This is the sixth part of a short series on how to go about pushing your comfort zone and trying new stuff. Week 1 was about why it’s a good idea to leave your comfort zone. In week 2 we explored how our fear of getting it wrong can hold us back, and how to move past it. Week 3 was all about starting from where you are instead of waiting for perfect timing or conditions. Week 4 was about finding and practicing all the elements that will make up your activity. And last week we learned about the Trust Gap.
This week? What to do if you discovered you’ve ventured too far out of your comfort zone.
I was never a brave person when I was young. Not physically brave. So there were lots of things that I have simply never tried. One of those was skating. My son had tried ice skating last year and really enjoyed it. So this winter, for my birthday, I decided that it would be fun for the family to go ice skating. My son would have a great time, and I would get to move out of my comfort zone and try something completely new.
But as the day approached, I began to realise that I was making a big mistake. I had a sense that I was moving a little too far outside of my comfort zone. I had a growing awareness that this activity was not one that felt comfortable for me.
One of my friends on Twitter, the lovely Paula White, had a similar thing happen to her recently. She had entered a triathlon, but discovered during the course of training that she had taken on a larger challenge than she was comfortable with. Training sessions, especially in the pool, were becoming anxiety-producing affairs. But Paula is intelligent, brave and resourceful. So she did the only sensible thing. She decided not to do the triathlon.
Sometimes we set ourselves goals, and decide to push our comfort zones. But sometimes we set those goals a little too ambitiously. Or once we start the process we’ve decided is best for achieving our goal, we discover that it involves many more steps than we thought at first. Or we may even discover that our desire to achieve our goal is eclipsed by other priorities.
In those instances, deciding to step away and re-evaluate is A Good Thing.
FM Alexander was very clear about what made for a successful pattern within education (and life):
Confidence is born of success, not of failure, and our processes in education and in the general art of living must be based upon principles which will enable us to make certain of the satisfactory means whereby an end may be secured, and thus to command a large percentage of those satisfactory experiences which develop confidence…*
In other words, when we are constructing a plan that takes us outside of our comfort zone, we should be aiming for a series of successful experiences that build confidence. If we are having a consistent series of unsuccessful experiences that leave us feeling anxious or unhappy, there’s something wrong. Either we need to change the way we’re going about the activity, or we need to re-adjust our expectations of what we want to achieve.
So if you’re feeling anxious about leaving your comfort zone, don’t be alarmed at first. But take note of the anxiety. If you are consistently finding that your experiences of the process to achieve your goals are filled with unhappiness and negativity, then maybe you need to re-evaluate.
Remember: there is no shame in quitting, just as there is positive benefit in being wrong and making mistakes. Knowing when to quit is just as important a skill as knowing when to continue. So if you feel as if you’re too far outside your comfort zone, stay “in communication with your reason,”** and make sure you re-evaluate. A little fear is good, but a whole lot? Maybe not so much.
* FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, IRDEAT edition, p. 425.
** FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance, op.cit., p.159.
Image by renjith krishnan, FreeDigitalPhotos.net