Toffler's Stability Zones
Finding Peace Amid Chaos
How many times have you had "one of those days"?
You know, when it seems as if everything in your life changed overnight? There are new initiatives at work, a new set of procedures to learn, new colleagues to get to know, a new office location to become familiar with. It just goes on!
At the end of one of those days, it's a huge relief to get home! You walk in the door, and suddenly the stress disappears. You're surrounded by the people you love, by all the comforts of your familiar things. Home is your safe place, and when you're there, the stress of work is far away.
The challenges that arise from change are common. Every time we turn around, it seems like technology has changed – and many people feel pressured to keep up with this fast pace. Do you carry your Blackberry everywhere and take working vacations? Instead of relaxing at night, do you use your laptop to catch up even more?
If this sounds like you, you may feel burned out, overworked and overwhelmed. The good news is that you can create personal "Stability Zones" to help you manage the change in your life. Familiar places – like home or a favorite coffee shop – can become much-needed escapes to let your mind and body re-energize and renew themselves.
Alvin Toffler first presented the concept of personal Stability Zones in his 1971 book, "Future Shock." Although the theory was never accepted academically, it's still interesting and relevant to what many of us face today.
Toffler's Stability Zones
Toffler's concept is fairly simple. Stability Zones are places or things that make you feel safe, relaxed, and secure. Think of them as buffers – types of protection or defense – against the outside world. When you're in or with your Stability Zone, you feel safe. It's something safe and familiar, something that doesn't change.
And they're not limited to specific places. They can be things, people, objects, or even ideas:
- People – People Stability Zones offer you a relaxing, restful atmosphere when you're with them. They listen to what you say, and you don't have to try to be a different person when they're around. They have values similar to yours, and they've probably been in your life for a long time. A Person Stability Zone could be a spouse, best friend, parent, or co-worker.
- Ideas – Idea Stability Zones could be anything from religious faith and political ideology to deeply held beliefs or values (such as environmental protection).
- Places – These are very common. Home is one of the most widely used places of refuge, to help someone feel "safe." But a Place Stability Zone can also be larger in scale – like a country – or much smaller in scale – like a specific room.
- Things – These could be favorite possessions – like a well-loved book or family heirloom – or favorite clothes that make you feel good.
- Organizations – A favorite club, professional group, or even your company could be your Stability Zone – any place or group that you identify with and where you feel welcome.
As an employer or leader, understand the importance of Stability Zones for your staff, and encourage your team to use them often. These can be most helpful when a company is going through a major transition, such as a takeover. But they can also help you and your staff handle the day-to-day stresses of the work environment.
If you work in a "hot desking" environment, where others use your desk or workstation when you're not there, it may be hard to have a Place Stability Zone at the office. In this situation, you may want to carry objects with you that create these zones – like photographs – or you may want to rely more on less physical types of Stability Zones – such as people or ideas – to help you manage change.
Identify Your Stability Zones
To determine your personal Stability Zones, start by thinking of two or three options for each type listed above. Then, narrow them down by asking yourself these questions:
- How stable are they? For example, if you listed a co-worker as a Person Stability Zone, are you sure that person will always be there for you? If you listed a favorite coffee shop as a Place Stability Zone, are you confident that it will be there for a while? Remember, you want places, people, and things that aren't going to change as fast as the rest of the world. Think in terms of constancy, dependability, and comfort.
- How many of your Stability Zones can be influenced by you? To what extent are the zones – these people, places, things, and so on – under your control?
- Do you spend enough time nurturing these Stability Zones? You may need to invest time developing and maintaining your Stability Zones, especially with the people in your life. If you don't have the time or desire to invest in these relationships, places, and things, then you might find that, over time, they aren't as comforting and constant as you once thought they might be.
- Will your Stability Zones remain solid and steady over time? The only thing you can ever really count on is change. Yes, you want stable things in your life that won't change quickly – but the fact is that, eventually, things are going to change. One day, you may discover that your home just isn't big enough, or one of your deeply held beliefs isn't the guiding force it used to be. Are the Stability Zones you've chosen able to endure over time?
Create Stability Zones for Your Team
In the workplace, it can be important for people to have Stability Zones. If you're in charge of a team and you think that members of your team are struggling with change, then teach them about Stability Zones, and help them find ways to use them during a difficult day to rest and regain energy.
Help create Stability Zones in your workplace by doing the following:
- Make sure that your team members take reasonable lunch breaks.
- Encourage your team not to spend their nights and weekends working.
- Consider offering workshops on positive thinking, leadership, or delegation.
- Consider offering incentives for your team to participate in physical exercise.
Stress can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, death. While these stress management techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing stress, they are for guidance only, and readers should take the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over stress-related illnesses or if stress is causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.
Our world seems to change faster every day. Managing this change can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. This is why having familiar, safe zones can be so important for your well-being. Stability Zones – people, places, ideas, objects, or organizations – can offer you a feeling of security. They can let your mind rest from the change and stress around you.
If members of your team are struggling with change, then educate them on the importance of Stability Zones, and have a plan to create Stability Zones in the workplace. Doing so may enable your staff to renew their mental energy, and it may give them the ability to cope better with stress and change.
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