By ETHAN GANES
A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. —Unknown
After one year and four camps’ worth of experience as a facilitator, I was offered the unique opportunity to coordinate my very own DIODE Youth Leadership Camp. It was one of those offers that screamed for me to seize it! It was also one of those offers that scared me.
All my life, taking leadership roles has been a great challenge. In every camp, I had learnt to take up greater roles gradually. To me, this was more like taking a leap: exhilarating and downright frightening!
On one hand, my gut told me I had so much to learn and experience. On the other hand, my heart told me that I had never done anything like this before and I should flee. Funny how two important organs can disagree with one another so much.
According to a search result on Google, a person’s comfort zone is a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and is without stress. In every camp, we emphasise that outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens.
Having said that so many times, I knew it would only be fair that I walk the talk. I accepted the offer, my gut rejoicing and heart quivering.
Ignoring the other two organs and enlisting my brain, I did my best to logically assess my challenges. After a while, all I could see ahead was: Ethan you have to take charge now. Isn’t that great (heavy sarcasm)?
Nevertheless, the choice was made. It was time to inch my way out of the comfort zone.
Committing to it
It was very tempting to avoid the whole thing, sit back and wait for someone to help me make it work. It would be the path of least resistance, something easier for me to move along. However, I knew that this would just be me slipping back to my safe space.
I genuinely wanted to challenge myself. I knew that if I could put my back into it, it would take me to new heights of my leadership journey.
I needed to commit to it as strongly as I could and stick to it. I went to all my past campers, facilitators and colleagues. I made sure I told them that I wanted to run this camp, it was a passion, and that I would do the very best I could!
As I uttered those words, it made my responsibility feel more real. I felt more anchored in this new role and more determined to do it. It helped me feel a strong sense of accountability towards giving it my all.
As a coordinator
My responsibilities ranged from organising the logistics of trainers and facilitators, to running my own sessions, and even to the general management of the whole camp.
I, at the age of 19, would have to guide and mentor the facilitators through their entire camp journey. I was to be Odin, the All-Father of camp, but of course more smiley and friendly.
Going back to the frightening idea of having to take charge, for the first time I would be the one to call the shots. This meant that every decision made would impact my campers and facilitators directly.
Uncle Ben’s words from Spiderman had never made more sense:
With great power comes great responsibility.
It’s a quote used very often, and for good reason. I was empowered to run this camp, and I was responsible for its success. It was time to push beyond and start working.
The camp experience
The biggest challenge I faced before camp was the massive uncertainty.
When you’re out of your comfort zone, nothing is as clear. In these scenarios, for me at least, the fear of failure looms. It was new ground for me.
In order to get past this, I had to constantly remind myself and be reminded that failure is only failure if you do not learn from it. I got my mindset ready, i.e. prepared for lots of learning!
I was faced with challenges I could not have foreseen. Quite literally. I’m a planner, so when sudden changes happen, being adaptable doesn’t come naturally to me.
The very first day of camp, for example, we faced a sudden challenge. The campers’ bus was late due to traffic and a number of delays.
This reduced the time for my opening session, forcing me to change half my plans. It forced me to be flexible and change my routine according to the situation, throwing me further out of my zone of comfort.
Had it not been for my outstanding facilitators, I don’t think I could’ve adjusted. As the days went by, I let myself learn, grow and adapt to the hurdles I faced and grew to love my role.
My comfort zone expanded and I felt my confidence growing.
Feelings after camp
I looked back at camp today. It’s been about a month since, but the world looks different. I had just had the most challenging and beautiful six days of my life. I stepped out and faced all I had feared.
Taking leadership roles have been a great challenge. Coordinating out of my comfort zone was like crossing my own borders and jumping off a cliff.
It’s still too early to say, but after the journey, I feel levels more prepared to take the next step and inch out once more.
I learnt that I truly enjoy leading. The role of being a guide, mentor and friend turned out to be a blend of all the things I find interesting.
As for having to be the one calling all the shots, I noticed that decision-making like this would happen throughout life anyways. While it’s still not my favourite thing, at least now I have a sense of acceptance towards it.
A simple sum up
When venturing out of the comfort zone and into the wild:
1. Commit to it, be prepared to give your all
2. Learn that failure is failing to learn
3. Be ready to adapt, stuff happens
Just like fishing, it takes effort to reel in life’s “big ones” and make a meal out of challenges.
Stepping out is never easy, but when you do, the world becomes a bigger place.
Our comfort zone is our safe place.
However easy-going it may be to remain there, we only live once and life begins at the end of that comfort zone.
Ethan is a die-hard believer in transcending comfort zones. Ever since his DIODE Camps journey began, challenges have become learning opportunities. Get involved with DIODE camps by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Starting Young articles, click here.