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Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone

" Life begins at the end of your comfort zone" – Neale Donald Walsh

The comfort zone is defined as a behavioural space where your activities fit a routine pattern that minimises stress and risk. In our comfort zone, there is a sense of familiarity, security and certainty. When we step outside our comfort zone, we’re taking a risk and opening ourselves up to the possibility of stress, anxiety and failure; we’re not quite sure what will happen and how we’ll react.

Over half-term, I deliberately stepped outside my comfort zone on a couple of occasions.

In my first blog of the year I wrote about New Year’s resolutions and publicly declared that I was going to complete the Blenheim Palace Triathlon. Saturday, 28 May was the day of reckoning!  The 750m open water swim took me well and truly outside my comfort zone. Swimming is something that does not come easily to me. In preparation, I swam regularly, but the preceding Thursday was the first time that I had covered the full distance, and as little as a week before the event I doubted my ability to complete the course. Lining up on the start line I was incredibly nervous and still uncertain that I would be successful. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a couple of moments when I seriously considered rolling on to my back and raising my arms to indicate that I needed help and wished to withdraw.

The second occasion was very different. My father and I spent a day learning to turn a bowl using a traditional pole lathe. Art and DT were my weakest subjects at school. I found them frustrating, I had ideas but lacked the capacity to translate them into reality. 

Both experiences were at times uncomfortable. There were moments of stress and anxiety, and I must admit that although I am glad to have turned a bowl and shared this time with Dad, woodwork is his interest and not mine, and I won’t be rushing to repeat the experience. So why did I voluntarily take on these challenges and step outside my comfort zone? 

Stepping outside our comfort zone has a range of benefits. It provides us with opportunities to grow. You can’t expect to evolve and reach new heights if you only stick to your normal habits and routine lifestyle. Learning new skills and lessons will help throughout your life.

‘A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.’ - Unknown Author

Taking a risk provides an opportunity for us to learn about ourselves and grow as an individual, it teaches you about interests, passions talents, strengths and weaknesses. Bowl turning reminded me that patience is a virtue which continues to require further development! Every time you accomplish something you didn’t think you were capable of, you become more confident knowledgeable and skilled.

Trying something new extends yourself. When you try something new, you may find a new hobby or talent that you didn’t know that you had. I have already signed up for my next triathlon and whilst it would be a stretch to describe swimming as a new talent, evenings spent in the tranquillity of Lenches’ Lake are something I have come to enjoy and plan to continue.

New and challenging situations require you to be creative to reach a solution. Tackling the unknown and proving to yourself that you can push past boundaries and limiting self-beliefs builds your confidence and self-esteem.  Insecurity loves to feed on your habit of not trying. If you stop thinking and start doing, you will realise what is possible.

Knowing you were able to overcome something you thought insurmountable builds your confidence and equips you to face life’s unpredictable challenges head on. Those occasions when we take a risk and attempt something we are uncertain we can achieve, teaches us to persevere, because we realise that the world does not end when we fall short. Simply by trying, we achieve more than had we not, and this experience encourages us to keep trying.

Many of you will be familiar with the film 'Groundhog Day' in which Bill Murray’s character is doomed to spend eternity reliving the same day over and over. Like Groundhog Day, life in the comfort zone is familiar and secure but by taking risks it becomes more interesting and worth living.

The courage to embrace new challenges is one of the qualities that forms the Warwick Way and I encourage all pupils to make the most of opportunities, to step outside their comfort zone and try something new; the benefits are enormous.