By Katja van Koten
“o no, that’s way out of my comfort zone!”
Back in 2011 I joined a Toastmasters* club in London to improve my public speaking skills. One of the key principles of any public Toastmasters club is that guests are always welcome. And at every meeting we have a lot of guests. And one of the things I often hear our guests say is that public speaking is ‘out of their comfort zone’.
Now I’m a bit uncomfortable with that term ‘comfort zone’. It implies to me a place that makes you feel good, or relaxed, or happy? Like taking a bath, a get together with friends or a good gym session (that last bit could be just me…). To me ‘comfort’ in combination with ‘zone’ feels confined and restricted.
Recently I was reading an anecdote about a woman who decided to clean her fishbowl. She filled her bath tub with water and placed her fish in tub. After she cleaned the bowl she returned to the tub. She noticed that her fish were swimming in the same little circle as if they were still in the fishbowl. Because that was their comfort zone, right? What they were familiar with, what they knew. Apart from the fact you shouldn’t keep fish in a small fishbowl, we should not keep going in that little circle. We should not limit ourselves and stay in, what I like to call, our discomfort zone. In fact that zone beyond is our true comfort zone. The place where we can shine, progress and move forward, with little steps, or bigger steps.
Think about it; every time you venture outside your familiar zone, how does it feel? Apart from a little unease at the beginning, but that’s just that, a little unease, your old limitations clinging onto you shouting “Don’t leave me!”. If you are really honest, it feels quite good so outside these imaginary boundaries. Perhaps it even feels exciting or free? That’s what happens if you get out of your discomfort zone. When you decide to get out of your fishbowl and swim in the full tub of your potentials!
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*Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. The organisation has more than 345,000 members in more than 15,900 clubs in 142 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. For more information please go to Toastmasters International