Why You Should Do Something That Makes You Uncomfortable

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Why You Should Do Something That Makes You Uncomfortable

Why should you make yourself uncomfortable? Isn’t that counter-intuitive?

My answer: If you never step out of your comfort zone, you become complacent. Complacency kills creativity and the desire to accomplish.

Learning to swim: an exercise in futility

A few years ago I decided to learn how to swim. So I bought a bathing suit (with a skirt for modesty), a swimming cap (did I mention that it was made of cloth?), and a pair of goggles (yes, it was mostly waterproof). For the next few months, I thrashed, heaved, panted, and gasped in the pool, never venturing beyond the red line marking the steep drop-off to the deep side.

A kindly gym member took pity on me and gave me some lessons. I remained stubbornly uncoordinated and dreaded my once-a-week foray into the pool. After a few months I gave up and went back to all the activities that I knew I could do. I even took up outdoor cycling and became quite good at it. It wasn’t a huge leap since I was already teaching cycle fit indoors.

Learning to swim: the gauntlet is thrown

Last year a seventy-three-year old gym buddy began boasting to me about how many laps he was able to swim after just a few months in the puddle. He kept taunting me to join him. If he could do it, then why couldn’t I? I’m younger than him and in pretty good shape.

So I bought a rubber cap, wore my old bathing suit and goggles, and then jumped into the water with dread. My previous mentor was nowhere to be found. I thrashed, heaved, panted, and gasped again.

Someone asked me at the pool, “How many times do you swim every week?”

“Once a week.”

He laughed. “That’s like me going to the golf course once a year and hoping I can improve my swing.”

Okay, I’ll try for twice a week. Alas, this was still not the turning point.

One day I bumped into my friend, a more-than-competent swimmer whose schedule never coincided with mine in the pool until that day. She took one look at me and said, “Lose that bathing suit. It’s like the lady who wore flip flops to your spinning class.”

So I skulked into a shop she recommended and picked up two new “swimming-appropriate” bathing suits. When the sales lady asked which league I belonged to, I gave her a vague response, but I proudly wore one of my new outfits when I knew my friend would be in the pool.

Success

Without going into the details of my near-drowning and panic attacks, I can report that in less than a year after my second start, I can now swim at least twenty laps (that’s a kilometer) in about thirty minutes. Maybe that’s not much for some of you. For me, this caps a year of taking on uncomfortable projects.

You see, last year I also got a publisher to publish my debut novel—a feat that I didn’t believe I could accomplish until I challenged myself to take that leap.

You just never know what you can accomplish or create when you step out of your comfort zone:

Seth Godin said in one of his blogs that you should make it a habit to get out of your comfort zone. I learned to swim when I dreaded going into the pool. Today I feel exhilarated every time I jump in. I banged on my computer coaxing out one word after another. Now I have a published novel, Picture Bride, to show for it.

Do you have a story about how stepping out of your comfort zone made you feel good in the end? Please share it in the comments.

Short “Shorts” – No Longer Here

This week we have a brand new writer. Her debut short story will touch you and evoke raw emotions that you can’t help, but feel. The writing prompt used was: She saw two people in the picture where there should have been three.

No Longer Here

by

Marina Albert

Beach_No Longer Here

“What’s happened to Mike?” Edel asked as her husband George hung up the phone.

”Mike’s missing. He went out on a boat with his friends and he may have drowned,” George said, his expression dark and gloomy.

The caller was a friend. Mike was George’s nephew, a smart, handsome and intelligent young man who just married a year ago. So Edel and George rushed to the cottage near the lake where Mike and his wife had spent the long weekend together with their friends.

A tragic scene greeted them. Many friends and relatives including Mike’s parents gathered at the cottage, praying for Mike to come back. Where was he? Surely a strong swimmer and a healthy young man like him wouldn’t drown?

Two long days of searching, and then the police found Mike. Drowned…lifeless.

Edel and George missed Mike. They missed his jokes and sense of humor at the family gatherings. A few weeks later, Edel visited Mike’s mother, Maria, who looked lonely and bereft at the loss of her only son at the age of thirty-three. She cried as she spoke about Mike.

Maria said that she knew something was wrong that Sunday morning when she stood at the bottom of the steps and her eyes rested on the family portrait hung above the clock. She saw two people in the picture where there should have been three. For a moment she was sure Mike was missing.

Then the phone rang…the call that told her Mike was gone. Was that God’s way of letting her know what was about to happen?

Maria remembered that on the day before the trip he came to borrow the cooler. His usually bright face was somber as he gave her advice about her diet. He had asked, “Where is Dad?” She told him that he was at the gym.

Mike went to the gym—somewhat unusual—just to see his dad, and then brought him home, after which he took off. That last glance and his goodbye still lingered in her mind. Did Mike have any inkling that it would be the final time he saw his parents?

The other day while driving to work Maria heard Mike’s voice. ‘MUMMY!” he called out. That was when she saw the car in front of her. She hit the brake just in time. She had dozed off briefly; the stress of losing Mike had taken a toll on her sleep.  If not for that voice she would have got into an accident.

When Edel walked out of her cousin’s house she felt sad, but she took comfort in her cousin’s stories. You see, although Mike was gone from this world, he still watched over them from heaven.

Make Minor Adjustments in Your Life to Create a Major Impact

Waterfall

 

Start with a Vacation

Every time I return home from a vacation, I have an urge to make some adjustments—something small to change things up in my life. The down-time away from home allows me to think about what’s happening to me and around me.

