“If you really want to know yourself, start writing a book.”
When I joined Toastmasters International, I became aware of my passion for writing and delivered ten inspirational speeches. On the other hand, like most people, I had a fear of public speaking and my aim for becoming a member was to overcome that fear. I realised that the only way I could conquer it was to stand up in front of an audience and deliver my icebreaker, a speech about myself. I needed to get up and speak before an audience. It was uncomfortable at first but the more I wrote and spoke, the easier it became. My reason for joining was that everything I wanted to do in life involved speaking and writing in some form. This is the reason you have this publication in your hands today.
It occurred to me that most of us want to do great things with our lives, but we do not want to take the necessary steps. We are too comfortable in our present positions and become satisfied with whatever life throws at us. We cannot even answer simple questions about who we are and what we want to do. We are inclined to live our lives based on other people`s opinions of us. We enjoy having it easy in life and are quite happy to compliment other people`s achievements and neglect our own dreams. This is all through concluding that life is not fair and achievement relies upon how fortunate you are as a man or woman and whether you have support from your family or not. Well, your comfort zone is not your destiny. I`ve been there, got the T-shirt and outgrew it. This is my story.
In the year 2009, I had an argument with my father about the past. He was never there for us and I grew up with a lot of resentment towards him. I was one of the smartest students in primary school, yet I spent most of my time involved in fights and being reprimanded by my schoolteachers. At the time of the argument, he resorted to calling my mother names. I responded by saying, “If my mother was that, then what are you?” He retaliated by disowning me and kicking me out of the house – the place he often called our home.
I stayed and never moved out. However, I was still angry with my father, especially for what he had said to me. At one stage he even asked me to hop into his car so we could do some shopping together – something I dreaded. Over the years he was never there for us, so I became adept at bottling things up inside, meanwhile displaying a pretentious smile. All this came to a head on a Saturday afternoon in September, 2009. This fateful day is still so clearly imprinted on my mind.
Although everyone at home thought the bad blood between my father and I was over, I pondered over the matter with deep concern. I was overwhelmed by my doubts and fear, afraid of what would happen if I moved out. A little voice whispered in my ears and said, “Mthokozisi, the man kicked you out of his place and said you are no longer his son, so why are you still around?” The voice continued to whisper, “Move, move, get out and find your own place”. I started feeling as though I was the prodigal son. And that`s when I remembered the words I once read in a poem. They spoke to me and said, “If you are in a comfort zone, afraid to venture, remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt, a step or two and words of praise can make your dreams come true”.
One Saturday morning my father had to work. He did not know that I had already rented a room and had my new keys. My younger brother was the only one who knew my intentions and didn’t tell anyone because I asked him not to tell a single soul. I left my father’s house lugging my bag full of clothes and entered an empty room with a heart full of hope.
I had just been accepted into a learnership programme and my allowance at that time was R1 800. I had nothing! All I knew was that I had to spend that money very wisely, which I did, and was only left with R200. I still had to buy my monthly train ticket which was R99 back then and I was left with R101. I had no food and life soon forced me out of my comfort zone. I found myself on the other side of the bridge, having to take a leap of faith and jump into the unknown.
I remember walking into my empty room and leaning against the door, wondering how I was going to make it work. I remember friends leaving me and going to bed on an empty stomach. There were many days I felt like giving up. Sometimes I cried and wished I had never been born. But I loved reading books and came across a quote by Lou Piniella which read, “You have to learn how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. Suddenly I was glad my father had kicked me out of his house and disowned me. Firstly, I had to learn to depend on myself and then I had to forgive. I first forgave myself and realised why I was in that position. Then I let go of what was holding me back and forgave him.
A comfort zone is a place or position in which a person feels secure, comfortable or in control. There are many reasons why people stay in comfort zones and they differ with each person. It all depends on where they are in their lives. In the following chapters we shall explore some of those aspects. Then, I will attempt to give you a few tips on how you can overcome problems and venture out of your own comfort zone.
Your comfort zone could be the cause of your downfall. If you stay in it for too long, you will become bored and lazy.
You will be a “dead man walking” and lose the ability to create meaning in your life. I want you to know that you can achieve anything you want and you can learn any skill you lack. Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”. You also need to develop the courage to step up and step out. Nothing is stopping you. Other people have done it before, and that should be proof enough to you that it is all possible. If I could do it, then you can do it too. All you have to do is decide.