Draw a circle on a piece of paper. Everything you’re experiencing in your life right now is probably taking place inside your comfort zone (your circle): the current tasks in your professional life, the state of your health, your fitness regime, your relationships and so much more.
We tend to forget that discomfort, uncertainty and struggle is where true growth happens. Remember back when you were a kid, and every day you were challenged to experience something new. Your parents or your school forced you to try scary new things that perhaps you didn’t want to do. Sometimes, you succeeded and other times you failed – but through it all you were growing and learning the entire time. Somewhere along the road, your parents stopped forcing you to do things, you left school, and your responsibilities (in all its many chaotic forms) forced you to seek comfort, routine and stability. The dreaded journey outside your comfort zone happened less and less.
However, growth and the learning process never ends. There’s always opportunity to grow and learn, no matter what age you are, or situation or position you’re in. This year I created a list of things that made me uncomfortable, scared or things that I didn’t particularly like doing. I challenged myself to do all these things – the things that made me uncomfortable. I called this my Uncomfort Zone Challenge.
I’m proud to say I recently ticked everything off my list. Here’s what they were:
Public speaking is a terrifying prospect for many people (including me). This year I challenged myself to go outside my comfort zone with public speaking by completing my first conference presentation at the ALIA Queensland Mini Conference.
Are you also scared of public speaking? My tip? Do it, then do it again, and do it again and again and again.
Sharing my writing
I’ve been writing for years but have never really been brave enough to share my writing. This year I challenged myself to share my writing. I created my own blog Open Pages and I also began submitting my works to other well-known websites. And guess what? Publishers liked my writing and even offered to pay me! I also found out that one of my articles has been shared over 30,000 times on Facebook, and almost 50,000 times across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Since I started sharing my work, I feel more empowered as a writer and a storyteller, and reading comments and emails from my readers is one of the highlights of my week.
This year I ventured outside the library and information science profession by taking up a part-time contract in my organisation’s Human Resources department (specialising in diversity and inclusion). I have learnt so much, and my passion and energy has been reignited in this role.
I also stepped further outside by comfort zone this year by tutoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. I found this challenging, simply because there was a huge gap in the digital literacies skills of the students. And secondly, I had completely stretched myself in terms of workload this year. For most of the year I have been working four jobs simultaneously – my part-time library role, my part-time diversity and inclusion role, my casual tutoring (done at night), and all my freelance work/deadlines (also done at night and on weekends). I had seriously gone outside my comfort zone in regards to my professional life this year and I’m glad I did because I have met so many wonderful people and have learnt so many new things. Oh, and my time management and organisational skills have also improved!
I think sometimes we forget that we need to push ourselves outside our comfort zone in regards to our exercise routine. We need to remind ourselves not to get stuck in a rut. To push ourselves harder. To use muscles we haven’t used in a while. This year, I made mindful changes to make my exercise routine more diverse and to also achieve some personal bests. For example, I usually hike 20km but this year I pushed to 30km, and I sought more erratic terrains for my hikes.
Other things on my uncomfort zone challenge list:
- Heights (ticked this off by walking across swing bridges across rivers and treetops)
- Sensory stimulations (I’m scared of bright flashing lights – weird I know – but after multiple sensory scares this year, I intentionally put myself into situations and places where I could face this fear).
- Medical experimentations (my body constantly pushes me outside my comfort zone, often not by choice. This year I went way outside my comfort zone for the sake of my physical and mental health by participating in a lot of medical/drug trials).
- Asking for help (this is probably the main reason I started my own uncomfort zone challenge. I realise I needed to ask for help a lot this year, and asking for help has always been an uncomfortable experience for me. For as long as I can remember I have been one of the do-it-yourself-as-long-as-possible type people – which is not healthy at all. So I challenged myself to ask for help because the reality was, I really needed it.
Although 2018 has been one of the toughest years yet, I’m proud of myself for pushing myself out my comfort zone and for trying my best in whatever situation I faced.
I challenge you all to create your own Uncomfort Zone Challenge too. You’ll be amazed at what you achieve and how you feel.