The comforts of language
"Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort", Peter McWilliams
The language that we use to talk about learning and discovering new things matters.
This was brought home to me last week when I was talking to my colleague Sue about the work I have started on renovating my narrow boat. There are lots of new skills, experiences and knowledge this process requires of me; it is a personal development process of a very specific, and often frustrating nature. I want to learn from the experience both to see what I find out about myself as a learner and what could help me in my coaching of others to make changes and try new things.
The thing Sue made me aware of was the edge of anxiety or nervousness accompanying my description of the task; it didn't sound to her like I was enjoying what I was doing. I had described how I was feeling as being, "out of my comfort zone", as something almost painful, a "no-mans land" I needed to go through to come out better the other side.
Why does it matter how I think about and explain it? What is in a small bit of language and a metaphor? Surely the end result is the same - I will have new skills and insight some of which will be transferable to other areas of my personal life and work.
It matters because as long as I think of this process of discovery as something I have to step in to, and almost conquer I am making the task harder for myself. I am not an "inner battle" thinker, this is not how I motivate myself through the language and imagery of the strong victor, laying waste to inner and outer "demons". I want to enjoy the process of learning, be curious and open to new ideas, the opinions of others and give myself a safe space to fail in, the language of having to "conquer" is not conducive to making mistakes, learning and moving on.
So with support from Sue I have re-envisaged the process of renovation as an adventure of discovery, with added power tools and permission for hilarity. Rather than being, "out of my comfort zone" I am curiously expanding the frontiers of my known zone of experience and knowledge. And what better way to do this than in a very personal project where I can test this thinking so I enjoy the experience, openly ask others for views (and graciously accept the frequent unsolicited opinions) and ultimately only have myself to please.
So there will still be discomfort on the journey - most currently in the choice of paint colour - but when those feelings come I will acknowledge them and find a way to enjoy the opportunity of trying something new.