We are constantly being encouraged to “move out of our comfort zones”, a phrase that seems to me inadequate to describe what we need to do to stretch ourselves and lead extraordinary lives. I have written before that we can be fooled into remaining in an uncomfortable zone because it is familiar. That sort of discomfort does little to improve our lives until the level of discomfort becomes too much or too painful and forces us to make changes.
To really stretch ourselves, we have to move out of our zone of familiarity, the zone that includes all the activities we do and have been doing for a big part of our lives. Some of those activities may not be comfortable, but we assume are necessary to maintain our current way of life.
Yesterday, I took a few steps into unfamiliar territory myself. In my former corporate career in South Africa, I had addressed large groups of business people, both in sales situations and at industry functions. I had also spoken to groups of farmers, members of service clubs and at sports events. Since moving to Canada, I joined Toastmasters International to improve my public speaking skills and have spoken at service club meetings. A few weeks ago, I was asked to address a church women’s association which was being hosted at our local church.
Similarly to most of the baby boomer generation in English Speaking Southern Africa I was brought up as an Anglican, with the Sunday School ritual, regular church attendance, prayers at daily school assembly and weekly scripture classes at junior school. Despite, or perhaps because of that experience and for other reasons, I had not been a regular church goer for nearly forty years. I wrote about attending our local church for the first time on Christmas Eve last year in this post. The Three Faces of Christmas.
Since then, Sue and I have attended our local church quite regularly, we have enjoyed meeting more people from the community, our parish of three small country churches has a hard-working vicar who tends to his flock with an effective blend of formal religion and humanity. We are both very grateful to be accepted and welcomed into the congregation.
The return to being a fairly regular church goer was certainly a step into the unfamiliar, taken with some trepidation but the benefits have been better than I could have expected. Yesterday’s step, to speak to an audience of church women about aspects of life in Africa was another venture into the unfamiliar.
It was a reminder to prepare my speech with the audience in mind, deliver a story that would resonate with them even if it was about people, places and events foreign to them.
It went well, judging by the feedback, a good experience for the audience and certainly a good learning experience for me. Definitely worth stepping into an unfamiliar, challenging but not uncomfortable zone. It made me look forward to the next opportunity to speak before an unfamiliar audience.
How do you stretch yourself?
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