Pushing out your comfort zone is mentioned constantly when we attend any therapy program and mentioned far too frequently with little understanding if you ask me. Every session you attend everyone is saying to you keep pushing out your comfort zone! Life starts at the end of your comfort zone! Hmmmm, Ok, I get it, I need to push my comfort zones… But how? And in which direction?
I kept hearing this and it kept confusing me to the point I was doing everything that was asked of me at every course I went on, but I kept asking myself, is talking to loads of random strangers asking, ‘where is Selfridges and John Lewis?’ really me pushing out my comfort zone? Is this what it means? And am I even doing it right?
I discovered that there was some use to these exercises, and they did give me the initial push that I needed but became meaningless after a while. It did not really conquer a fear or fill a void in my everyday life. It was giving me a boost at the time, but it did not convince me that I could leave that session and go into my real life and really obtain what I desired by using great speech in all situations. I was not aware of how to transfer these good speaking experiences that were becoming meaningless to me over to my ‘real world’ environment. I realised it was because I stopped pushing myself here.
Now before I move on, I need to make clear that what I am advising will not cure you of stuttering and comes after you have experienced a speech therapy course of some sort, are comfortable with and believe in the techniques (be it physical or psychological) you have been shown. Courses are great and are where you gain knowledge on what to do. What comes after gaining knowledge is implementation. Implementation allows you to gain experience. But the correct implementation for you as an individual in your ‘real world’ gets you the right experience. Experience qualifies you to filter out what does and does not benefit you. Experience makes you wise and there is always something else to experience. I am still at the gaining experience stage and probably will be for a long time. There is no time limit on gaining experience necessary for you to progress in the way you wish, especially when it comes to working on your speech. Enjoy this journey, it’s fun, it is giving me my freedom. The destination of complete freedom is what I look forward to everyday and is what drives me.
If a couple of courses, talking to strangers and public speaking on a soap box helps you conquer your speech in all situations of your life then you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to get everything you needed from that particular therapy. As much as I wished that would be me, unfortunately, I was not one of those lucky ones. To be honest I am yet to meet someone who has conquered all speaking situations from one course. I hoped it would be the case for me, but I kept slipping back into my old, bad speech habits outside of my disciplined, ‘working on my speech’ environment. I know I am still capable of doing so now if I do not keep working on my speech every day. If you are in the same boat as I was, that’s not a problem, we just need to put in a lot more work and push ourselves in the correct way. We have a little confidence from knowing we can speak in one situation we just now need to prove it in a situation where we doubt our ability.
So, what does the term pushing out your comfort zone actually mean to you?
Let me tell you what it does not mean to me. Pushing out my comfort zone does not mean doing something that scares me for the sake of doing it.
I think to myself… do I really want to do whatever scares me? Feel the fear and do it anyway? Ok, in some cases. But, I will not be picking up a spider as I have arachnophobia. So sorry to any animal or insect cruelty activists, but I will be splattering the spider so I now know there is one less in the world. I will not be feeling that fear and doing that anyway. This is out of my comfort zone but what will I benefit from holding a spider long term? Irrelevant analogy? Not entirely. Ok, fear of spiders is not speech related but tell me the difference between that and doing meaningless speech work? Both have the same effect on my speech in situations where my anxiety is high. Zero benefit.
Just because you have a stutter, does not mean that you have to now train yourself to think that you are always avoiding any situation because of your speech. Life is bigger than just your speech. You are not your stutter. You still have the right to choose what your personality does or does not like. It’s once you know for sure that a certain personality trait of yours was totally shaped as a result of you having a stutter that you know this trait needs addressing. This trait leads to speech related avoidance, which there is no excuse for when working on your speech. Its non-negotiable. Only you will know deep down if you are avoiding because of your speech or if you are avoiding doing something because you do not agree with it or it will not impact your emotions or psychology and is meaningless to you. This is where you have to be honest. Only once you are honest with yourself about this, you will begin see the benefits of pushing your comfort zones effectively and in the most meaningful way to you as an individual.
