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.

Get Serious About Retooling

Somewhere in Barbados

Harping on Retoolment

A few weeks ago, I thought I had created a new word, retoolment. Imagine my chagrin, when I googled it and found it already used, albeit sparingly. Lesson learned: google first before claiming something for your own.

Still, retoolment is a good word to describe that phase in your life when you’ve decided to leave the corporate world to pursue your own interests, for profit or for pleasure. For some this may mean turning into entrepreneurs. For others, money may not be the motivator; you focus on what you love to do.

Reorganize or rearrange your life.

What brings a sparkle to your eyes? What’s holding you back? Stop talking and start doing. Make room in your day now for your passion. Wouldn’t it tickle you to turn your passion into a money-making scheme?

I met a woman who retired recently, but finds herself with too much time and not enough to do. She doesn’t have a hobby or anything to fill the void that her job did. You see, we all need to retool. Whether we learn new skills or sharpen existing ones, it doesn’t matter. Take up a hobby. We want to wake up each morning looking forward to the day. You need to know that you have to accomplish certain tasks. Each new day is a gift; it must have a purpose. Without a purpose, you drift.

We humans don’t do well when we go through life without a purpose. When we are busy working at a job, raising our children, or looking after a loved one, we feel useful. We wake up each day with a purpose.

Find something…anything that fires you up.

Do you enjoy teaching or coaching? Did you ever dream of playing the harp? Do you love to sing? Dance? How about ballroom dancing? No partner or your spouse won’t dance? Try line dancing. The point is this: just do it. Join a class or learn on your own. The internet offers unlimited opportunities. Today you may be a novice, tomorrow you could turn into an expert…okay, maybe not quite the expert, but skilled enough to teach.

I took a creative writing course a few years ago; my first step toward retoolment. Last year I bought a couple of bikes to ride outdoors; more new tools. I plan to write for as long as I can and ride for as long as my body will allow me. Writing may or may not bring a new stream of income—it doesn’t matter—and riding fits nicely into my stay-fit routine.

So what would you like to do for your retoolment?

A Tale of Two Bikes

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it? Yes, that’s a picture of my brand new bike. Took it for a 50 km initiation ride within a couple of days. And yes, below is a picture of a spinning bike. Okay, so it’s not mine, but I get to use it whenever I want at the YMCA.

Outdoor versus indoor riding. Same pedaling motion, and that’s where the similarities end…for me. The comparison between the two was academic until I took to the road and experienced the differences for myself.



Here’s my quirky list of differences:

  1.  Look at the beautiful seat on my bike, white with a pink stripe. The spinning bike’s impersonal seat caused me great pain in the derriere, years ago.
  2. Ride like the wind when you go downhill…oops…not so fast, watch out if you’re on the road. I love speed, only when the bike is stationery.
  3. Huffing and puffing up the hill, on my last gear. Too bad you can’t turn the crest into a valley with the flip of the fingers. Now, on that indoor machine, we’ll huff and we’ll puff, and we’ll keep going. But when no one’s looking, maybe the tension lever might just drop a notch or two.
  4. How about those cyclists who glide past you and no amount of pushing and pedaling with my little feet will make me go any faster. Now you come to my spinning class and I’ll show you a trick or two about speed.
  5. There’s nothing comparable to the breathtaking beauty of a nature ride. However, a spin class takes my breath away…literally.
  6. When you ride indoors, you never have to worry about being caught in a downpour or wonder if your water bottle has turned into an ice block. And oh…load up on the sunscreen.
  7. The night before an outdoor rendezvous, gotta pack and gear up. Helmet…check, water…check, snack…check, spare tire…check, and the list can go on and on. Now for my spinning checklist. Gym bag always packed…check.
  8. Hey, how about the treat at the end of a road trip? A loaded brunch to replenish all the calories lost. Now how about breakfast after my Sunday class? A leisurely coffee with a reward or two to replace the fat I lost in that one intense hour.

Okay, the comparison ends here. I can’t get enough of both. If you love cycling too and have an interesting comment or two about either the outdoor or indoor kind, feel free to comment and connect with me.