophies emphasized the need to move beyond one's comfort zone and embrace challenges as a means of personal growth. As Confucius stated, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." (The Analects 1.7)
Hinduism & Buddhism
Hinduism teaches the concept of karma, which emphasizes the importance of personal growth and the idea that one's actions determine their future. It encourages individuals to expand their horizons by pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and embracing challenges as a means to develop their character and spiritual growth. As the Bhagavad Gita states, "On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort towards spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear." (Bhagavad Gita 2.40)
Buddhism teaches the concept of the Four Noble Truths, which emphasize the importance of self-transformation and overcoming suffering through the Eightfold Path. It encourages individuals to push themselves out of their comfort zones and embrace challenges as a means to develop wisdom and compassion. While Hinduism emphasizes the importance of actions and karma, Buddhism focuses on the mind and the cultivation of mindfulness and awareness. As the Buddha stated, "All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become." (Dhammapada 1.1)
Traditional Western Philosophy & Stoics
Traditional Western philosophy, particularly the Stoics, emphasized the importance of personal growth and self-transformation through the cultivation of reason and self-discipline. They encouraged individuals to push themselves out of their comfort zones and embrace challenges as a means to develop resilience and wisdom. As Seneca stated, "It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested." (On the Shortness of Life)
Christianity, Judaism, Islam
Christianity teaches the importance of faith and personal growth through the development of a relationship with God. It encourages individuals to push themselves out of their comfort zones and take action in their faith as a means to develop their character and spiritual growth. As the Apostle Paul stated, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
Judaism teaches the importance of personal growth and development through the cultivation of a relationship with God and the practice of mitzvot (commandments). Like Christianity, it encourages individuals to push themselves out of their comfort zones and take action in their faith as a means to develop their character and spiritual growth. However, while Christianity emphasizes the importance of faith, Judaism focuses on the importance of action and the fulfillment of God's commandments. As the Talmud states, "It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it." (Pirkei Avot 2:16)
Similarly, Islam teaches the importance of personal growth and development through the cultivation of a relationship with Allah and the practice of the Five Pillars of Islam. Like Judaism, Islam also emphasizes the importance of action and submission to the will of Allah. While Christianity and Judaism emphasize the importance of faith and action respectively, Islam combines both faith and action as essential components of its teachings. As the Quran states, "Verily, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." (Quran 13:11)
- Confucius. The Analects. Translated by Arthur Waley, Penguin Classics, 1989.
- Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper Perennial, 2008.
- Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. Oxford University Press, 2011. Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers). Translated by William Berkson, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
- Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
- Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism is a Humanism. Translated by Carol Macomber, Yale University Press, 2007.
- Seligman, Martin E. P. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Free Press, 2012.
- Seneca. On the Shortness of Life. Translated by C.D.N. Costa, Penguin Classics, 2004.
- Telushkin, Joseph. Jewish Wisdom: Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers. HarperCollins, 1994.
- The Bhagavad Gita. Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 2007.
- The Dhammapada. Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 2007.
- The Holy Bible, New International Version. Biblica, 2011.
- The Quran. Translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford University Press, 2005.