by Zaina Cassam
Alhumdulillah this year I'm moving onto a new chapter in my life that will, Inshallah, be completely different and new compared to anything I have ever experienced before. It's going to require commitment, confidence, and an open eye. It will also therefore demand change.
I've noticed a common thread in human behaviour to be the lack of enthusiasm, or even interest, in changing. It's in human nature to want to stay the same; we get into routines, develop habits and thrive in familiarity. We feel safe in our individual comfort zones we create for ourselves, estranging anything that lives outside of them - because we fear the unknown. We dislike the notion that anything could be lost, replaced, adapted, developed - changed. It triggers our sense of personal security, because what if we don't know what to do or how to handle it?
Psychologically, change requires new neural pathways to be created in our brain, so that we can learn and remember how to do things. For example, if you ride a bike for the first time, neural pathways will begin to form and develop every time you stumble and fall. Then, when you've grazed your knees and scraped your elbows enough times, that neural pathway will become strong, and the memory of how to ride a bike will be encoded into your procedural memory, thus allowing you to eventually ride a bike without even thinking about it. But it will only reach that stage after the countless scratches and bruises, all of which usually becomes a forgotten struggle as soon as you've learnt, because it becomes effortless, you'll wonder how you ever didn't know how to ride, because it will seem so easy to you now!
Falling over and hurting ourselves a few times is necessary in order for our brains to grow - without failure, how will we learn to succeed? It is at this point that separates the brave from the rest, because when changes happen in life, it is the risk of falling over and injuring ourselves that stops us from even moving. No moving means no learning, and no learning means no change. Instead, people will make a home out of their comfort zone, refusing to take any such moves that could potentially jeopardize the space. The truth is, success and moving forward in life all happens outside of this space.
It may seem off putting at first - why would you consciously make yourself uncomfortable? Because if you didn't, no progress will be made. How can we change if we are scared of change? Nobody said this would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
So, how do we handle change in a practical sense? It's easy to talk about embracing change, but what does that physically look like? For me, I think the greatest form of embracing change is in taking baby steps. Every day do something that's only outside of your comfort zone by a small centimetre, then 2cm, 3cm then 10, 11, 12, until you reach 1 metre. Soon you'll find yourself at 100 metres or even 200 metres away, without even feeling the difference. This is because when you take small steps, the change doesn't seem so big, you trick yourself into thinking it's nothing.
But it does add up, Inshallah.
You'll realise that each step you take outside your space doesn't stay estranged for long, it becomes familiar to you as you expand your comfort zone bit by bit. For example, the first step to riding a bike could be sitting on it while its stationary, seeing if you can balance with one foot off the ground, then two. Then you'll try pedalling slowly, then a little faster. Maybe only riding in the back garden. Then, before you know it, your riding at full speed down the street! But the key to this method is patience. Take a big step outside your comfort zone, and you'll end up shrinking your comfort zone instead of expanding - our natural instinct to fearful situations. Take too small of a step, and you'll only ever be treading the rims of your comfort zone, with any bigger of a step seeming too uncomfortable, so you'll never even try. It's about committing to a balance; and having the patience, confidence and an open mind to maintain that balance. Open mind meaning you must trust the process, you have to believe you are making progress, even if it doesn't seem like it. You must wait before the results of your hard work show - you don't just learn to ride a bike overnight. And if you think you can, and you dive into the deep end on the first day, your lack of experience will soon reveal itself when you almost drown.
I've taken small steps for a while now, and even though some changes in life can seem like more than just a small step, I'm learning how to break it down so it is just the right amount of discomfort. It's a difficult process to trust, and it may be that things just don't turn out the way you wanted. But even then, you must believe that changes, no matter what form they take, is always better than no change at all.
I pray that we all find our balance in life, that we embrace changes as they come into our lives and that we may trust the process, with strong commitment, enough confidence and an open mind, and may it lead to real success, Inshallah.
"...the path to great things, if it was easy, it wouldn't be worth doing"
- Humble the Poet
You can read more of Zaina's blogs here: âhttps://littlemisszenblog.wordpress.com/