We have waved goodbye to 2018 and stepped across the threshold into a brand new shiny year. Welcome 2019. New Year is usually a time for reflection on the past year and looking ahead (as the name January, derived from Janus the two faced God suggests), setting out where we’d like to be at the end of another 365 days. To be honest, I’m still trying to work out what 2019 should and will mean for me. But I know that my starting point is to focus on my comfort zone.
Or more accurately escaping my comfort zone, that sweet sticky trap in which we often, subconsciously, find ourselves languishing. To me they are like giant doughnuts around your waist, those American ones which are rings of squidgy light-as-air dough, with a glossy glaze drizzled over the top. It’s beguiling and enticing, we know it’s not good for us but it’s all too easy to slip into the middle of them and its cosy, soft, moreish. And the more we settle into our comfort zone doughnut the harder it is to get out. We get fat and stuck mindlessly floating about in a sugar induced blur, thinking we’re satisfied when actually we’re far from it. The complacency which accompanies it prevents us from achieving our full potential, as if the doughnut around our waist is too wide to let us through the door marked ‘change’. We actually feel a cloying incompleteness, as hollow as the centre of your doughnut.
Before Christmas I had a few occasions when I had to step out of my comfort zones, into what people cleverer than me call the ‘growth zone.’ Your growth zone is where you learn and develop, but with the right amount of stress and uncertainty to ultimately ‘grow’ and become better at dealing with obstacles and new environments and to master new skills. Neither growth zones nor comfort zones are fixed, but are dynamic and shifting. As you adjust to your new situation or skill, your comfort zone increases so you need to once more embark on a voyage of discovery and push your growth zone to the limits.
Starting this blog was outside of my comfort zone, but I am learning and am still exploring my writing and the tech side of things. Recently I went on a short writing course with a group of strangers in a place I’d never been to. That was far out of my comfort zone but the rewards were manifest and plentiful. I also undertook some freelance work for the first time in a few years. It made me realise how long I had been within my parameters of comfort gleefully indulging in my metaphorical doughnut (because in real life I don’t actually like doughnuts). I had long felt a bit directionless and purposeless. Confronted with new situations, meeting new people, opening myself up, pushing myself a little, I felt alive, I felt energised and renewed. (It sounds like a cliché, but cliches are only cliches because they’re true.)
Growth zones help and be deployed across all parts of your life in work and non-work. You should feel challenged, motivated, perhaps slightly nervous, but ultimately you thrive. Humans weren’t made to stand still. My awakening in November and December has resolved my determination to push out into my growth zone. I am still figuring out exactly what that will involve. I’m taking stock of what it is I need and where I want to go. Things I am considering include; joining a community choir; pitching for more freelance work; signing up for a marathon; becoming a school governor. One of my friends is aiming to become a trustee of a charity or join a board of directors. It takes a bit of self awareness and analysis to work out what, where and how to break out of the doughnut. This is not about doing ‘more’ and equating it with ‘success’. It’s certainly not about making extra commitments that I’ll stress about keeping and feel guilty if I miss. It’s not just about big things either. For me it’s also about taking steps everyday to making things happen, even if I feel uncomfortable (especially if I feel uncomfortable) and to take opportunities when they arise. And in the doing, fear rescinds and confidence flourishes. We become more willing to take risks, less afraid of failure or of making mistakes. Our lives become richer and more fulfilled. It’s a virtuous circle not a doughnut. A high-res resolution.
I’m looking forward to see what 2019 holds for me – working hard, pushing myself, finishing the house, finishing the book, sign up for some more courses, reach out to more friends and family, get out more, and taking a few leaps of faith. Research shows that you are more likely to achieve your goals if you regularly write them down and share them because you become accountable to them. So, now it’s out there – I’m accountable. I’ll report back on 31 December 2019.