What’s wrong with your comfort zone?

I’ve been intending to write an article about comfort zones recently, but I’ve been struggling with writer’s block.  So today, with a bit of time on my hands, I consulted my new friend Chat GPT, and along with some additional instructions, asked it to write a humorous article about comfort zones that I could stamp my own irreverent style on at a later stage.

I wasn’t thrilled with what came back to me, but I did really like the bullet point that began ‘It’s where dreams go to hibernate… AND POSSIBLY DIE!’  I’m going to use that one, I thought, but I discarded the rest.  So instead, here’s an attempt to draw on my own experience.

You see, I have an unfortunate habit of saying yes to things without really giving them much thought.  So when my friend recently suggested, via Facebook, that we join a netball team, I replied with a jovial ‘sounds great!  Let’s do it.’  It’s out of my comfort zone, and I haven’t played for 28 years, but hey, why not. 

Some weeks later, having forgotten about it entirely, I was contacted by a charming fellow from Netball Leagues, who assigned me to a team and informed me that our first match was at 6.30pm on Sunday.  And that I should arrive at 6.20pm.  No time for practice or getting to know teammates or familiarising oneself with the rules – straight onto the court you go.

Hmm, I thought.  I wonder if I ought to have thought this through.

It didn’t go well.  I was the worst player on the court, by some margin, and that’s when it occurred to me that I wasn’t actually any good at netball when I last played it 28 years ago, but rather the school team was somewhat desperate for players, and I was anxious to pad out my UCAS form. 

As I bumbled around on the court wondering why the umpire kept blowing her whistle and pointing at me, I wondered, what the hell is wrong with your comfort zone?  I could be at home with a glass of wine right now!

Somehow, I made it through the match, which we lost.  The other ladies on the team were really nice, but I was embarrassed that I was such a terrible player.  With this in mind, I offered to take care of the admin side of things, checking to see who was attending, taking care of the team payments, etc.   This meant, of course, that I would have to continue attending, rather than shuffling off, never to return, all the while wondering why a game that is basically throwing and catching could be such a baffling ordeal.  But instead, I was committed.

Week 2 was better, although I had been dreading it all week.  Somehow, in spite of my limited abilities, we won our match.  It felt great, it really did.  I was happy.  I haven’t played a team sport since university.  Actual camaraderie, between a group who only met a week ago!  Such a strange, and nice, thing.

I was completely buzzing when I got home, and didn’t even get angry when my partner asked ‘how was basketball?’  Instead, I gently corrected him, informed him that my team had achieved a remarkable victory, and poured myself a flipping massive glass of wine.

Week 3 is coming up.  I’m hesitant to say I’m looking forward to it, although come Sunday I’ll probably be pacing the living room and trying to convince myself I’m ill or injured.  Why am I like this, I wonder? 

The thing is, even though I am rubbish, those ladies are depending on me to keep turning up.  In spite of my spectacular lack of ability and the fact that I run like Phoebe from Friends, I am needed on the court.  Maybe I will continue to get better.  Who knows? 

What’s wrong with your comfort zone?  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  I absolutely love it there, where the treadmill of mediocrity runs non-stop (h/t to Chat GPT for that one).

Should you try things that are outside your comfort zone?  What’s the worst that can happen?

Well, I got lost on the way to the sports hall. I’m nursing a mild injury.  I felt slightly embarrassed at being bad at something I haven’t done in 28 years.  Then I got lost again on the way home.

But… I still made it to the sports hall in time.  My injury is not that bad.  It didn’t matter that I was bad.  I made friends.  And I made it home.

The thing about stepping out of your comfort zone is that it’s unpleasant and terrifying – but it’s like that for everyone, regardless of whether they do it regularly, or willingly, or hardly ever.  That’s why it’s called a comfort zone.  Those people that seem to climb the career level effortlessly – they’ve done it. It’s not effortless at all, it involves a lot of fear and dread that could have been avoided by just staying put.  But inevitably, most of them will have battled with all the questions that accompany a journey into the unknown.  What if I’m not good enough?  What if I make a mistake?

What if I let people down?

But… what if you don’t? 

What if you stay within your comfort zone forever, and spend the rest of your life wondering if you should have challenged yourself?

Take a moment to ponder this.

As for me, I’m going to see netball through until the end of the season, but then I think I’ll retire once and for all.  Not because I’m bad at it (I am getting better) or I’m not enjoying it (I am), but because I think I should build on the experience and try something else that’s outside my comfort zone.  I don’t know what that will be yet, but I’m realising that the positives will outweigh the negatives for me, every time I push myself.  And fortunately for me, although I like my comfort zone a lot, I have an unfortunate habit of saying yes to things without really thinking them through, and an unusual urge to commit to things even if they fill me with fear and dread.

The biggest push is doing it in the first place, but then there’s a second push when you realise that if you don’t commit to the new thing, there was no point doing it. 

You might as well have stayed at home with a glass of wine in the place where dreams go to hibernate… AND POSSIBLY DIE!!