What you have to ask yourself is, when my speech was at its worst and I was at my lowest, I mean completely rock bottom - What did I wish I could do and what did I feel was never attainable? What do I want to do now, that I felt I could not do before?
By asking yourself this question, pushing your comfort zone now becomes personalised rather than what is perceived as generic to all stutterer’s.
List them, make note of which environment is the exact environment you would have wanted to do whatever it was that you wanted to do. Then create your vision board and look at it first thing in the morning when you wake up. But, make sure these specific visions are speech related (Speech and life visions should be on your vision board by the way).
What I am saying sounds like common sense. Whilst reading you may be thinking well done for stating the obvious mate. If it was so obvious, how comes there are so many people still struggling with their speech on a daily basis, not living the life or working the job they had hoped for having attended and been pretty much fluent on multiple speech and language therapies, conferences or workshops? Bear in mind all these people would have made roughly 100 street contacts to random strangers every course and would have made a speech on a soap box in a public place on camera. This is pushing your comfort zone as those are scary things for anyone to do let alone someone who runs a stuttering pattern of behaviour…. aren’t they? Yes, 100% correct, they are. So, I’ll ask again, why are the majority of people still struggling in their everyday life? From somebody who has tried everything from speech therapy to reflexology to try and help their stutter, this is what I think;
Just because you and someone else stutter, does not mean that you both have the exact same worries and anxieties. It does not mean you both have the same speech aspirations. It does not mean that you want the same out of your life as the next person who stutters. It definitely does not mean you have the same pressures and stresses in your life as the next stutterer. These differences could be due to current age, job role, sex, marital status, home life, the factors are endless and differ from person to person. This is why I am so against a one size fits all approach to overcoming stuttering and pushing your comfort zones.
What matters, is that you decide what you really want to improve on or what you wish to attain, and then working out exactly what you need to do in order to achieve this. By figuring out the steps and actions needed to be taken to achieve your goals, results in you pushing out your comfort zones.
If you want to be able to make that best man’s speech at your brother’s wedding, join toastmasters where you will be able to speak in public every other week. Rather than having the attitude of ‘try to go now and again’, commit to it. When that best man’s speech comes along or you wish to raise a question in a meeting at work in front of your colleagues, you’ve spoken in front of many fluent speakers on many occasions.
If you want to be able to talk to clients over the phone, make a commitment to working on your phone manner and keep intentionally putting yourself in a phone speaking situation over and over again. If you hate asking for things in shops, get a part time job as a mystery shopper to push yourself.
If you always stutter and avoid talking to your boss then ask them a work-related question every hour on the hour even if you know the answer, just to get more and more comfortable. The first question at 08:30am will be jittery and you will see a big difference at 5:00pm when you ask the last question. This will reshape your mind-set and overtime your anxiety levels are reduced significantly in those situations as your belief system changes. When you need to have that conversation with your boss regarding your pay, or asking for time off, you’ve been there. You know what worked and what didn’t. You’ve worn that T-shirt multiple times and you now believe you can do it. The first real difficult conversation with your boss probably won’t go perfectly, but I’m sure it will go a lot better than it would have if you had not been proactive previously.
By pushing yourself in these meaningful situations over and over again, creates positive experiences where it matters, where you doubted your ability. You’ve proven to yourself you can do it where you needed to. This is the difference. Would street contacts help you with any of the above examples? Almost certainly not. Committing to each of them would.
By pushing yourself in situations that are meaningful, gives you a true sense of achievement, which will in turn give you that real boost of confidence. The ‘I can smash this’ boost of confidence. This feeling of confidence excites you and urges you to keep going. This achievement can then be transferred into other aspects and speaking situations in your life. Unfortunately, it rarely works in the reverse.
Work out what you wanted to do that you thought you couldn’t do before and focus on that. Smash it! Then Smash it again!
Once that becomes easy and is now your comfort zone, move on, try something else and repeat this cycle. Your aspirations will change over time. Keep discovering and keep pushing. The opportunities in this world are endless, adopt a limitless mentality.
Stop Holding Back.