Sunday, 28 August 2016

Get Uncomfortable

Lazing by the pool on holiday is a great time to catch up with those books you’ve never read but always said you would. Susan Jeffers’s “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway” falls into that category for me. Published in 1987 it definitely stands the test of time. It really gets to the root of a lot of our negative beliefs, stresses and frustrations about life and ourselves which really limit us. How about “Someone from my background doesn’t get a look in with something like that”? Or “I’ve never been able to sing”? Aren’t these just fears which we’ve created, very often triggered by the words of others?

Anyway, one of the things that really hit home for me in the book is the concept of comfort zones. We’ve probably all heard of comfort zones and why it’s good to leave them from time to time. Jeffers however suggests we really make a habit of pushing back the boundaries of where we are comfortable and seek out the uncomfortable. The uncomfortable where we “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

So I’m sitting there next to the pool while my 15 year old daughter is practising diving in. She’s always found diving really hard but perseverance, a determination to improve and a willingness to learn are her hallmarks. And these characteristics served her well as she moved out of her very comfortable zone of just lowering herself into the pool. She faced up to her fear of diving in and had a go. And then another, and then another, all the time building on feedback from us until we could really see the improvement. She’s still got some way to go to where she wants to be but that is one big comfort zone she was looking to expand. (Really proud dad moment.)

As I took pride in her efforts, Susan Jeffers’s words came back to me and then it occurred to me that my daughter isn’t the only one with a comfort zone around diving. I haven’t dived into a pool for 40 years! I’ve avoided it all this time. I’ve avoided it because “I was rubbish at it at school”, “I can only belly flop” and “everyone laughed at me when I was younger”. Now I can say I’m genuinely afraid of it.

Except, no longer!

I took inspiration from my daughter and just a few days ago I dived into a pool for the first time since I was at school. It wasn’t pretty and I made sure no one was around but I did it despite the fear inside me. And then I did it again. Twice. I’ve now taken feedback, improved and I’m proud to say I can dive into a pool without anyone laughing at me!!!

Encouraged by expanding my comfort zones in one area, I have now done it in others too. I bought a (for me) expensive leather wallet which I really liked (I really felt apprehensive about spending that amount of money on myself); I’ve dived to the bottom of the pool also for the first time in 40 years (took a lot of courage); I’m driving a left-hand drive car on the right hand side of the road for the first time in my life (very nervous); and walked up quite a high church tower to look at the view from the top despite the fear of heights I’ve developed in recent years (took the biggest amount of courage of all). And guess what? I’m still here, still alive and actually feeling rather chuffed with myself.

I’ve also been inspired by two good friends of mine Yvonne and Kevin Wyke. They’re both very sporty and very fit. Yvonne is a very good runner who through injury had to look to other sports to provide her fix for a while. So she joined Kev, a keen cyclist, for some demanding bike rides and when she got back running, she and Kev decided they were going to aim for a triathlon together. So what you may think. Except the swimming component provided a significant obstacle for both of them. Until recently, neither of them had even been able to do front crawl but they had put their names down to do a triathlon in the English Lake District which comprised a swim of 1500m in very cold, open water. Quite a challenge eh? Well, some months later they both managed it - the triathlon and of course, expanding their comfort zones massively. Two very proud people, buzzing from a huge achievement.

Another real hero to me at expanding comfort zones is my wife. Monika came to the UK over 20 years ago with very little English and has embraced a whole new life here. She’s just about to finish her PhD which is demanding enough on its own but to write one in a foreign language is a massive achievement. She’s not quite there yet but when she does, there’ll be a big celebration, not only for her achieving her doctorate but in recognition of the fears and mental obstacles she has overcome and of course, for a huge widening of her comfort zone and exploration of what is possible.

Thanks to my family and friends for their inspiration and I hope it serves as inspiration to you too.

Which comfort zone will you be pushing the boundaries of soon?

 photo credit: <a href="">Florida Fun</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

 photo credit: <a href="">The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show production cel (1983)</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

 photo credit: <a href="">2014 Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>


  1. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your article. It has truly inspired me, so I am just about to order Susan's book- also because it was published the year I was born (if this is not a sign haha). From Siany

  2. Thanks for commenting Siany and am really glad it helped you. I hope the book helps too!