Tracksuit bottoms on. Feet up. Film on. Cadbury Dairy Milk in one hand, hot drink of choice in the other. As I imagine that scenario, my brain is overwhelmed with happiness. To me, this IS comfort.
Trainers on. Fatigued legs. Waterfalls of sweat. Breathless. As I imagine that scenario, my lips curve to the floor while tears trickle down my face. To me, this is NOT comfort.
You can’t beat an ‘easy’ day at work. A day where you come home with little stress and you actually have the opportunity to breathe. You can’t beat an ‘easy’ run either. Again, a run where you can actually breathe. Wow, breathing is so underrated.
Get me out
It’s safe to say that, 2 years ago, I was having a party in the comfort zone. It must have been a very good party because… I never left. My comfort zone was constantly shadowing me, stopping me from doing what I desired. It felt like a boundary. A fence that I couldn’t seem to climb over. I needed to break out of it. It’s so easy to settle into a comfort zone as it’s often the ‘safe place’ and provides a sense of security. There’s often little risk involved. This is what happened to me. I was comfortable and life as an NQT was going well:
Go to work. Eat lunch. Eat another lunch. Finish work. Mark books, while eating. Drive home. Fall asleep. Not the most exciting of days but that routine made up the majority of my week. I was comfortable BUT I was finishing the week feeling more sluggish, more tired, more moments of “I wish I’d…” “Shall I…ah maybe next week”.
Easy…Take a risk…
It took a whole year before I finally took a leap of faith. A new teaching job popped up, which seemed way out of my depth, and I suddenly had the urge to go for it. I took the step out of my happy, cosy surroundings. It wasn’t easy. New job. New location. Limited (if any) friends. I felt out of my comfort zone and knew it was going to be very different.
After a few weeks at my new job, I realised I was working with like minded individuals which opened my mind and gave me the encouragement I needed to do the things I desired. I began to manage my time better. I reignited a love of exercise. I stopped eating endlessly. A new location and new job opened me up to join Abingdon Athletics Club. (It took me a while to build up the courage to attend as it was completely new to me – I’d only ever kept fit through football).
A year and a half later and I’ve never been so high on life. I’m building a network of friends and I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I felt comfortable during a session at Abingdon AC. Coach and club mates urge me on the moment I look comfortable. BUT, I love it. Stepping out of my comfort zone has allowed me to grow mentally and physically. I now see a world of opportunity. My confidence has continued to grow and I’m more willing to try something new!
Do something different. Challenge yourself!
Woah steady on. I’m not advising you to suddenly quit your job, move out and enter the wilderness for the rest of your lives. As I said, comfort zones provide a sense of safety and security. I understand how overwhelming, and anxiety filling, stepping out of the comfort zone can be. You can start with some small changes to help broaden your horizon and, if you think you’re in need of a little push, here are some tips which may be useful:
- Make a plan. Create a challenge. It can put the mind at ease if you have a rough idea of the steps you need to take. Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be spontaneous!
- Do your research. Find out more about whatever it is you want to do! If you know more about the desired skill/activity, it may be less daunting. Before jumping into the deep end at Abingdon AC, I certainly did my research!
- Tell your friends/family. They can help you stay on track and provide the encouragement you need. If you’re indecisive, get them to make the decision for you!? I entered a Half Marathon on my birthday and told my whole family. They wouldn’t let me forget about it!
- Baby steps. Make small changes. Create new habits. Change your routine slightly. Nothing major. Go home a different way? Run a slightly different route? Go somewhere different for lunch? Or just go through the process of ‘showing up’.
- New environment – not always easy! Changing job and location helped me open my mind and see a whole new world of opportunities. I was introduced to people that provided me with some healthy encouragement.
- Stay positive. Tomorrow is a new day. Things don’t always go to plan and there will be difficult moments. You’ll learn from the ups and the downs.
- Continue to push boundaries! This is only the beginning.
What have you done outside of your comfort zone? How did you achieve it?