Comfortable at 72 Degrees
The internal thermostat of my car reads 72 degrees.
Often the windows are closed, my radio is on, my iPhone buzzing with text messages. Outside could be blistering hot, raining ice, or flashing past by my window at 100 miles an hour. But it doesn’t affect me.
In my car, at 72 degrees, I am comfortable.
It occurred to me a while ago that that is how many of us manage our lives. Regardless of conditions, we unwittingly seek to maintain a solid 72 degrees. We hit our comfort zone and start humming with satisfaction and before we know it, we are lulled to sleep by our routines, our technology, consumerism, our work, and personal relationships. We live in safe little boxes of experience created by our past and the expectations we have for our future. We wake up to an alarm every day and hit snooze - without even thinking about it. But how long can a community filled of people seeking nothing but their own personal version of 72 degrees, prosper? How long can we sit back and add buffer upon buffer – noise, toys, food, drink, work, vanity – to the exclusion of being present to what, and who is around us? What happens in those moments when we ‘check out’ of our own life? We’ve been conditioned to think our presence doesn’t matter. So what if we don’t vote this time? So what if we don’t recycle this time? So what if we miss dinner or the kids’ game this time? But this time is the time that matters. Every great event is precipitated by a chain of smaller episodes whose importance is absolute. Every choice we make – what we will eat for breakfast, what we spend our money on, what we spend our time doing, how we treat the people around us, and the words we choose, sets off a chain of events that creates our world.
So, what are we creating in our communities? There is no doubt that we have great minds and great potential in this city. But if those minds stay in their own corner, fidgeting with the thermostat to stay comfortable, the future of this city will dry up. This country was founded by visionaries and pioneers and people willing to forsake comfort for the chance to change things. We should add that we have had tangible evidence that being comfortable does not equal being safe. Alarms are going off all the time to wake us up, begging us to realize that what we say and what we do makes a difference. And, dear readers, making a difference might begin with reading the news, but it certainly doesn’t end there. Because the only thing that makes a difference is creative conversation backed by action. Not people waiting for their chance to talk, but real dialogue about what we are willing to contribute or concede for the benefit of the community. Inclusive, transparent conversations with a vision toward creating positive change. Active, committed citizens who can be trusted to act in accordance with their word. This is how a successful culture operates. History remembers charismatic leaders. But without the unified leadership of the people to create a voice for change and the action to sustain it, little progress would be made. In fact, this is how countries, empires, and cities like ours, rise and fall. Successful cultures are not guaranteed survival. They must manage success, growth, and change.
The cultures that survive are ones who pay attention with their intentions. They create goals and act toward them. They have conversations about what is going well, and correct and address breakdowns. There is an understanding of shared commitment on all sides of the table. We need to roll down the windows. What is going on outside our comfy 72 degrees? How is the air we are breathing? What are we putting into our bodies? What are we saying to and teaching our kids? Are we safe? What are we doing at our jobs? What are we contributing to our relationships? What do we bring to the big picture?
Are we choosing our life in this country or are we resigning ourselves to it? It’s time to take our temperature and create a community current of engagement and connectivity, rather than isolated and increasingly separate patches of 72 degrees.