I have written before and talk a lot (to anyone that will listen) about the fact that life is too short not to be the best you want to be in every facet of your life. Being a better version of you means pushing yourself out of your comfort cross_comfort_zonezone, by definition uncomfortable and not an easy thing to do.  Whether it is volunteering to be part of a strategic project or deciding that you want to run a 10k, if it is something you have not done before then it will be uncomfortable and challenging but will ultimately lead to growth.  I have had a couple of experiences this month that brings this sharply into focus.

I am a proud member of the burgeoning Ramsbottom Running Club, a club for all abilities that meets at a brewery, so what is there not to like. One of the drivers of the club is inclusivity, and to that end, we have partnered with Bury Society for Blind and Partially Sighted People in order to provide the opportunity for blind and partially sighted runners to take up running.  I went to a wonderful training session a couple of weeks ago where we learned about the different types of sight loss and experienced, with the help of special glasses, what it feels like to have impaired sight to varying degrees.  It was an absolute eye opener, and I use that phrase very carefully and not facetiously, because it blind runningliterally enabled me to see (or not) what it must be like for thousands of people every day who have impaired vision.  Leading a visually impaired person across a busy main road, let alone running with them, was something that certainly made me feel a little apprehensive and uncomfortable but I benefited hugely from the experience.  My discomfort pales into insignificance with what John, Tracey and Paul et al deal with on a regular basis – walking down to the bus stop, getting a bus into Bury, making their way to the centre – all with limited or no vision.  However, for them this is normal, but learning to run with someone they have only just met and hardly know, now that is pushing themselves well out of their comfort zones. Hugely inspiring!!

On a connected note I have just signed up for a 4 night silent retreat at a Buddhist monastery in December – there, that is now public so I cannot back down! It is something I have wanted to do for a while, having heard from several people what a transformative experience it can be.  I try and meditate daily and have done for a couple of years. I struggle to focus and my mind races, but I am slowly getting better at staying in the moment and getting some control over my gaia_youngperson_slidemind. There are lots of studies that have concluded that meditation and the trendy PR version ‘mindfulness’ can provide health benefits beyond the obvious management of stress; improved decision making, greater creativity and more effective memory to name but three. The silent retreat is a bit hardcore from what I can gather – up at 06.30 and effectively meditating, doing chores, eating and resting before lights out at 21.30 – all in complete silence!  Why you ask?? Because I am uncomfortable just thinking about it, I will be pushed well outside my comfort zone but I know that it will help me grow, may create transformational insights and help establish disciplines that will make me a better version of myself, so why not!!

A friend of mine with whom I climbed Kilimanjaro a few years ago died last month aged 43 to cancer leaving a young family; he was fit, active and lived life to the full. Life is too short to be held back from things you aspire to do because you are afraid, being out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.