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This week’s ‘how to do life’ post comes from my friend and housemate Dr Molly Hunt. She volunteers each year at Over the Wall, a summer activities camp for children with serious illnesses and their families.
One of the things Over The Wall speaks about in volunteer training is the scale from Comfort Zone to Stretch Zone to Panic Zone. The idea is that humans naturally enjoy feeling competent and safe in whatever they’re doing, and so most of us spend most of our lives in our Comfort Zone. At Over The Wall, we recognise that camp is a chance for children who’ve faced some pretty big knocks in confidence to learn something about themselves and their abilities. Many of these children will face some big challenges during their week at camp, whether that be standing up in front of an audience on talent night, or getting to the top of the climbing wall. We aim to show the children that they’re capable of achieving much more than they ever believed of themselves, and that they can take these moments of personal discovery and apply them to their everyday life once they get home.
To have these discovery moments, we need to step outside of our Comfort Zone and enter the Stretch Zone. Here, we’re facing something new and slightly daunting, but are not terrified enough to be in our Panic Zone. If we’re able to sit in this perfect middle ground between safety and fear, then we can begin to learn something new about ourselves and, later on, start to reflect on the experience in a positive way. If, however, we push ourselves too far and enter our Panic Zone, then we risk learning nothing at all and only leaving the experience with negative memories which actually knock our confidence rather than build it up.
This theory doesn’t just work within the activity camp setting; in fact, we can apply it to our everyday lives to continually improve both our skills and our self-awareness. If we always do things which we feel completely comfortable with, then we may go through life easily, but we won’t learn anything new. Instead, if every so often we do something which we initially feel a little bit intimidated by, or which we initially want to say no to, then we can push the boundaries of what we’re capable of.
PS: Over the Wall are always looking for volunteers to help out at their summer camps. It’s super fun and rewarding and you make a real difference in these kids’ lives. Check out their website for more info.
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