From your Comfort Zone to your Growth Zone

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Our first meeting of the new school year (besides a kick-off dinner just for the moms in September) was over a month ago, but we revisited friendship skills and practicing assertiveness - which I’ve already written about here before, when we did it just for our family. So I will now delve into our second meeting with the girls, which covered a very interesting idea…

Your comfort zone.

Your comfort zone is where your brain tries to keep you most of the time, as your brain has the job of keeping you safe and comfortable. Or in other words, your brain just wants to chill in the cave.

Your brain says, “you are safe now. Why risk it?”  

And a lot of it is based on past memories and habits. If I have the habit of raising my hand a lot in class, and not care about whether I get it right or not, I’m in my comfort zone when I’m doing that. But if I never raise my hand, and decide to do it once, my brain will feel like it’s a risk or unsafe to do, and will freak out accordingly.

“What are you doing? What if you get the answer wrong and everyone laughs at you?”

Your brain’s job is to ring the alarm bell and tell you exactly what could go wrong and outline all your obstacles, once it feels like you are leaving your comfort zone.

So once you feel like doing something that your brain thinks of as challenging, self-doubt will flood you within a split second… Most of the time you don’t even realize the thoughts that come up, but rather it’s a powerful feeling in your body, that says, “don’t do it! It’s too scary! It’s too hard!!“

Some of us feel it in our tummies, in our hearts, but some of us hear the actual words, it all depends on what the challenge or your goal is.

The point is, that being in your comfort zone is great, but you don’t grow there. So certain emotions are not possible to reach in your comfort zone, such as pride, a sense of achievement, learning from mistakes, enjoying a challenge, etc.

But this is the cool thing…

You know you’ve left your comfort zone when self-doubt appears and is trying to force you to turn around and go back - through feelings of nervousness in the pit of your stomach, or screaming in your head of what a bad idea this is. But once you feel these emotions in your body or hear these negative thoughts in your head, that’s when you know that you have just left your comfort zone and you are on your way to growth!! So it’s a great thing, actually! You are not vanilla anymore, but you are actually challenging yourself. Who knows how it will turn out, but if you keep going, and either ignore those thoughts or write down every obstacle your brain sputes out and address them, you can grow from this experience. And the more you do it, the more those challenging things turn into your comfort zone!

So “go out there, kill something, and drag it home” as I guess Dave Ramsey would say, whom I don’t know at all, but this quote was mentioned in a podcast I listen to, and thought it was a great image. The point is to go and get that sense of satisfaction of challenging yourself, and not turn back at the first sign of obstacles (in your head,) which will undoubtedly happen, as they happen to everyone human being.

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So after this little Ted talk that I gave, as my daughters (I’m sure) affectionately refer to, we all closed our eyes, until too much giggling got us out of our flow, and tried to think of a challenge that scared us a little bit in order to see how our bodies felt, and what thoughts our brains started blurting out to us.

We then shared:

1. What is the challenge/goal you thought of?

2. And what's your brain telling you about it?  

I was surprised to hear that all the girls had something to share right away. Whether it was jumping off the block before a swim race, or sleeping over at someone’s house, making a mistake in front of the class and not knowing what to do once the mistake was made… whether to sit down, try again, or just laugh along with everyone else. It was an unexpectedly great discussion, and they knew exactly how their bodies and thoughts said and in return made them feel!

We also referred back to what we’ve learned about our brain so far through this handy-dandy high-tech looking poster I made… The point/reminder is that the quick thoughts/feelings you get upon leaving your comfort zone come from your subconscious brain (Mammalian + Reptilian), as they are stored in the memory bank through past experiences or habits. Now that we know to expect these self doubting thoughts upon taking up a challenging goal, it’s easier to override them through conscious positive thinking and keep heading towards the challenge, which ultimately leads us to growth.

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Afterwards, as we had a couple new members to our club, we played some super fun games that had nothing to do with our theme, but which I still highly recommend. Part of our mission is just to have fun and be silly with one another, so these games were perfect for that.

Game 1

The first game involves putting on brand new pantyhose on our heads, with an apple or an orange dangling in one of its legs, and you set up empty cans or bottles to knock over in separate rows. The first one to get through their row wins!

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Game 2

In the second game, two players competed against one another wearing a little box (such as a kleenex box), that has a big whole on it. We put 5 ping pong balls in each, wrapped it around our waists with a scarf, and to fun energetic music playing in the background had to jump/dance/whatever else in a way that the balls fall out. We limited it to a minute - because it can be pretty hard. But it’s super funny. Obviously the first one to get all the balls out wins.

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Afterwards we meant to discuss a book (The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng) that dealt with issues of friendship which we covered at our last meeting, but they had so much energy after the game that we skipped it and instead went for a hike in the woods looking for pretty fall leaves to make art with.

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Happy Fall!!!