I have felt this feeling in 2014, the day I said goodbye to my Mammy and Daddy outside Northumbria University on the first day of my ‘adult life’.
In 2017, I felt this feeling as I cried speaking with my parents after my leaving party, talking about the family and friends from home that I would miss as I prepared to leave for South America and New Zealand.
I definitely felt this feeling a week before my MMA fight in 2019, crying again, adamant that I wasn’t going to get in that cage.
I felt this feeling walking through the empty, eerie airport, in 2020, leaving my partner to move to a country I didn’t speak the language, not knowing anyone and not knowing when I would see him next because of COVID regulations.
I know this feeling but every time it comes creeping up on me and each time it feels a little bit different!
Each time I step out of my comfort zone, I recognise this feeling like a familiar friend coming to greet me again. But as each experience changes and/or gets a wee bit more challenging, the feeling feels different each time. Coming with different worries, thoughts, doubts, excitement, questions and ideas.
As I approach this new chapter in my life, this next life change, I have realised that I have a few more tools in my toolkit to approach this new adventure with. Some of these tools are helpful and others are just deadweight.
And I would like to share them with you today, connecting to the fantastic advice I received from two inspiring innovators I get to call mentors and more importantly, friends.
I was lying awake at 2am late this week, I can believe some of you may have been there before. Mind racing, pulse speeding, reeling over what could have been in the past as well as worrying about what might potentially happen in the future. Great useful thoughts in the wee hours of the morning……
This is when I caught myself mid spiral and I said one of my partner, Rob’s, favourite phrases - what are you going to do about it?
So, in the middle of the Tokyo night I wrote to the two people who I have sound boarded with many times before. Who continually help me when I am feeling unsure of myself and the mission I am on, David Lee and Evo Hannan.
The message went along the lines of ‘Are you free at any point tomorrow for a bit of a pep talk??… I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with thoughts, doubts, excitement and lots of different things and think sound boarding could help….”
And these two amazing humans replied asking to set up a session that day. Grateful beyond belief to have their support and guidance!
As we spoke I felt my shoulders start to relax, my tight chest start to loosen, my jaw begin to unclench.
Just speaking out loud about all the thoughts racing through my head and hearing their constructive feedback just started to paint a different picture than the one I was creating in my own head.
So, I sat that afternoon and started to write this post trying to understand the process of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and what happens to my body so that I can keep moving forward, especially when I am filled with self doubt and insecurity. And in turn, hoping it might help bring light to others in the similar spaces or situations.
David talked about his experiences throughout his process and we made connections to my situation. This allowed me to feel understood and not alone in my process. Then, Evo walked me through some brilliant visual imagery that could help me when I was feeling all the feelings I mentioned above.
Both conversations have very much inspired this blog post and in turn inspired the visual below that I created that afternoon while trying to navigate this space:
When I told Evo how I was feeling he walked me through this image in my head and I was truly inspired to create this piece and connect it to the work I have been looking into about what we can control and what we can't.
It is suppose to represent the journey of surfing the waves of life. Sometimes we approach the small bumps in the water ie the small challenges and sometimes we can see large, gigantic waves in the horizon coming towards us (the big innovating unknowns).
Let’s look a bit closer at the four areas in this picture.
Surfing the wave - What are the 4 things to think about when we are stepping out of our comfort zone?
I mentioned earlier that I messaged both David and Evo saying ‘I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with thoughts, doubts, excitement and lots of different things and think sound boarding could help.’
But after this I think I am going to change it to ‘I think a bit of surf boarding could help.’
I have always found the phrase ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable’ a bit confusing as I don’t know if I have ever felt ‘comfortable’ being out of my comfort zone.
However, the more we can put ourselves out of our comfort zone the more practice we will get being there and the more prepared we will feel with each new waves that comes our way.
Like David says in this session ‘start with something small’. Start with the small waves and go further and further out to sea the more practice you get.
Like Evo also mentions in this session ‘just make a start.’ If we start by looking at the big huge wave on the horizon it can make us never want to get in the water or on the board. However, just dipping our toe in, and then our legs and so on can make use feel more comfortable to keep on going.
I am so honored to be inspired by the guru Evo Hannan who talked about the surfboard analogy with me and to the innovator David Lee who continually shares his wisdom and experience. Thank you for inspiring me to create this post.
I know there will be plenty more uncertain, insecure nights ahead as I continually venture into unknown waters. But I am so grateful for you both as well as all the other people in the Empathetic Educators community and beyond who have made all this possible so far.
Some of the amazing Empathetic Educators crew that I am refering to are part of this line up for the upcoming #EEConQuest happening exactly three weeks from today!!
You can find out more and register here: www.naomitoland.com/#register
What helps you step out of your comfort zone? How do you face new challenges and unknown waters?
I look forward to hearing from you and having you join our fun 12 hours of learning next month!
Remember - our choices have an impact. What impact are you going to have?