When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? Wikipedia defines comfort zone as a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety neutral condition. That sounds ok to me, but does it? When we’re in our comfort zone we operate from a place of the known, a place where everything is familiar and life becomes routine.
In our comfort zone, we go into autopilot; instead of living our lives to the fullest we remain unchallenged and risk become spectators of life. But, willingly stepping out or being pushed out of our comfort zone can be a very uncomfortable, scary, even stressful thing. This week my 9 year old daughter, Natasha, was pushed out of her comfort zone. She didn’t like it one bit. Here’s what happened.
It all started last week when Valentina was too sick to go to school. Since she’s not old enough to be left at home alone, we asked Natasha and Alex to walk to school together. Walking to school alone is the normal state for Alex, but not for Natasha.
Upset by the notion of going to school with her brother, I stepped in and walked with Natasha. On the way, we chatted about why she was so upset and I got a very pointed response, “Alex is mean to me.”. Great! Just what every mother wants to hear.
Vic and I decided the kids needed a life lesson.
Later, at dinner, Vic said to the kids, “tomorrow you’ll walk to school together.”. These simple words sent Natasha into tears, poor girl. Through the tears, she explained that she’s not afraid to go to school on her own; it’s just that she likes to go with Budi, our Nanny and Natasha’s safety blanket. It was time to take the blanket away, just for a few days.
We held our ground and explained to Natasha, Alex and Valen that they needed to look out for each other and work together to get themselves to school. Alex and Valen had no problem with this concept, they’re both rather independent soles, Natasha on the other hand whimpered till bedtime.
In the morning, we talked about how they would walk together; each taking care for the other, making sure they all looked both ways crossing the street, etc. We ushered them out the door for their 100 meter walk to school it’s literally around the corner. The tears poured down Natasha’s face while Alex coaxed her kindly, gently that it would be ok and please stop crying. It was heartwarming to watch!
At dinner, we recapped our day and the walk to school. Natasha was proud of herself; with her siblings help, she’d made it to school and only cried a little on the way. They walked home together to find Budi hanging over the balcony waiting anxiously for them.
It was a stressful day for all of us; independence is something we learn not something we’re born with. Natasha had stressed and worried about the short trek and because she was unhappy, we were unhappy. But, in the end Natasha learnt a valuable lesson.
Today is Thursday, we’re on day 3 of the kids being unattended to school. Natasha was first out the door singing her head off. She conquered a fear and gained confidence. The result: a very happy girl.
Alex also learnt a lesson today about taking responsibility for registering himself in afterschool activities. Every school term, the kids bring home and afterschool activities sheet that I fill out and send it back with the money. Last night, Alex handed me the form; I asked him to complete it and leave it on the table for me to sign, he did so beautifully.
This morning, I handed him the money for the activities and he said, “Budi will register me.”. He forgot she wasn’t going to school. If he wanted to do the activities he needed to do the registration; he was a little nervous about handling more money than his usual 1$, but he tucked it away and headed out the door. I’ll see tonight if he i) remembered to register and ii) managed the money. He did.
Tomorrow, Natasha will venture to school on her own, Alex and Valen will go later. Natasha seems unmoved by this challenge and that was our objective. Assuming all goes well, Budi will join them to school on Monday and life will continue. It will be slightly different though; Natasha will have overcome a fear and will have a new confidence in her own abilities. Our kids are changed, though in such a small ways it seems insignificant. It’s not, at least not to us.
Are there opportunities for you to step outside your comfort zone? It doesn’t have to be a big step, maybe there is something you could do that is a little different than normal. What about speaking in front of others; taking the lead in a group discussion; saying hi to your neighbour; walking a different way to work or how about doing something with your left hand you normally do with your right.
Jumping out of your comfort zone is a difficult to do but, it’s not going to hurt you and ultimately you’ll learn and develop from the experience. No matter how insignificant it seems take the plunge.
Join my mailing list to receive our free monthly magazine, the January issue will be released next week. Also, next week a guest blog post from Victor, my husband. Until then, have a great weekend.