How I grew my comfort zone

How I grew my comfort zone

A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there

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How I grew my comfort zone

Some years ago my contract was not renewed due to lack of funding. I was terrified for the future, as I was three months pregnant and the only one with an income in our couple. As I was mourning the job lost, I remember someone telling me, “What if you get a new job that is even better? What if it gets better?” That sounded crazy at the time, but it was true. It did get better. Looking back on my life and career so far, I realize I have often pushed myself to change and to expand my skill set. I have literally worked in five countries for long periods of time, I have learned many new languages and consider myself fluent in six, and I have learned new skills by working in sectors I was not necessarily familiar with. Sometimes events force you out of your comfort zone and sometimes you take our own steps to push back the boundaries of your comfort zone. So what have I learned about comfort zones and change? Below are some thoughts to fuel your actions.

1.      A comfort zone is comfortable – why change?

There is nothing wrong with a little comfort in life. A comfort zone – there is a reason we call it that. It indicates things, people, patterns that are familiar. It is a physical or social environment and set of habits that make you feel safe and give you confidence. This is all great stuff. So why do you find this quote “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there” when you Google “comfort zone”? If your comfort zone stays unchanged, complacency, routine, even rut may set in. Creativity, innovation, and transformation do not happen in comfort zones. You need to try new things, fail, learn and try again and go further to create, innovate, and transform the world around you. If you want to achieve different results, you need to try new things.

2.      Should I step out of my comfort zone or grow it?

This is a question I have been debating in my head. I think stepping out of your comfort zone and growing it are closely intertwined. You step out unto unfamiliar territory, but with time you become comfortable there. I remember the first time I set foot in Africa at the age of 19 during an exchange visit as a student, I was pretty scared and fired up at the same time. Now having visited and resided in many countries in Africa for several years, I feel very comfortable traveling and residing abroad. There is something else that I really love and only found out by learning other languages – your personality and sense of humor can be quite different in different languages. I would never have guessed… Growing your comfort zone, is growing your level of confidence and discovering new talents. It is about getting comfortable in situations that would previously have stressed you out – making you open to see the beauty and the opportunities around you.

3.      Conquering fear sets you on a path to learning

Getting past fear, puts us on a path to learning. My son has been so happy the past two weeks and so many good things have happened to him because of his positive state of mind. When I asked him how he feels things are going, he relates everything back to one event. Two weeks ago he was struggling with something. Together we went to see his teacher about it. The latter was really supportive. Afterwards my son felt like a winner: he had conquered his fear. We need to conquer the sometimes irrational fears and the discomfort that we get from change to experience the pleasure that follows. It is like getting out of a comfortable bed to do great things; like getting past the initial cold sensation, when stepping into a swimming pool. It is like overcoming the initial shyness when stepping out onto a stage. It is like the fear I am experiencing now, writing this article and wondering whether you will like it.

4.      Are you ready to fail and to learn?

There is an African proverb, “To get lost is to learn the way”. Why do we get greatness by growing or stepping out of our comfort zones? Because we learn. We learn by failing at something and trying it over and over until we stumble on something great. We learn by adapting to difficult, unexpected circumstances. We learn to look at things from different angles. Having worked in education and particularly in vocational training, the trend is to promote competency-based training and assessment. It is about learning by doing, because you cannot master any skill without getting your feet wet.

As I am wrapping up this article, I look up and contemplate a black kite in the skies above. It is majestically gliding on the winds, it is soaring and free. And I wonder if a comfort zone is a cage we make for ourselves in our own heads, like a set of boundaries we give ourselves as an excuse for inaction. And I recall this Kirundi proverb A bird that does not fly, does not know where the seeds are bountiful. So are you ready to spread your wings and fly? Now is as good a time as any to venture out of your comfort zone and into the magic that lies beyond!

All the best.



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