Five Benefits of Venturing Outside Your Comfort Zone

It’s rarely easy doing something that we are not accustomed to. It can make us feel uncomfortable and unsure of ourselves. This week I was reminded that venturing outside our comfort zone is actually good for us. It can increase our confidence and help us achieve things we would never have thought we were capable of.

This past week, I had the pleasure of being part of a great team that led over 60 kids aged between 4 and 12 during our church annual summer camp. The theme for this year was ‘Cave Quest’ and many of the activities dealt with geology concepts such as stalactites, stalagmites, snottites and geodes. I was tasked with the role of running the “Imagination (Science) Station” during which I would run various experiments with the children.

Now I have to say that prior to the camp I felt rather intimidated by the sheer number of kids that we would be looking after as well as the fact that I had never done a summer camp before nor did I have much knowledge about geology. I would have felt much more at ease talking about biology or chemistry. But geology? I simply felt clueless. The fact that my team and the kids were depending on me forced me to do my research and come up with some inventive ways to demonstrate the experiments.

Through the course of the week, I went through a myriad of emotions from exhaustion to frustration to amazement to appreciation to gratitude! It was difficult to do something outside of my comfort zone and there were times when I felt I was not doing a good job. But each day, the excited faces of the children with their energy, curiosity and thirst for knowledge, made me feel so privileged to be part of the team doing sports, sharing about the wonders of science as well as the love of Jesus.

This week surely reminded me of the importance of stepping outside of our comfort zone from time to time. The benefits are many:

  1. Growth and perseverance: doing something you are not familiar with stretches you and forces you to use your mind and body in ways that you’re not used to. The result is a stronger, more resilient person who can take on even greater challenges.
  2. Builds relationships: having been in the trenches with the kids and other leaders for five full days in a row, I got to know more about them and to build some amazing friendships.
  3. Expands your horizons: I remember somewhat grumbling to myself when I saw what the theme for the summer camp was….geology? Boring! I don’t know anything about that! But having researched and then explained the concepts to the kids, I learned some truly fascinating things!
  4. Builds your confidence: Having successfully managed to “survive” the summer camp, I feel much more confident to take on  new things and not to be intimidated by my lack of knowledge on a subject. There are so many resources to learn new things!
  5. Meets a need: No matter how uncomfortable or incompetent you may feel at something, if you give it your best and put in the required effort, you will make a difference in someone’s life, maybe even leave a permanent mark on their hearts and minds.

Don’t be afraid to try something new! Don’t let discomfort hold you back! There is a learning curve for everything and with time and effort, you will eventually succeed!

How to Improve Your Public Speaking

Have you ever felt nervous talking in front of a group of people?  Does the thought of going on to a stage or into a room full of people make you anxious? There are so many life situations that call for us to have courage and speak our thoughts in front of people and the fear of what people will think often deters us from taking the opportunity to speak or leaves us feeling panicky when we do have to speak.

For some people, public speaking comes naturally. But for others, like me, it can be nerve-wracking. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that we should do at least one scary thing every day. For me, public speaking would be at the top of my list of “scary things”.

So how does one go about gaining more confidence in public speaking? I have read many good books and articles on public speaking and how to positively influence other people. However, by far the most effective tool that has improved my level of confidence and made me a better speaker is actually talking in front of a group of people in a formal setting on a regular basis. I have done this through a fantastic public speaking club called ‘Toastmasters‘.

This is a club that I stumbled upon in my local newspaper and so I decided to join because I was curious about it and because my work as a research scientist often called for me to speak in front of a group of people in one form or another. Toastmasters is an international organization that was started in 1924 and there are thousands of clubs worldwide. Chances are there is a club not far from where you are.

