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How our comfort zone ensures best gets in the way of better…

Judi in disguise

My godmother (let’s call her Judi) has a lovely life, mainly running along one track and she’s happy bobbing along doing her thing. She doesn’t invite change and isn’t a huge fan of it.

She did the living and working in the Big Smoke thing, went travelling to far flung places, got married and started a family. I love hearing about Judi’s past adventures and sometimes feel sad that her life is so far removed from what it once was - she has changed so much. She no longer seems to want the adventures, the travels, the excitement. The Judi that was, has evolved into the Judi who doesn’t. And that’s perfectly fine if Judi is happy living that kind of life but I sense there’s a longing to try something new; over the years though, Judi’s confidence and self-belief have slowly ebbed away so I think she’s reached a point where she probably doesn’t think herself capable of trying new things.

She no longer works but her husband Robert does – he’s semi-retired (truth be told, she’d like him to finish working completely but it keeps him busy and happy) and he plays golf, so she busies herself with her book club, swimming and a textiles group she joined years ago and she creates the most amazing pieces which quite honestly, could be sold in Liberty’s in London – they really are stunning. Sometimes, the group have exhibitions and they get wonderful feedback about the standard of their work. I, along with Robert and Judi’s children, have all suggested she has a website whereby she can sell her work but Judi lacks the confidence people will like her art and want to actually buy it.

There’s no constant in life but change

So, the wheel keeps turning and Judi is enjoying her swimming and creating textile pieces and then boom! From nowhere, she gets a phone call from the tutor of her textiles group. There’s a 10-day trip to India which is being organised by the association they are a part of, with 16 spots available. They’ll be going to Delhi, the Taj Mahal and Jaipur, visiting textile workshops and taking in the sights and sounds to help enrich their work. What’s Judi to do?! Nothing like this has ever been on offer, in all the years she’s been a part of this group, so it’s totally unexpected and not on her radar at all.

Judi hasn’t challenged herself much for the past 20 years. Perhaps it was changing gear and getting into a whole different groove after leaving work to have her children, throwing herself into all things motherhood. Maybe somewhere along the way, she lost her self-confidence to try new things.

Judi’s life, as with most people’s, is 95% reactive habit. What she does day-to-day, week on week, is pretty similar. Going to India is so far beyond her comfort zone, Judi’s mind was blown!

As we sat and chatted over coffee, Judi was going through the pros and cons and to be honest, she was in analysis-paralysis. She felt she was making a tough choice – to stay with what she knows and is comfortable with, or to fling the duvet off and embrace the unknown. At the core of the growing cons list was fear of the unknown. Fear of change.  

During Ruth Chang’s fascinating TED Talk on how to make hard choices, she explains that during these decision-making moments in our lives, we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive people that we are. Chang says hard choices shouldn’t be feared because they are in fact a godsend. Judi felt she had a hard decision to make but I felt this was a defining moment for her.

One piece of sage advice I gave to my dearest godmother was this time next year, will she want to look back and remember another 10 days spent swimming, reading and working in her studio, or would she like to look back reminiscing on the trip of a lifetime – the assault on the senses such as the kaleidoscope of colours she’ll see. The sheer excitement of travelling to a country which can offer so much inspiration for her work…

Shake your groove thing

At this point, I think everyone in Judi’s life, took a step back. The decision was hers alone to make. She had everyone’s full support and encouragement but Judi needed to feel comfortable with her choice. It’s about embracing change. Because change can be good. Unfortunately, far too many people fear change, thinking it’s a bad thing. If we fear change, we miss out on the benefits it can bring – the potential opportunities and exciting possibilities. There is no constant in life but change and if we can be open to it, change can be good.

It’s so easily done, we get into a groove, we stop challenging ourselves and time ticks by. Before we know it, we’ve been in the same job for 10 years, we keep saying we’ll start the savings plan for the family holiday of a lifetime, we don’t meet up with that school friend we bumped into and the front door doesn’t get repainted.

A past Winning Edge Programme participant recently posed a great question in the online community: since completing the programme, one year on, five years on and so forth - how many have given thought as to what else they can do to challenge themselves? He reflected on the fact that a year on, although he had elevated his level of thinking and was extremely proud of what he had achieved post-course, perhaps he was now in a bit of a rut and it was time to set new goals and challenges.

It was such a great nudge for everyone because self-improvement is a work in progress – it’s about being consciously aware of the nature of our thinking because we are all prone to prioritising plenty of others things in life and not regularly giving ourselves a check-up from the neck-up. We can employ strategies to keep us on track - daily affirmations and visualisation, along with checking in that our values are up-to-date and our goals are aligned with them. When we challenge ourselves, we are learning.

“When you're green, you’re growing. When you're ripe, you rot” Ray Kroc

After much deliberation, I’m delighted to say my godmother took the bull by the horns and booked the trip! She needed the desire, the desire to make a change in her life. She had the opportunity to redefine who she was, to start a new exciting chapter and reinvent herself. Yes, she’s still Judi who loves reading, she’s still Judi who likes her weekly swimming sessions and her getaways on the coast with her husband, Judi who potters in her studio. But now, she was going to be Judi who cranks up her Mental Thermostat to a new normal, to be inspired by Judi Dench, wearing kaftans and linen, embarking on an exciting trip, way way beyond her comfort zone and taking in the exquisite colours of Indian textiles.

All I can say is, watch out Robert because I put money on Judi booking a suite at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!

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