So What Was Your Last Challenge?

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It’s the weekend and the sun is shining. You’ve cleared your desk, had your meetings and circulated the action points, your “To Do” tray is cleared and the weekend is beckoning.

So will it be a family weekend – meeting your parents, in-laws, aunts and uncles you haven’t seen for ages at your long lost cousin’s wedding? Have you arranged to have a weekend away with your friends at the beach, in the countryside, at that luxury hotel you read about in a magazine whilst waiting to have your hair cut? Or is this your weekend? Are you free to do what you want to do – laze in the garden, down at the local pub, go for a walk along the river, through the woods – see that film that everyone is raving about. Or, at last you’ve booked into a spa to relax and rejuvenate or do that course you saw advertised in your favourite magazine and this is your chance to learn how to do origami, cordon bleu… The list is endless.

Monday morning you will be back at your desk, the phone will be ringing, the files will pile up again, that voice inside your head will start up and you will wonder “why am I doing this?” It was a great weekend, you had lots of fun with friends, family and possibly made some new friends. So what are you trying to achieve? Our work pays for a roof over our head, clothes, holidays and the things you want to do. Is that it? Is that what it is all about – working hard Monday to Friday (yes, and sometimes being contacted in “our” time) to have two days off and start all over again?

It is so easy for us to do what we have always done but then be discontented with what we get. How can we change things to make our lives a little more exciting, to help us get a different view from the window? No, you do not have to move! All you need to do is to tweak some things.

Whatever we are doing we get into a routine – or is it a rut? We work out a way to do everything as efficiently as we can. Then what? When you look at your office, at your employer, do you see innovation or is everyone doing what everyone has always done and still the money rolls in? That’s fantastic. Supposing we decided to change something – yes, I know, you’re tired of change. We would like things to settle down, be as they were, we were comfortable, we knew what was going to happen and we could prepare for it. That’s very nice but how can we grow if we always do what we always did?

The changes taking place in our lives, our work, our country and the wider world are continual and will not stop – we have to accept a different way of working. No longer can we do what we always did. Technology is changing our lives forever, they will never be the same again – change is normal now.

So how can we stand out as we compete with so many new ideas. When I started as an Executive PA it was extremely rare to have a male PA – virtually unheard of. But many things were unheard of particularly in technology. I worked for the Company Secretary of an American Oil Company and I had to produce 10 copies of a financial table for a regular monthly meeting on a typewriter. This entailed 11 sheets of paper (used landscape) with carbon paper in between each sheet and I had to use Elite font (fonts were either Elite or Pica – Pica was normal). I had to copy ten columns of figures that filled the page!

It took me hours and if I made a mistake I had to rub it out which meant putting scraps of paper behind the carbon paper and rubbing the offending figure out on each page so that it did not show on the paper, then remove the scraps of paper and type the right figure. Yes, you are right – often one scrap of paper got left behind (as I dealt with each page the offending scrap of paper would slip further down so when I came to remove them all it was missed). I would have to start the whole process again. It was not a job that could be rushed! So some change is good.

Many of the changes we encounter are good. We don’t like them because we have to make extra effort. We want everything to be in its right place. We get disorientated when it snows in June as it did in 1975 in the UK. So can we embrace change and make it work for us?

I love my comfort zone – I am happiest when everything is in the right place and everyone is doing as they should. This is my place for feeling settled, secure, at one with everyone. But and yes, it is a big but, we cannot stand still neither can we go backwards, there is only one way to go and that is forward with change as our companion. We can fight it or we can embrace it.

I think it’s best to embrace it. So how can we do this? We love our comfort zone but when we do try something new it is exciting, we feel invigorated and we grow a little bit. It doesn’t matter what it is – trying a new form of cooking, trekking somewhere instead of taking the bus/car/train, learning a new craft/language/sport, watching a totally different channel on TV – in other words anything that takes you out of your comfort zone and stretches you. Taking up a different sport makes you feel stiff – that’s your body saying you haven’t used those muscles before.

You may not like the new meal you cooked but you can eat something else tomorrow, but you’ve pushed the boundaries. Once you have done it the first time, you can push yourself a little bit further the next time. You should make a point of trying or doing something different on a regular basis – even just taking a different route to work. It will give you a different perspective and show you that you’re capable of more than you thought – and you may even enjoy it! The more we push ourselves to experience different things the stronger we get, the easier it is to accept change – it becomes our companion not our enemy. It opens our minds and eyes to our true potential.

By taking on a different task or new experience we grow, we become more confident, in the end we look for new experiences to change how we see ourselves and the world around us.

What else can it do? Each time we learn or experience something new we are growing which brings knowledge and with that comes expertise and that has an impact on our careers!

With knowledge our minds are open to new ideas and ways of working. Also we realise that there are several ways of dealing with situations, we see everything differently. It shows us that we are capable of a lot more than we thought we were. We can climb that mountain – you realise that you can climb the ladder, take more responsibility – go for the top job. In your heart you felt it was just too big a step, but it isn’t – it is our limiting beliefs that stop us achieving our full potential. We can reach those incredible heights.

We stop ourselves time and time again. We allow that little voice to take control of our life, limiting our beliefs stopping us being the person we’re meant to be. If that voice would just be quiet or go on holiday just think what you could achieve.

It’s just one step at a time. Decide every day to try something different – coffee, food, new route home and so it goes on. Each month try something bigger – a different type of cinema, or restaurant, raise money for charity, start a course in that subject you have always wanted to try.

The only one stopping you achieve is you. Who knows where it will take you. Don’t try, don’t get!

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About Author

Rona Cant

Rona Cant is an explorer, international speaker and author. Once an unexceptional, middle-aged single parent she became a round-the-world yachtswoman by competing in the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race (the toughest yacht race in the world). For the last 10 years she has been putting together programmes on leadership and teamwork, and motivating businesses and individuals to get out of their comfort zone and reach their potential based on the lessons learnt on her expeditions. Her second book, Snow, Sleds & Silence – the Story of the Nordkapp Expedition describes the ups and downs of her epic adventure on this trail, which lead her to establish Arctic Leadership Challenges which offers experiential training inside the Arctic Circle for individuals and teams.

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