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.
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.