7 October 2015

On Pushing the Boundaries – A French Goal Setting Story

Ever noticed how much faster and more effective our life lessons and personal development are when we push, or are pushed by external factors, outside our comfort zone. One of my life goals for some years has been to learn French, and right now I’ve allowed it to kick (not just push) me right outside any sense of comfort – by choice.

Carcassonne 2015

‘Carcassonne – magnificent medieval city’

I’ve just spent the first of two weeks of intensive French classes with Ludo Expression, a boutique language school in the beautiful small medieval city of Carcassonne, near Toulouse. My tutor Dominique is excellent and very patient. It’s the living situation that’s providing the shove from behind – and I deliberately chose it.

Magali, my kindly and voluble host, is a delightful 85-year old French woman with not a scrap of English. Every day I’m deluged with a torrent of words. Although I listen incredibly hard for the occasional recognisable crumb to which I can respond, fortunately for us both she doesn’t need much response in order to have a conversation!

Sitting at a table with Magali, I have no idea what she is going to come out with. Every now and then I catch a familiar phrase and sometimes I can guess by what’s going on around us. The sense of achievement is wonderful when we can converse for a few phrases – and I am getting better. Simple things become very important – such as being able to say the word ‘rugby’ (the same word in French) with an accent she can understand. Or to reach an understanding that our after-dinner fromage (cheese) would be great at ‘mi-temps’ (half-time). It’s amazing how such small things mark progress. (Can you guess that we’re both watching plenty of Rugby World Cup fixtures? Fortunately she loves sport.)

In that intense listening and observing is the benefit – on many levels. Also, when everything is different you have to live in the moment in order to cope. It is necessary to become totally present to your environment.

Lastours Castles Montagne Noir - fancy living up there Oct 2015

‘If I hadn’t hired the car I would have missed this – medieval ruins at Lastours’

Another example was hiring a car last weekend. I know heaps of people do this in foreign countries and I’ve just spent three weeks driving all over the UK for my work without any hesitation, but I hadn’t driven before in highly populated mainland France. When I’ve been a passenger, the small narrow country roads have always seemed quite daunting. Last week I found myself quite anxious about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Would I get lost with so many diverse roads seemingly going all over the place? Or lose concentration and turn the wrong way at an intersection?

The desire to go exploring the region over the weekend and to explore the small town of my ancestors 100 km away was high but it nearly got squashed by that anxiety.  Day after day I kept deferring the organisation of a car. Finally on Thursday I forced my reluctant feet into the Office de Tourisme for help in booking a vehicle. Once the credit card had been passed over the die was cast.

Of course, once you begin it’s never as difficult as the imagination paints it.

How does this apply to day-to-day life and business? In every way.

Most of the time we go through life on auto-pilot. Our daily routines are pretty much the same, our work is similar most days, we tend to socialise with the people we know and like. And so it is easy to slip into nice comfortable routines that don’t stretch us. If we’re not careful that comfort zone can become a rut.

Instead, look for your own special audacious big goals, even if they make no sense to others around you. In stepping out of your comfort zone you’ll live life to the full. Who wants to die saying ‘I wish I had …. ‘?

Lessons learnt:

  • Don’t spend too much energy thinking about how hard things might be. Instead, just ‘do it’. It’s never as bad as you imagine.
  • What is the starting action? Get that out of the way and the scary activity becomes simply the next stage in a process. In my driving example, it was stepping into the tourist office.
  • We operate with a different and more attractive energy when we step outside of our comfort zone with expectation of good results. Instead of living in fear and uncertainty we create momentum and draw helpful people to us.
  • Walk in unknown paths and you inspire others to do the same. Many people question me on what it’s like to travel alone. Actually, it’s great – I’ve done it for 15 years in many countries. You meet far more locals and have very different experiences than when you’re with familiar people.
  • What we focus on enlarges. If we focus on fear, that grows. When we focus on living life to the full, new possibilities open up in totally unexpected ways.
  • When we allow a strong desire to motivate us, magic happens. Answers and help come from unexpected quarters.
  • Once we step into the unknown, we discover that we have a far higher resilience and ability than we ever imagined possible from the comfort of our lounge chair.
  • We experience life in its fullness when we live in uncertainty. Kick away the supports and follow your intuition.

What hidden surprises are waiting for you around the next corner?

Goal-setting that doesn’t work

While we’re on the topic of goalsetting, if you’re interested to know why SMART goals don’t work, check out a recent interview I did with David Hyner, based in the UK for my weekly radio show with www.Webtalkradio.net

David is a researcher and speaker on the subject of goalsetting.  Over the last 13 years or so, he has done more than 200 interviews with top achievers.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • Why realistic and achievable goals set us up for mediocrity… at best!
  • What educational organisations are doing very badly
  • How to set yourself up for success
  • The place of other people in your drive for results
  • The art of “looking INTO”



2 thoughts on “On Pushing the Boundaries – A French Goal Setting Story”

  1. Great article Robyn. That is so true. we often get so comfortable being comfortable that we miss out on so much! And I love the tip on just do it, it’s never as hard as it seems from the outside. Once the die is cast you are on your way!
    Bon voyage!

  2. Gill says:

    Hi Robyn, Gill here from Auckland. Just been cleaning out the cupboards [I wonder why I have this time on my hands suddenly…] and found a copy of your article about pushing the boundaries – I had saved it as it resonated with me so much. I am a Franophile also so probably saved it for the language school but as someone who has been learning the language for the last 5 months, how are your language skills now? did you continue on [its a marathon] or ???? My goal = to sit in a French cafe and read a newspaper article

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