| January 15th, 2007

Leaving the Comfort Zone

There are many things in my life that I dread doing, and public speaking is one them, I can come up with every possible ‘excuse’ to convince myself why I cannot do it and why I should avoid it at any cost. In school when I had no choice but to speak in class for presentation (as my grade depended on it), I would just talk fast and finish the presentation in few minutes; I can take any challenge behind the scene, but feel uneasy when the limelight is on me. I am always awed by people who can speak eloquently in a big group, they all seem to know what to say, when to say it and how much, I don’t think I can ever do that, I can never be that articulate,  …see how convinced I am.   Â

So, why would someone like me would commit to go and speak in a university, especially when that university is no other than Harvard? Because, when I gave my commitment to be at a conference there to speak I was in euphoria from reading an email from a friend who has been instrumental to Adhunika. She wrote me, how much she was inspired by being involved with Adhunika and she wanted me to go the event and join the panel, as Owning Our Future, Courtesy: naina @ adhunikashe wanted to share that inspiration with rest of the people.  When I read those magical words, ‘I am inspired by being involved with Adhunika and want to share that inspiration with others’ – before I thought of anything else I wrote back to her – ‘Count me in’. But, when the day of the event started approaching I started loosing all the excitement and I kept asking myself why did I say I would participate, but then I didn’t want to let my friend down, so I kept my promise.

On the day of the event during my bus trip to Boston from New York I kept thinking of one little fellow I left home with my husband for the first time in his life, our two-year old son. Although I was planning to tag him along to the event, my husband being supportive as always insisted I leave our son home, so I could enjoy the event.

Once I arrived at the event and started listening to all the experts in the field – that dreadful feeling came over, why did I come? As Adhunika’s work is mostly done on-line, I was jokingly saying to the organizers – anyone can go pretend to be me and speak, as no one really knows me by face. But the next day when it was my turn to speak – as I started talking I realized over the last few years we have built relationships with so many people, and some of them were in that room, these people have always come forward to support the work of Adhunika, they participate at the blog, they partner at the site with their work and support our projects in Dhaka, the rest of the people who didn’t know about our work – I soon felt the urge to share the work of Adhunika, I wasn’t afraid anymore to speak.  During that presentation, I realized we want our readers to come out of the barriers to use their potential, and here I was afraid to talk about a topic which I know like the back of my palm.

I was rejuvenated after I met all the great people at the event, it was a humbling experience, I am glad I left the comfort zone, otherwise I would have missed a great opportunity to meet our members as Adhunika is mostly on-line based – we don’t get to meet our members who continuously support us through their work. Now I can put a face to the names who contribute regularly to our web site.  So, you out there leave that comfort zone, and share your thoughts with us. You will be amazed how much you will gain from that uneasiness, you have nothing to loose.


10 Responses to “Leaving the Comfort Zone”

  1. Mansur says:

    Interesting commentary. I always have an anxiety attack when invited to talk in front of a group of people.

    However, my perspective on the subject took a serious turn when I had to cover an event arranged by one of the news agencies in B’desh for a book launching ceremony. The writer was obviously a ninkampoop of the highest order, one might even say he is a total “waste of space” as the saying goes…

    Anyhow, the “book” was a compilation of already published works widely available in the market. During the Q&A session, he demonstrated how a complete buffoon can weather the storm that raged around him with complete ease.

    I am now convinced that in the B’desh setting, one can get away with murder without bashing an eyelid. Just be yourself…

  2. Anita says:

    It was great to know about how Adhunika is inspiring us to leave our comfort zone. I would like to share that it is very important for us to be associated with a good group of people who can assist us or support us unconditionally. I have a mentor such who has helped me to find out my strength and to work on my weaknesses on going basis, thats why I feel it is a great opportunity for us to get as much as we can from Adhunika. I have not got the opportunity yet to be consistently a part of it but could sense it is a great association. All the best and I hope i can get the support when I need it from you all.

  3. Shaila says:

    Great Topic! I personally feel pretty comfortable in most situations, but I think it could be due to being exposed to different settings from an early age. I stayed over with my grandparents over the weekends when I was very little, some of my other friends never experienced staying over at someone else’s house till they were much older. So, I was exposed to different settings, different people and started to make myself feel very comfortable in unknown settings. Leaving the comfort zone could be anything little to something big as public speaking. But if you are someone who does not like to leave the comfort zone, I would suggest trying one new thing at a time. It could be trying out a new restaurant instead of the same restaurant where you always go to and know the menu by heart. It could also be making a new friend, who might be completely different than you. You can try going to a new place for vacation, search for a new job or just wear something other than your style. Also, for those who are parents, I feel giving kids exposures to different things from an early age is a very good thing. This helps them in the later age to take challanges and not worry too much when going out of the box to do something new.

