Monday, 20 May 2013

Comfort Zones

I can't believe it is the middle of May already. This year is steaming by, and I feel like I'm trailing behind playing catch up.
I've been reflecting on all that has happened so far this year, and tying to find out what I can learn from it all. It all relates to where I am now and where I want to go. It relates to reminding myself that if I want something I have to go out and get it.

I recently started teaching ESL to adults of which most are Koreans living in the US. It has been a whirlwind of a start due to many changes in the school, all of which seem to be great leaps and bounds in the right direction.
In just a few weeks I have already learned a lot about Koreans and their culture compared to American culture. One main characteristic is that Koreans do not seem to adapt well to change. Once they are settled in their ways, adapting to something new brings discomfort. Of course, Americans can be just the same, but from my perspective Americans seem more open flexibility than Koreans (from the Koreans that I have encountered, anyway), who see the way it is done now as the best way. They don't seem to like to creep out of their comfort zones. This, of course presents many challenges when trying to work with and teach anyone with this trait, but not impossible; it just takes time and patience, just like everything. Rome wasn't built in a day.  
As I have been thinking about comfort zones, I realised that many of us don't even realise how often we limit ourselves in our lives due to our own comfort zones. How often do we pursue something different, how often do we consciously make an effort to improve our faults, and how often do we go the extra mile? As the days, weeks, and months go by, we mostly just do what we are used to doing, because we are creatures of habit.
As for me, well, I am just the same as nearly everyone else; my whole life is filled with comfort zones - too many to even mention. Of course, they are not always bad things, maybe we have already tried and tested other ways and now we have found what we like the best, or maybe we are too reluctant to attempt something new. 
If we want to make a change, we must be proactive. Whatever we want to achieve takes effort on our own part. This sounds pretty obvious, but I bet many of us have something we have always wanted to try, or do, and it just never happens. Granted, we can't achieve everything, yet some things really are within our reach with a little dedication, motivation, organisation and a goal.
I hadn't been to yoga class in a while, first because I was focusing on running and second because the class times didn't always suit me. The past week, I had been yearning to get back into a yoga practice, to bring things back into focus, and take some time for reflection. I felt stiff and I needed to release tension. During the class, I felt once again like I was starting from scratch. I wobbled and trembled as my balance was tested and my muscles worked. Today, my shoulders are sore. I don't think people realise that 'just' a yoga session can make your muscles sore. Well, think again. However, the class was fantastic. I asked myself once again why I hadn't gone in a while. Maybe really it was because I was apprehensive to get back into it, because I know in yoga, you are encouraged to break out of your comfort zones.
As for running, I'm trying to push past my comfort zone, and run a little longer, and a little faster, but this too takes time, and my body lets me know when it is done for the day. Will I ever get there and reach my goal? Well, I have to believe so, otherwise I will stop trying.
Pushing past your comfort zone isn't about experiencing pain. If it hurts, stop. Discomfort is good, we grow with discomfort, both physically and mentally, but pain may cause us to stop completely. To me, sore muscles remind me that I can push a little past what I'm used to and it's ok. They remind me that in order to get a little stronger, I need to step out of my comfort zone. It's not pain, but just discomfort.
As you go about your day, maybe think of all the ways in which you subconsciously remain in your comfort zone, and if maybe it would be worth venturing outside to find something a little new and different. If you do, and it's a little discomforting, then don't worry, you are growing, learning, and becoming stronger. Just that little bit extra changes us and opens our eyes to what we can achieve.

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