This year I set myself a challenge of speaking Spanish at our next retreat in Andulucia. To speed things up I completed a 2-week immersion course in Valencia.

I was well and truly in a boat on the sea of discomfort!

In the first few days I went through a range of emotions – lonely, frustrated and incompetent to name but a few. I felt out of depth in the classroom and silly when I spoke to the locals. I got lost several times in the city. I felt friendless and left out. Everyone else in the language school was having a great time – except me.

Why, might you ask, would you do such a thing? Just stay at home with duo lingo!

Unpleasant thoughts and feelings often go hand in hand with learning something new. But the experience soon becomes pleasant when you start to understand what it is that you are learning. Then comes the feeling of accomplishment, and the realisation that your comfort zone has expanded.

I also started to take control of my thoughts – I stopped giving myself a hard time, stopped making assumptions, and started making some friends. Soon I began to relax and speaking Spanish became easier.

When you have been training and facilitating as long as I have, almost 30 years, it’s easy to forget the feelings that being a learner brings – such as vulnerability, stress and at times inadequacy.

My experience in the language school taught me that:

  1. As trainers and facilitators we can often forget what it is like to be new at something and we can become complacent.
  2. At times we make assumptions about our learners and get frustrated if they are slow to understand something we deem easy or hold back in discussions.
  3. It is important for us to remind ourselves of the early stages of learning to enhance our compassion.

This applies not just to trainers and facilitators but to anyone experienced in their job. Any newcomers to a team or organisation are likely to be feeling anxious and insecure about their abilities, skills and knowledge. They may be worried about not fulfilling expectations.

If we regularly do new things and become a learner again and experience different styles of teaching, learning and leadership; it is easier for us to become more compassionate, patient, positive and inclusive with new learners and model the good styles that we too experience.

Also doing new things makes us more intelligent

According to neuro scientists we create new synapses in the brain – not only when we learn something new, but when we do something new  – simply our brain gets bigger!

That’s why when we go on holiday – to a new place we may start to think in a different way. Having a different routine, eating unfamiliar foods, seeing a new landscape – these new experiences fire off the brain into thinking differently. Ideas come to us about the way we might change our lives even.

Doing something different doesn’t have to be as time consuming as learning a language – it can be as simple as the following things:

  • Choose a new route to work
  • Sleep on the other side of the bed
  • Park in a different spot at the supermarket
  • Rearrange a room in your home
  • Change where you sit at work

We are creatures of habit, we like the familiar – and this is fine, but to expand our enjoyment of life we need to shake things up, and step out the comfort zone.

Would you like to set yourself a big challenge – do contact me for a coaching session and visit my website.

Hasta Luego!