I get it. You’re busy. There are 12 grant deadlines in the next four weeks, two grant reports need program data collected yesterday and the “Service Engine” light just came on in your car. I’ve been there. Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I once taped a stamp-sized piece of cardboard over the warning light on my dashboard until I could make into the mechanic’s shop.
So why would I even dare to suggest that stepping outside your comfort zone and learning something new would help any grant professional out of her often stressful and always an important job, not to mention a full life of friends and family?
Seriously though. The pioneering research of Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, check out her TED talk here http://bit.ly/2j1Sipr, is part of a growing body of research showing that actual physical changes on the chromosomal level occur when we pull ourselves out of our routines for a trip to Beginnertown to learn something new.
Of course, the concept of being open to new things and experiences is much older than the latest research. The concept of “beginner’s mind” is integral to Zen Buddhism meditation. Ben Franklin admonished readers that “without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success, have no meaning.”
While skydiving, rock star camp or a cooking school in Tuscany are high profile, high cost, (and maybe high risk) and possibly highly desirable new things to try, you don’t have to break the bank or your back to improve your health and well-being–and maybe even your career. Whether it’s a free app to help you learn French, or an archery course at the local community college, or a Youtube series on Gullah sweetgrass basket weaving that are all kinds of ways to gently but consistently try something new for a great cause: you.
I may have crapped out of my Duolingo Spanish course, but I’m still going strong (sorry) with weightlifting and vocal training; two things that definitely were not in my comfort zone but have paid off with more ease of movement and personal confidence.
Becoming involved with the Grant Professionals Association also took me out of my comfort zone in the best possible way as I became a regular attendee at the Georgia chapter meetings, then Board Secretary and Chapter President. My chapter colleagues inspired me to become more involved through the Grant Professionals Foundation, presenting at regional and national conferences and now through co-chairing the GPA Pioneer Awards Committee. Without stepping outside my own introverted comfort zone I wouldn’t have gained valuable public speaking, board leadership and volunteer management skills. And I would most likely have missed out on the wonderful company of the growing #grantchat community.
All in all, I have found stepping outside my comfort zone, well uncomfortable at first, but completely worth the investment of time and energy. And in these turbulent times taking care of myself means I’m much better prepared to serve the causes and communities I believe in, whether through the grants profession or personally.
I want to leave you with this quote that so beautifully sums up the professionals and personal journeys we all take:
“Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better.”