A Change in My Routine

In 2010, my mother checked into the hospital for a surgery. What was supposed to be a one-week stay turned into a five-month nightmare. While I had been driving to work for many years, commuting 35 kilometres each way every day, I found myself driving even more. I detoured to the hospital almost daily and also drove there on the weekends. Then when I took my first trip to China around the time my mother finally went home, I spent two weeks almost worry-free. After lots of naval-gazing, I decided that when I returned home, I would stop driving to work. I began to ride the train instead, and I used the commute time to read, write or chat. I’ll bet these rides now provide more therapeutic relief than any psycho-analytic couch.

A Significant Step

During the past few years, I had been toying with the idea of winding down from the corporate world to spend more time doing what I love. After much soul searching and number crunching, and after another vacation late last year, I decided to drop one day from my full-time job in March. I’m now writing another book…make that two. I started writing the sequel to Picture Bride a few months ago, and I’m one quarter of the way into an e-book that I will give away on my website. I might even write a series of Kindle books…maybe I need another vacation to give me the impetus to take that on.

A Word of Advice if I May

Use your vacation time to relax and let your mind take you in any and every direction. When you let yourself go, you just never know where you’ll end up. I highly recommend bringing home one little tweak to your routine to spice things up a bit. You don’t need to shift gears as much as I did in my examples above. I’ve tried to adopt a minor change each time I came home from a holiday. Some lasted and some got lost in the sea of tasks that greeted me as soon as I stepped inside the office. Just add or subtract something that makes you feel good.

And Finally…

The key is to aim for those little adjustments; they might accumulate into a big and rewarding lifestyle shift.

Committed to exercise and writing

Back in May 2006, when our local YMCA opened its doors, I was there on opening day. Almost six years later, I’m still working out daily. This is the longest I have ever been committed to exercise and a gym. Come to think of it, I’ve started a number of new initiatives these last few years. Some have become a part of my routine, while others I’ve had to drop from lack of time. Each has enriched my life in one way or another.

I took up a creative writing course in 2008. That has started me on an incredible journey. I had started writing several times in the past, but each time, I gave up after a few half-hearted attempts. This time is different. Perhaps the discipline of my daily workout routine is contributing to my mental attitude towards my writing.

In 2005, my husband and I took up ballroom dancing. We were solidly committed until our instructor decided to stop teaching a few years ago. Although this endeavor has suffered a setback, we are richer for having learned to dance.

I took up piano shortly after I started to write. I learned to read music–a childhood dream come true. Unlike typing on the keyboard, a task that seems to come easily, the ebony and ivory keys are much harder to master. I’ve had to drop the lessons about a year ago. I had to choose between writing and piano. I couldn’t find time for both. It’s obvious which project won. I’ve promised myself that when I retire from my paying job, I will make music again.

These past few years have certainly been a time of change. I feel blessed that I have been able to do all these activities. God willing, I hope to continue doing these and more in the future.

The Positive Effects of Sharing Your Passion

My writing and my gym workout go hand in hand. Both are lifestyle changes that I’ve adopted. I write and I work out in the same way that my career is a way of life.

When I first decided to make exercise a part of my daily routine, I made some adjustments to my schedule. Five years later, I’m still waking up at 5 every morning to go to the gym. On weekends and holidays, I’m there as well, albeit a few hours later. Likewise, when I started to take my writing seriously during the last couple of years, I changed the way I use my commute time, lunch time and television time. See my blog dated December 4, 2012.

These lifestyle changes have lasted so long due to various factors. I believe that when you start sharing your passion with others, something wonderful happens. I am committed to my exercise regime not just because I feel refreshed after working out. More importantly, I interact with other members some of who are now also friends. I am missed when I don’t show up. We exchange ideas, encourage each other, and feed off on each other’s energy. These positive effects would be missing if I exercised by myself at home instead.

In the same way, when I went public with my writing, my motivation level went up. I let friends and colleagues read my work and I look forward to hearing their feedback, good or bad. I believe that one reason that my writing has grown is due to my having overcome the fear of letting others critique my work.

So if anyone reading this blog is still keeping their passion for something a secret, try including others in that circle. It could stoke your enthusiasm.

Spinning Fever

Every Sunday morning I lead a spinning class at the local YMCA. Spinning is instructor-led studio cycling on stationary bikes with adrenaline-pumping music blaring in the background. It’s a great way to kick start my day with this energetic cardio workout.
I’m an avid cycle fit fan turned volunteer instructor. I have been leading a class for the last few years. For sixty energy packed minutes, I am transported to a make-believe world where the hills can be as steep as I want them to be as I coax the riders to stretch their physical capabilities, while the downward sprint is uninterrupted by traffic with only the finish line before us. It is an exercise where I test the group’s endurance as much as they challenge my ability to keep them motivated. I bellow encouragement, constantly reminding the riders about their posture and focusing them on their breathing. Anything to take away the attention from their tired bodies. Pushing and extracting another mile, another hill.
When I first decided to become a volunteer cycle fit instructor, I thought I would just have to spin away yelling out instructions. Fortunately for the cyclists, the YMCA mandated that I go through some courses before receiving my certification. Along with some essential technique training and CPR skills, I also learned how to put together “radio-friendly” music to inspire frenzied sprints and laboured climbs.
I marvel at the intensity of the spinners in my class. Their enthusiasm pushes me to work harder than I normally would.  This is a great love affair. I can name far less enjoyable ways to stay healthy.