There is so much to say about the benefits of this club but here are my top picks from my experiences in the club:

  • Speech writing: you get to write and present a speech every week on whatever topic you choose with a particular goal such as focusing on eye contact, gestures (are you moving your hands to compliment what you are talking about or are you as motionless as a big rock?), body language (are you pacing distractedly, is your face expressive or dead-pan?), vocal variety (are you varying the tone of your voice, are you loud enough?), the art of persuasion etc.
  • Table topics: this is my favorite part of the club meeting where you are asked a question (usually something that requires your opinion) and you have to answer it on the spot in 2 minutes. This gets you thinking on your feet and is great practice for interview questions, impromptu toasts at events or other situations where you have to come up with an answer or a solution quickly.
  • Evaluations: the club meeting would not be complete without an assessment of how you are doing. Every time you speak, you receive an evaluation from a fellow club member on what you did well and what you can improve. Perhaps you did not realize that you clasp your hands when you speak or that you talk too softly to be clearly understood. These are all things that will be brought to your attention and that you can work on. You will also have a chance to evaluate your fellow club members, giving you yet another opportunity to practice speaking.
  • Leadership: every meeting, you get to choose a different role to facilitate the meeting, for example, you could be the ‘table topics master’ where you get to put people on the spot with funny or thought provoking questions. Just coming up with the questions is a good exercise in research and critical thinking. You could be the ‘general evaluator’ who summarizes how the whole meeting went while making suggestions for improvement. You could be the ‘grammarian’ who (ironically) is responsible for spotting any dubious grammar or pointing out crutch words such as ‘um’ or ‘aaah’ thus improving the quality of the club members’ speech. You can also take up more permanent club positions like President, Treasurer or Secretary giving you the opportunity to practice your leadership skills and boost your confidence!
  • Competitions: you have the opportunity to practice your speaking in front of bigger audiences at different levels (area, district, division, world championships etc.). There are some fun contests like the “humor contest” if you are the kind of personality that likes to make people laugh!
  • Camaraderie: you will forge great friendships with club members who you see every week. You will encourage each other to keep going, keep practicing and to improve your skills as a speaker!

So, if you would like to improve your public speaking, the best way is to actually SPEAK! If there is no public speaking club near you, why not form one of your own with a group of friends?

Image courtesy of iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net

Five Reasons Why I Love Blogging

I first started blogging in the summer of 2014 and I have to say it was initially a little intimidating. For someone like me who was shy about posting simple status updates on Facebook, I thought to myself, “how in the world can I publicly reveal myself through blogging?”

So I initially set up my blog as a private blog only viewable by my husband. As I continued to write posts, I found myself gaining confidence and I realized that it was a really therapeutic way to be creative. As I perused the sites of more experienced bloggers, I realized that there was no set formula for writing blogs. People write about whatever means the most to them and often the content is inspiring and informative for others. That’s what really got me hooked on blogging. It is a world unto itself with a host of information and a sneak peek into other people’s worlds. I finally got serious about blogging earlier this year and made my blog fully public. I still feel a bit of apprehension when I hit the “publish” button but for the most part, I am feeling a lot more confident about blogging!

So without further ado, here are my top 5 reasons why I love blogging:

  1. Builds Your Confidence and Improves Writing Skills: I was very shy in the beginning about posting my ideas and opinions online. I thought, “what will people think?”, “does this even make sense?” But the truth is, the more we practice something, the better we get at it. So the more you write, the more confident and proficient you will get at it.  It trains you to be courageous enough to speak up and voice your opinion. It’s not an easy thing to do but worth striving for nonetheless.
  2. A Great Teaching and Learning Tool: You may wonder what to blog about. I wondered the same thing. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Everyone has something to offer and that’s why blogging is so great because it is a free exchange of information, one teaching, another learning.
  3. Forms Connections: I have met some truly inspirational people through blogging. One female physician in particular has become one of my mentors as I prepare to apply to medical school. A mother like me, she has been through the process and is in a good position to provide advice and motivation. Our friendship is blooming and I would have never found her had I not discovered her blog online.
  4. Inspires Others: Blogging allows you to come into virtual contact with people who have similar interests, dreams and motivations. By reading what others are doing, it gives you new ideas. And by writing your own thoughts, you can in turn inspire someone else. You may not always be sure of what to say in a post, but say it anyway. You never know whose life you can touch in a very special way.
  5. Gives You Direction: There’s something about putting things down in writing that helps you to collate your thoughts and get more focused. Some of my posts have been pep talks to myself to remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing and that I can succeed at whatever I set my mind to. Just seeing positive words on the screen has a powerful effect on our frame of mind.

So if you’ve never blogged before, now’s your chance. And if you are already an avid blogger, keep going! Your words are inspirational!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net