When I was in my forties, I went through a massive ‘self-development’ phase. I would hungrily devour tons of books like Andrew Carnegie’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’, ‘The Giant Within’ and of course, my favourite, ‘The Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod. I thrived on pushing myself outside my comfort zone and was always amazed at the results that followed.
In recent times, I’ve slowed down a little; content in my beautiful cottage pretending to be an author (yes, I still have imposter syndrome). I think lockdown has slowed many of us down, myself included. However, if you don’t use it, you lose it I have discovered!
The Comfort Place
Being cocooned in one’s comfort zone breeds familiarity, safety, and security. It describes the patterned world of our existence which keeps us relatively comfortable and calm. A place that helps us stay emotionally stable, free from anxiety and worry to a great degree. It is a healthy adaptation for a large part of our lives, but then again, so is stepping out of it. It is outside the comfort zone where we can transition, grow, and transform. A place of exciting experiences and opportunities that we may otherwise miss out on
My Boot Up The Derrière
I found myself nervous about signing up for a writing course in Norwich last week, making 101 excuses to my husband why it wouldn’t be a good idea. Norwich is too far to travel from Sheringham, there wouldn’t be parking nearby which would be an issue with my disability, the course may be too advanced, or perhaps I was just too old!. Martin gave me the push I needed and after lots of deliberating, I finally signed up. (I will let you know how it goes in the future).
My complacency was further highlighted to me this week when I bravely registered with Toastmasters (a speaking organisation) and joined my first meeting with them on Zoom last Thursday night. I felt sick all day, planning ways to to get out of speaking in front of everyone and keeping the lighting dark enough to hide my wrinkles and excess weight. Why was I joining you may ask? Because if I want to pursue my plan of getting out in the world to talk about my book and the stigma of mental health, I need to gain experience from those in the know. I had toastmasters recommended to me from a very experienced motivational speaker.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised. My screen was full of about 15 in attendance and no, I wasn’t the oldest there. Everyone was really friendly, putting me at ease. All the comments in the judging were kept focused on the positive and everyone had a role to play. I have to admit it was a bit weird how they addressed the host as ‘Madam Toastmaster’ with the others being called ‘fellow toastmasters’ and myself as ‘most-welcome guest.’ BUT, it was nowhere near as bad as I had been imagining. In fact, it was fun and a little like being a guest on a gameshow.
I surprised myself by entering into the ‘table topics’ game where we were given two minutes to talk individually on a subject thrown at us with no chance to pre-think. This was the very thing I had been terrified of, but found myself rising to the challenge, speaking on ‘why coffee should not be drunk before going to bed’ with ease. I spoke for 1 minute 13 seconds precisely (there is an official Toastmaster timer!), so was a little short of the 2 minutes, but it was a start!
And the winner is ….
I’ll get over my own modesty here and proudly tell you that I was announced the winner of the table topics! The judge seemed impressed with my enthusiasm, I used good hand gestures apparently, and was told that I spoke eloquently. (Either that or they felt sorry for me with it being my first time!)
So, how did it feel afterwards? G R E A T! Because I had done something new, and I enjoyed it. It has now opened a whole world of possibilities for me, going along to their group meetings in Norwich, connecting with new people. Perhaps I may even enter one of their speaking competitions one day.
I believe if we don’t push ourselves out of our comfort zone sometimes, our world starts to shrink. It takes effort though, a bit like relationships do. How easy is it to become complacent with our partners? It takes effort to keep up with that all important ‘date night’ or something else to break the monotony of work, eat and sleep. But equally it takes effort in other areas of our life too; it’s all too easy to accept a boring and comfortable routine, to stop experiencing life to its fullest. The longer we stagnate, the harder it becomes to take that first step.
Motivate to activate
Back to comfort zones. There is an invisible step we must climb to step out of our comfort zone, and it’s labelled ‘motivation’. It’s all to easy to stay in our place of comfort, stick with what we know and settle for mediocracy. But magic really does begin outside of it, and I highly recommend giving it a go. Set yourself up for reward for trying something new… promise yourself something for doing it, even if you fail. Perhaps find yourself someone to cheer you on.
You don’t need to take up skydiving or some other high adrenalin sport to experience the benefits of exiting your comfort zone either. It could be something as simple as picking up the phone and speaking to someone you haven’t called in a while. Maybe putting your name forward to volunteer for something at work that you haven’t done before.
Perhaps it’s time to address those bucket list items you once wrote down. Stop making excuses and putting it off, because before you know it, old age will have crept up on you. Live in the now. Start the ball rolling today and take the steps to do that thing. Find that local dance class and start practicing for ‘Strictly’. Apply for that new job and see if you get an interview. Pick up your running shoes and start practicing for that charity run. Do it before it’s too late!
Dig out that Bucket List!
Stop the excuses!
The key to knowing if something is outside of your comfort zone is this… do you take steps to avoid it? (Think of the anxious person who will go to great lengths to avoid a social event). The social event is outside of their comfort zone, and very thing they should try to face. Do you make excuses such as ‘well I probably would be no good at it anyway’? Or try to convince yourself that you wouldn’t enjoy it, like I did?
The biggest excuse of all time is of course .. TIME! Well, we all have the same 24 hours in a day and the busiest of people manage to find an extra hour for something when they want it badly enough. It’s a matter of prioritising and time management.
If the answer to all the excuses above is yes, then this is something you need to confront first. Remove the excuse and just take that step.
The Rewards are Great!
Benefits can include becoming more creative, learning how to adapt to change more easily and better performance. Some studies show that learning new and demanding life skills, can help us stay mentally sharp as we get older; it helps us to age better!
Variety Is The Spice of Life
So to end, variety is the spice of life as the old adage goes. Is it time to spice your life up a little? Try something new, try something different? Go on, push yourself a little. You will be glad you did. I would love to hear what you have done recently that has pushed you outside of your comfort zone.