I’ve always been a great advocate of the idea of ‘stepping out of the comfort zone’ to a place where we push boundaries, increase productivity and creativity, and generally train ourselves to cope positively with stress and change. However a couple of recent experiences have left me contemplating when departure from the comfort zone is wise or best avoided…
At the weekend I met up with some of my ‘walking buddies’. We originally met trekking in Nepal for charity in the year 2000. During my 3rd year of uni, mid dissertation, I was granted leave from my studies as the purpose was considered character building. And that it was. From the raw chilli placed decoratively, inconspicuously upon my mid air – breakfast omelette (I’d never eaten raw chilli before – weirdly I assumed it was a green bean. Because obviously everyone has green beans on omelettes whilst flying high above the United Emirates) to the crumbling toilet huts perched precariously on cliff sides, to the -15c midnight trips to the loo tent, the polio and poverty ridden hillside communities, tape worms wriggling in the toilet pits, general discomfort of high altitude: I was certainly out of my comfort zone. But I learnt so much about myself, the world, life – I loved it so much so that I went back, again, (and again).
There are a few core members of the ‘Red Group’ who continue to not only keep in touch but also meet twice maybe three times a year and I am proud – privileged – to say that I am one of them. We are an eclectic group – from wide ranging geographical areas, chronologically diverse, varied backgrounds and careers. But our shared love of adventure and trekking in wild, remote, high places and pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone unites us. Whether it’s the fusion of fresh air, hours spent in the great outdoors, the adrenaline come-down or the wine at the end of the day, together we always share laughter and silliness until our eyelids are drooping and we’re forced to stagger to bed, bodies heavy, minds happy.
Over the bank holiday weekend we met in Edale for a brief interlude from our daily lives to a programme of ‘multi activity’. Joining the group later than intended due to family / work commitments I spent a substantial percentage of my drive up the M1 reflecting on how relieved I actually was to be missing out on the planned morning activity: caving. But alas, the heavy rain had other plans and our itinerary was rearranged meaning that, joy of joy, I could now participate in said caving: *gulp*
The mini bus journey had me picturing tight wriggle holes, head partially submerged in water, ducking down fully submersed here and there to avoid mammoth, loose boulders, plus darkness, panic and an overwhelming feeling of being deep underground and STUCK. The approaching cave opening was the portal that was to take me firmly out of my comfort zone – and with my heart pounding I was actually beginning to question if this may be a step too far…
Thankfully there was a happy ending – I loved the caving. It was interesting, informative, fun… and as we emerged into the sunlight 2 hours later, hands covered in mud, wellies squelching full of cave water I was really glad to have participated, and to have taken the leap from comfort to the stratosphere beyond.
But alongside the caving, I have forced myself out of my comfort zone in another area for about 6 weeks now, and I don’t seem to be making as much progress in overcoming these ‘cave approach’ jitters.
These are a couple of phrases I have heard a great deal recently and after the initial feeling of glee (yes! I do have a book coming out!! I really do!) I lurch to butterfly belly, frozen face… when I should be seizing the moment for some self-promotion, grateful for the opportunity. This is something I need to overcome and get better at, so I’m hopeful that the experience of caving may have earned me some credit in the ‘dealing with discomfort’ stakes. So I am embarking on a little research into how to ‘do’ self-promotion properly and to overcome any unease in doing so. I will blog my findings in a few weeks…
In the meantime, my children’s book ‘Worm, Slug, Maggot & Leech and their Troublesome Transformation!’ is available to pre-order at: https://britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/index.php/book/index/WormSlugMaggotandLeech
Thank you for reading.