(Approx reading time 3.5 min)
If you’re like me then you like your comfort. If you’re not like me and you like to experience new things which have a possibility of being unpleasant for the sake of adding to your experiences… congratulations! You’ve mastered life. Sort of.
I’ll kick off this series with an anecdote. I moved to a new school in fifth grade. Everything was different here. For example, everyone had to run the long distance course under the banner of ‘Cross Country’ at the beginning of the year. I didn’t know what that meant. In my previous school I’d only ever run one race, early on in first grade. There were 200 children in my year and I guess in pursuit of reducing the workload of the teachers only the children who finished within the top 2 of each race partook in athletics. The rest of us didn’t receive any further push to do anything physical. I came third in that race, one place too far to make the team… I could have persisted; I could have protested – but I didn’t. Why? Well after seeing all those kids practise while I got to go home I figured, “Why would I want to do that?” After all, I was comfortable.
“Why would I want to do that?” After all, I was comfortable.
I didn’t so much as sprint any other time except when I ran for the playground at break time. Fast forward to my first year at my new school and the now chubby Ayanda is about to take part in his first race in years. “Cross country? What’s that?” I asked at the start line. The evil fifth grade boys just smiled their devilish grins at me and warned ominously, “Oh you’ll see.” I decided not to let their words get to me. My pride wouldn’t allow me to be laughed at. When the teacher shouted, “Go!” I bolted like a winning racehorse the laughter of my knowing competitors following in my wake.
You have to understand… I was so chubby when I walked by people looked up wondering where the applause was coming from – it was my thighs smacking together. I was unfit and asthmatic. I failed that first attempt at the course dismally. Some 400 metres into it I thought I was going to die. I even approached the teachers wheezing like a 1927 tractor engine trying to come first in a Nascar race. It was awful. But I wasn’t given reprieve. The teachers made me start afresh for trying to weasel my way out of work. How did I respond? By doing the thing that made me most comfortable. I started walking the course instead of trying to run it.
This is the trap we need to beware. When faced with an obstacle you have two choices to make. You either pull up your boots, psych yourself up and try your best to overcome it or you tell yourself, “Meh. It’s not important anyway,” and miss out on what could have been in store for you on the other side… all so you can stay comfortable.
I wake up at 0530 daily to run for about 45 min now. I’m also not “walking applause” chubby anymore. What happened?
Well… the teachers forced me to become uncomfortable walking the course instead of running it. 10 year old me was already becoming fascinated by the opposite sex and even had an eye on one particular member. She was great at Cross Country. The dastardly teachers decided to have the boys run first and then let the girls run some five minutes afterwards. Just one glimpse of her gracefully running past me while I walked like a pimp in a Red Light District supermarket lit up a flame in my heart… ok that’s a lie. It’s the fact that she wouldn’t stop laughing when I rocked up an hour later, long after she’d changed and finished her homework. So – I started running, the aim being not to be embarrassing, because you can’t be embarrassing in front of the girl you have a crush, on right? Screw the logic, that was law to me at that age. I pressed on, increasing the time between when she caught up to me the previous day to the next. Even when I was wheezing like a clogged up train exhaust.
The teachers shifted the ball game for me just by changing the order of how things were done. I probably would be several pounds heavier than I am now if it weren’t for them… or maybe not. Maybe something else would have triggered the transformation. The essence is, so long as you’re in a comfort zone – what triggers you to seek or desire change? Here’s the answer. Are you ready? The answer is… Nothing.
That’s why starting tomorrow we’ll look at tools to help you change your comfort zone. You excited? Coz I am.
Let’s meet up again tomorrow.