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.


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 Glance At My Rear-view Mirror

Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Chinese New Year’s Day came and went not without fanfare. In this part of the world, across the globe from China, we don’t have to look too far to find celebrations. Even our local YMCA hosted an event-packed day to welcome the year of the horse. For me, it never fails to put me into an introspective mood. I get to look back on the year twice; yes, I do that on December 31st and then again on Lunar New Year’s Eve. The advantage or disadvantage of celebrating two New Year’s days, I guess.

So, as I gaze into my rear-view mirror, I see a trail of activities that kept me busy and engaged during my leisure time. Here are three of them at the top of my viewpoint, not necessarily in order of preference: cycling, traveling, and writing.

Cycling?The outdoor kind won hands down. Spring brought great hopes for bicycle adventures; we were going to be initiated as cyclists—keep in mind that I’ve been riding (spinning) indoors for many years. Naively, I thought my mountain bike would do the job. After just one ride, I headed to the shop and bought my first hybrid. Now I was ready; that’s what I thought. Then I signed up for an eighty-kilometre ride. During the practice session, one of the marshals had to push me up a steep hill—ooh, the embarrassment still makes me warm and tingly, and not in a comfortable way. I realized that if I wanted to ride with the big boys and girls, I needed the right equipment. So now a brand new road bike graces my basement waiting for the new riding season.

Traveling?Lately we’ve been doing two distant trips a year with little drive-able ones during the long weekends. This past year, we flew for three of our vacations: one week in Puerto Rico, two weeks on a Baltic cruise, and one week in Arizona. In between, we spent a few days in Mont Tremblant during mid-summer, riding the trails there. Puerto Rico was a nice mid-winter break in the sun. Arizona and the Grand Canyon were memorable, but our Baltic cruise was the granddaddy of all the trips for the year. The highlight was our two-day tour of St. Petersburg in Russia. Who knows when, if ever, we will return to that part of the world again.

Writing This was the year I proudly announced to the world that I’d completed my first novel. The feeling of accomplishment still leaves a warm glow whenever I think about it. Picture Bride is about to debut during this upcoming spring. I believe that I got a boost in my writing when I attended the Writers Digest Conference in NYC back in April 2013. The book took two years to write, and when I met other people on the same path, along with established writers who seemed willing to put out or help out, it gave me a much-needed shot in the arm to sprint to the finish line. I approved my manuscript and book cover just over a week ago, and now I wait. Due process must be observed.

Yes, it was a busy year filled with activities. With February already in progress, I’m predicting a year packed with new undertakings as my book launches and I begin to write another one. My new bike is waiting for its maiden ride; while a cruise and a road trip are already in the cards.

Happy New Year to all.

Giving Thanks

Picture from Office.Microsoft.com

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, which means that Winter is just around the corner. But here in south-western Ontario, Mother Nature seems to have forgotten that. While the leaves, bright golden and orange–flaming reminders of Autumn’s spectacular changing colours–swirl on the ground, the temperatures stubbornly remain milder than usual.

No, I’m not complaining about the weather. On the contrary, we’re making hay while the sun shines. Just when I think our outdoor cycling season is over, another sunny day makes its way. After the PwC Epic Tour on September 8th, where I rode 80 kilometers, I assumed that was my last outing for this year. Yet here we are, planning another bike ride. Thanks, Mother Nature.

Our Thanksgiving turkey has been cooked and consumed. It was fresh from Costco, the place where abundance is second to nothing. The plump bird graced our dinner table in all its fine glory along with its companions, in different shapes and colours. We will be eating all things turkey for a few more days. Thanks, Costco.

My family at the dinner table…my deepest and most heartfelt thanks.

Initiation to Outdoor Cycling

We actually have a picture to commemorate our first outdoor cycling road trip…yeah…it’s free advertising for D’Italiano. Okay, not completely free–we got a pulled-pork sandwich each for posing in front of their truck. Geez…what some people do for freebies. ??

But what about the ride itself? It may have been the most humid day we’ve had up to that point this year. Let’s see what else I can think of to make our first ride more adventurous than it really was. It had rained the day before, I think, and there were puddles on the trails. We did 31.5 kilometers with some near wipe-outs to boast of…hmm…I don’t think cyclists boast about that. I was on a mountain bike pedaling twice as hard as the hybrid and road bike riders.

The highlight of our trip was the food. The D’Italiano sandwich was unexpected, but was a welcomed treat. It hit the spot at the right time. However, we had our sights set on Sunset Grill, so, great pulled-pork sandwich or not, we trooped inside for our 1 p.m. breakfast–waffles with fresh strawberries and, humid weather notwithstanding, coffee of the hot kind.

The ride back was easier, maybe because I had a full stomach or maybe the single-trip experience I’d gained by then was starting to pay off. I thought I was this hotshot six-year spinning veteran, and would be able to handle outdoor cycling easily. Well, let me tell you that there’s a humongous difference between the two. Although I was no worse for our outdoor tryst, other than a few patches of sun-burn, I must point out that cycling outside is no stroll in the park. The outside elements, learning to change gears so no one hears the cranking sound you’re not supposed to make, other cyclists–some who are crazy enough to careen into you, a moving bike versus a stationary one…challenges not for the faint of heart.

Really, cycling isn’t quite this dramatic…only the rider is.

A Spinning Tale

What happens when you unleash raw energy in a room full of avid cyclists? They reciprocate and give it right back. It’s indoor stationary cycling at its most stimulating. Yup, that’s why I love leading a spinning class, and here are ten more reasons that pull me back over and over again.

1.??? No other workout gets my heart pumping faster than when I’m coaxing the participants to go as hard as or harder than me. There’s something about being at the front that makes me push myself to the extreme.

2.??? The energy in the room is palpable. You feel it in your blood, in the adrenalin, in every nerve, and in the collective sigh at the end of a song.

3.??? What other low impact workout can burn as much calories as spinning—700 to 1,000 calories in an hour—and have a low injury rate?

4.??? Stress relief goes hand in hand with the class. It melts away with every drop of sweat.

5.??? Gotta love that group cool-down. It’s the “We made it together” feeling. You can’t get that when you go solo on the treadmill or elliptical.

6.??? The endorphin kick lasts long after the class is over, maybe burning some more calories…just kidding.

7.??? I suspect the participants’ positive feed-backs probably crank up the production of endorphins.

8.??? Relax, breathe, tighten up the core muscles, good posture—all the good stuff that you forget to do when you’re working out by yourself…I belt these out loud to the class every time I need to remind myself to focus on my own techniques.

9.??? Creating a playlist and choreographing a routine give me almost as much pleasure as when I write. Just as I pick and choose my words, adding and trimming, so I select my songs, listening, cutting and rearranging.

10.??? Last and certainly the most fabulous side benefit is the social aspect. New friendships beyond the cycle fit studio, Sunday breakfast after a class—not always the healthy kind…what the heck, we’ve earned it.