Friday, 18 November 2016

The invigorating effects of stepping outside your comfort zone

As a translator, it is easy to be minimalist: minimal equipment is needed. I rely less on paper dictionaries nowadays as they are increasingly replaced by electronic ones. What’s more, I can be minimalist by staying within my comfort zone, for example by accepting only types of work that I am used to. By relying on the regular stream of work from my (relatively minimal) group of main clients

One of the articles on Claire Cox’s blog which did strike a chord with me recently was “Above the parapet”, in which she describes how stepping outside your comfort zone from time to time helps you grow both as a person and as a business. I agree with Claire that it is good for us to sometimes do things that we tend to be anxious about: such opportunities make us reassess our abilities and prove that we can do it, if we try!

We often retreat to our comfort zones as a way to minimize stress and risk

One such opportunity for me arose last year when I was asked to give short presentations on IntelliWebSearch to groups of translators at an IT and CAT Tools Day organised by the WRG. I’ve always hated speaking in front of other people, so the mere thought of having to talk all afternoon was enough to strike fear into my heart.

With hindsight, though, I am glad I said yes and went for it. It felt like a tremendous achievement that I’d addressed that challenge – successfully, and even with positive feedback from attendees! Check out my blog post on the WRG's IT and CAT Tools Day on 6 June 2015 here.

I’ve also always made a point of emphasizing that I only translate. As a point of principle, I do not interpret. “I DO NOT OFFER INTERPRETING SERVICES” is written in capital letters on my website. I’m not trained as an interpreter, and I don’t like talking in general.

Something interesting happened last summer: While on holiday in Northern Italy, I suddenly found myself having to interpret between German and Italian in a police station in Asti: our tour group’s coach had been robbed, and no one else in our group knew any Italian...

I hadn’t actually used my spoken Italian much since I left university more than a decade ago. Also, the temperature outside had just risen to 41 (!) degrees Celsius. Luckily, the air conditioning inside the police station did work (otherwise my brain would probably not have functioned properly).

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be invigorating

So here I was, totally unprepared, way out of my comfort zone as the impromptu interpreter, in a nerve-wracking situation. And yet: I was okay doing this. What’s more, after a while – and to my great astonishment  –  I realised that I was even enjoying myself!

Pushing yourself to do things that you feel uncomfortable with can only ever be a good thing. We often retreat to our personal comfort zones as a way to minimize stress and risk; yet stepping out of them can be invigorating, while the discomfort that goes with it is often just minimal.