The edge of stretch

26 10 2014

At work, I’ve been learning some new skills and a bit about change. Change is uncomfortable for many people because it takes them outside of their comfort zone. It challenges long held beliefs. Ingrained ways of working. The status quo.

But what many people don’t realise is that by staying in their comfort zone, they remain unfulfilled. Motivation and engagement decreases. They become stuck in a rut.

I’ve volunteered for a project at work that is doing just that for me. I’m not big on presenting, with “disco knees” being a familiar feeling as I stand in front of an “audience”. And this role will see me in front of up to 50 fellow colleagues. Delivering one of the most important projects our organisation has embarked on for several years.

It’s a bit of a change for me from the everyday job too. And do you know what? I feel energised and excited by it.

The organisation helping us do this say that we humans have three zones in concentric circles. The Comfort Zone, The Stretch Zone, and The Panic Zone. Their belief is that we need to operate at the edge of our Stretch Zone to get the best out of us. That’s how we learn and progress.

For many, that relies on a mindset shift taking place. They need to go from feeling the safety net of the status quo to seeing the benefits and opportunities that come from trying something new.

I was reminded of this outside of work.

I’ve recently taken up cycling. Not seriously. Just dabbling in it as another way to keep fit. A new road bike has been purchased (my first ever “roadie”!). And I’ve taken it for a few spins to build up a bit of confidence.

Then I took it on its first commute to work. Now getting TO work is the easy part. OK so there’s a bit of an uphill slog at first, but it’s a fairly shallow rise that most people can cope with. Then it’s a case of “weeeeeeeee” downhill all the way to work.

Coming home is another matter. I have two choices. A nice gentle ride around the bays to the South Coast, with a short, but very steep, uphill to finish. But it’s about twice the distance.

Or I can go the direct route and hit Brooklyn Hill.

Now this is a gut buster of a hill. It’s about 1.5kms of solid uphill. And a decent gradient too. I’ve never even attempted it on a bike that isn’t motorised.

I was convinced I couldn’t do it. Not just yet anyway. I didn’t think I had the strength, stamina or fitness to manage it. Yet.

So I was all prepared to chicken out of trying it (yet again) when my husband called me a wuss. Now those of you who know that Competitive Me likes a challenge, will know that kind of insult will have sparked something in my brain that said “stuff you! I’ll prove you wrong!”

So, with more than a little trepidation and doubt in my mind, I headed off in the direction of Brooklyn Hill. I dropped my bike into its lowest gearing and put my head down.

Competitive Me had to have a rethink. My mindset is usually one of ‘get there fast’. But this time I needed to channel my inner turtle, rather than the hare, and focus on simply ‘getting there’. My goal was to reach the top. Time didn’t matter.

And with this mindset established, the trek up the hill became a different challenge. A new opportunity to stretch myself. New skills to learn. As I made my way up the hill, the more convinced I became that, maybe, just maybe, I could do it. After all.

And I did. And do you know what? It felt amazing to crest the top of that hill and know I had a big dose of “weeeeeeee” left to come.

But it wasn’t over there.

That short, steep hill to finish? That was still there. And in three attempts, I’d yet to get up it. But hey, I’d just conquered the longest hill of my life. Maybe, just maybe, I could do this one too.

Harnessing my new found skills, and belief, I approached my final climb with increased confidence. It was still 750m of hell, but it was 750m I believed I could do.

And with that mindset, I made that hill too.

And I felt damn good about it. I’m no longer afraid. I no longer doubt my abilities.

I’m not of the mindset that if you put your mind to anything,you can do it. But you can sure as hell do a lot more than you think you can. If you just push yourself that little bit further out of your Comfort Zone.

To the edge of Stretch.





2 responses

7 01 2015
A mental year | A little old blog, by little old me

[…] I used them to my advantage too. Get to know yourself and what your drivers and motivators are, and use them, or dampen them, as you need to. It will help you achieve your physical goals […]

19 10 2015
I’m my own number one | A little old blog, by little old me

[…] colleague commented, after I told the story of conquering Brooklyn Hill on the bike for the first time, that she loved my “never say die” attitude. I’ve never thought of my competitive […]

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