How the flying trapeze helped me move out of my comfort zone

Are you holed up safely in your comfort zone at the moment? Perhaps you have been in a job role for years passing up the chance of promotion in case you don't get it (or worse that you do and you have to do a different job with a whole new set of responsibilities). Or perhaps you've recently moved to Bristol but are too scared to go out and meet people. Maybe you've holidayed in England for the last decade because catching a plane abroad feels daunting. We have all been guilty of sticking within our comfort zones in various aspects of our lives.

A comfort zone is defined as a situation where we feel safe or at ease. It is often a situation that we are very familiar with, that we've done many times before, hence it requires little effort.

So what happens when we go outside of our comfort zone? We face the unknown, we feel vulnerable and unsure, and as you'd expect, uncomfortable. You can see why we would want to remain in our comfort zones then can't you?

And when we feel stressed and anxious, our desire to remain within it is even more heightened.

A comfort zone is a very subjective thing. What feels comfortable to me may feel like your worst nightmare, and vice versa. Comfort zones are not static. They change over time as we develop as a person. It is good to know that we can expand our comfort zone, that it is changeable. But it only gets bigger if we push its boundaries.

This year, I set myself some goals both personally and for my hypnotherapy business. I knew these goals would mean that I would have to do things that would be outside of my comfort zone. I would be challenged by these goals, possibly feel vulnerable, nervous, and even a little anxious too (I'm only human!).

A few years back I went to see Invisible Circus put on a performance in an old warehouse in Bristol. There were lots of different circus acts performing amazing feats. One of the acts was a woman doing the flying trapeze. Just watching her do that made my stomach roll and my heart race. I said to my friend who was with me, how scary it must be up there that high, swinging about. I also added how awesome it would be too to be able to it - that if you could face that level of fear, you could do anything. I forgot all about it after that fabulous night. Until...

Back in January an ad popped up in my Facebook feed (FB does have its uses) for a flying trapeze experience at Circomedia. So after much deliberation, I booked myself on to it.

I arrived at the venue (which is an 18th century church) ready and raring to go.

I admit that I was more than a little bit nervous. Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched Victor Frankenstein a few nights before which had a trapeze artist fall to the ground in a broken mess.

I didn’t really know what to expect so when we were taken through a warm up routine I started to wonder what I’d let myself in for. The instructors talked us through the safety aspects and the calls they would use so we would know what to do and when. Then it was time to get in to the harness and scale the ladder. I have to say, that this was the worst bit - climbing the ladder and then transferring from the ladder on to the platform which was less than a foot wide. My heart was going ten to the dozen. Standing on that platform, holding on to the trapeze bar with one hand, leaning forward held in place by my harness as I prepare to jump off the platform and catch the bar with my other hand was a very scary prospect. But I did it and I made my first swing. When I dropped to the net below and unhooked myself from the support wires, my legs were like jelly. The adrenaline was properly flowing now and I was more than a little giggly from the experience. I was ecstatic.

“She flies through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring your woman on the flying trapeze”

Next came a little training on the static trapeze, learning how to hook my legs up on to the bar, let go with my hands and hang upside down, then return to a normal swing with hands on the bar and legs hanging down.

And then I was ready to do it up in the air. Whilst it was more complicated what with having to follow instructions and get the timings right, I found it less scary than that first simple swing because my mind was occupied on exactly what I was doing. Then we took things up a notch again by introducing a back flip dismount. The first one I did, I landed face down on the net but I managed to do it the next couple of times I did it. And here's video proof of me doing the flying trapeze.

It was a proud moment and I was so chuffed with myself. It was an amazing experience and I loved every minute of it. It wasn't easy and it was scary but I did it.

I came away from that experience thinking “If I can do that, I can do anything”. I remind myself of this now when I have to do something out of my comfort zone. And it really helps me. Like with the flying trapeze, when I’m working on my goals, I'm following a process, my own or other's instructions, and keeping focused on what it is I am doing and the desired end result. I know I'm supported and that I'm safe. After all, what's the worst that could happen?

It is all too easy to stay within our comfort zones under the pretence that it’s comfortable there. But is it really? I don’t think so. Stepping out of our comfort zone isn’t actually any more uncomfortable than staying in it. It’s just a different kind of discomfort.

If we take the example of someone not wanting to go out to meet new people. Stepping out of their comfort zone might mean the possibility of rejection, embarrassment, vulnerability, shyness, etc. Whereas staying in their comfort zone means they potentially remain unhappy, lonely, bored, dissatisfied etc. Both bring negative emotions that make them feel uncomfortable. But I know which is the better option, step outside! Step outside your comfort zone. Push those boundaries.

Pushing yourself to better yourself, achieve goals, and face fears may momentarily cause discomfort but it brings long term comfort as you move closer to achieving what you want. It opens up a world of possibilities. It is where change happens.

So get comfortable with being uncomfortable!