    At Adhunika, I just got inspired to write because I met the Adhunika members and became friends with some who came from different backgrounds and had very interesting ideas. Try leaving the comfort zone and write something on Adhunika, who knows you might find a great friend by connecting to someone from the blog, or get interesting thought provoking ideas which will enrich your life. Also you can bring up issues and ideas which are near and dear to your heart. If you are ever afraid of leaving the comfort zone, think of one thing, “What is the worst thing that can happen to you”? If you are not going to loose much, then go ahead and do it!
    Enjoy trying something new TODAY!

  4. Sharmin says:

    I have been in a conference where the speaker was saying, in order to take you to the next level, set some higher but achievable goals and put yourself away from your comfort zone. Strech yourself, that way you will get a chance to utilize your potential.

  5. Emma Rahman says:

    I think the key to the success of public speaking is speaking from your heart. No matter how well you are prepared with your speech – unless you make that connection with the audience by speaking from your heart, you will loose the audience….and the audience knows the difference….that is exactly why I believe Shahnaz did so well at the harvard conference….Bravo! You found the right recipi!

  6. Oneza says:

    I attended a few public speaking seminars. Tips I learned to draw attention of the audience:

    1. Be interactive. Ask the audience what there thoughts are.
    2. Be confident about your topic.
    3. Avoid a big introduction about yourself at the beginning of the speech. Rather, you can start the speech with a brief summary of your topic, like “today I am going to tell you three reasons why writing in Adhunika blog is great for you”
    4. “Three” is the magic number to devide your speech.
    5. Maximum attention time of the audience in a single span is usually 3 minutes! Funny, ha!

  7. Selina Huq says:

    I like the article. This is something i always say to my students, friends and peers.

    To come out of our own comfort zone, it is very difficult task.

    We as human beings are always concern about what will people say, what will they think of us, but at the end we all have similar fears. I am glad you shared your experience, it will help others to deal with their own fears and hopefully leave their comfort zone.

  8. Nabeel says:

    Simply awesome – not just the article, but the opportunity to participate and talk about ADHUNIKA in a greater forum!! Shahnaz – you are going places!!!

    Now – as you might be expecting from a twisted sceptic like myself – something about the following:

    1. Public speaking – the importance of it: Personally, I wouldn’t put a lot of emphasis on “public speaking” and the like. Experience tells me, people with substance to share are hardly good talkers… and good talkers are hardly people with substance, so not always worth listening too… (though we sometimes end up having to listen to them since they are such good talkers!). As long as one is concerned primarily on the “what” aspects of things over “how” aspects of things, I think till then the energy is spent well and in the right direction. “How” aspects of things here, the rhetorics, is an art of the politician, the showperson, the charishmatic and the like. Often, we spend too much of our time and energy on this… consequently failing to explore the topic in details… I don’t think this will ever happen to Shahnaz, but it can to many of us…

    2. Agreeing with Emma… speaking from the heart is all that matters. Yes, this is the ultimate position one can take on “public speaking.” To hell with the delivery, the posture, and everything else… deep knowledge of the subject, conviction, and the confidence born out of that conviction… that is all one needs. The stage fright and all of the rest will automatically evaporate…

    3. Leaving the comfort zone… should be a motto of life and applicable to situations well beyond the “public speaking” sphere of things… This is often the story of our lives… we never get to leave the safe little santuary we make for ourselves and fool ourselves into thinking that that is the world and there is nothing beyond we need to be worrying about.

    Congratulation on a job well done Shahnaz… and thanks for bringing in a topic worth talking about as well. “Comfort” can inevitably take one to a very unproductive, submissive, and dormant state of being, which is ultimately “uncomfortable!” Cool!

  9. Ishret says:

    Great article Shahnaz!

    I sure do agree with Nabeel. Leaving comfort zone should be applied to many spheres of life, not only for public speaking. In fact we all are trying more or less without even realizing. Think about arranged marriages, aren’t those couples often leaving their comfort zones to cope up with the new environment and build a new relationship? Think about a new mother, she is creating her own comfort zone outside the zone she knew as her own comfort zone for many years. Dating, meeting new people, trying a new dish or a new recipe, starting a new job – all require (in most cases) us to get out of the zones that are very comfortable to us!!

    What a great article to share, and great comments as well!



  10. joya says:

    Even after teaching for five years my fear of public speaking hasn’t left me. I believe some of us need much practice to step out of the “comfort zone” while others are already equipped with their gift of natural ability to speak in the public arena. I admire those who can speak eloquently on the spot; however my survival mechanism for public speaking has always been to prepare ahead and to prepare well. Knowing a topic in-side-out, having passion for that selected subject, and knowing the audience are the chief preparatory elements for me. While in the speaking process, a strong introduction that captures my audience, in a positive manner, strengthens my confidence the most.

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Adhunika blog is launched with a mission to share knowledge among women from every walk of life. Sometime it would be in the form of sharing experience to find a feasible solution of a problem; sometime it would be in the form of professional consultation, which Adhunika group will arrange for its bloggers. Nevertheless, the intent of this blog always remains the same - to help and empower women through a common web-based platform....read more



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