Beyond the C Zone is Born…. Let the Challenges Begin!

2018 is the year I turn 40. When I was younger I had an image of what my life might look like at 40…. married, children (probably 2), a dog, a good job (this often changed….vet, teacher, newsreader, writer…), a house with a big garden (in the country), a car (a nice new shiny one)…..things that I’d experienced or things that society painted Technicolor images of and told us to aspire to as I was growing up.

Fast forward to aged 39 years & 353 days. My life and experiences to get here have been totally different to the image I’d created. I’m divorced but have an amazing other half, there are no children (and this isn’t through choice), we have two cats, I have a good job (but there have been several changes along the way and it’s not what I would have anticipated my adult self doing), we have a house with a small, “manageable” garden, and I have a reliable, old car, that I haven’t changed for 10 years!

What my younger self didn’t imagine was the adversity and struggles that life can throw at us. Like many, I’ve encountered and fought health problems, loss, misfortune, heartbreak…..the hardest fight of all being against fertility problems, a fight that I was destined not to win. However, it is these experiences that have taught me who I am, tested me to show me what I’m capable of, and presented me with opportunities that I never would have had. After all, as Steve Jobs said, “success is a lousy teacher”, something that a perfectionist like me is still trying to make sense of!

They say that life begins outside of our comfort zone. Life is also said to begin at 40. I’m going to have a go at combining the two (it’s the all or nothing trait within me!) and do 40 Challenges in the year I turn 40! Now I don’t mean huge, almost impossible feats (I won’t be climbing Everest just yet), I mean things that will push me out of my comfort zone on a mental and physical level – big and small, one offs and things I can continue throughout my life, things I can do with others and solo challenges. There are endless possibilities and I’ll document them as I go. I’ve started getting a bit of practice and I’m now a regular motorway driver, I ran (and completed) the Worcester 10k, I’ve told people what I think and I’ve written this Blog.

I’d love people to join me, to take up their own challenges, and push themselves beyond the C Zone – you definitely don’t need to be turning 40! Let’s be brave and try something new to see where it takes us. Or, if that’s not your cup of tea, sit back and watch me take on my 40 challenges….give me some ideas, words of encouragement or have a giggle at any madness I end up getting myself into!


Dealing with Setbacks…..

Well, I’m a few months into the 40:40 Challenge and, whilst I’ve been making progress towards my challenges, I’ve also encountered a few setbacks along the way. You’ll have worked out by now that I’m a bit of a perfectionist (ok, ‘bit’ might be an understatement) and, what I’m discovering through Beyond the C Zone is that perfectionism and setbacks are, by no means, a match made in heaven!

First let’s talk about setbacks….the curveballs that life suddenly sends our way. I’m beginning to identify a spectrum of setbacks – at one end we have the life changing ones that can turn our world upside down (believe me, I’ve experienced quite a few!) and at the other end we have the daily niggles like traffic jams that stop us getting where we need to get to on time, and then there’s different degrees of setbacks in between. Add a perfectionist into the mix and setbacks can become catastrophic – I speak from experience! My setbacks over the last few months have, in the grand scheme of things, been fairly minor but when you’re faced with the 40:40 Challenge, something that’s so important to me, they get pushed up the setback spectrum.

The setbacks started coming at the end of January when, a supposedly simple medical procedure wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been, and I ended up with some stitches in my back – this put a 2 week ban on stretching so Pilates went out of the window and my half marathon training was scaled down. Then came a knee injury and my half marathon training ground to a halt. The busy reality of day to day life meant that I started to feel as though I was getting behind on the challenges I’d started to set in motion (this really started to highlight my ‘all or nothing’ and ‘I’m going to fail’ tendencies’). Then came the snow, one of my ‘nice’ challenges was literally prevented from happening and had to be rescheduled. This didn’t only impact on me, it was my 40th Birthday present to my best friend. And, after all that, I finally succumbed to one of the nasty cold viruses currently doing the rounds. I’m still recovering and so the half marathon training is getting even further behind.

Instead of believing that the universe was conspiring against me and the setbacks were ‘signs’ that certain challenges weren’t ‘meant to be’, I decided to ‘challenge’ myself and see setbacks differently – after all, for me, this is the year of challenges. I’m not going to lie, this was tough, but eventually I recognised that the required healing/recovery time gave me the opportunity to slow down and focus on some self care, the busyness of life gave me the opportunity to reflect on and tweak how I organised my time and highlighted the need to put into practice some of the planning tips I’ve picked up. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about the weather!

It got me thinking about other setbacks that I’ve experienced in life, even the life changing ones, and I began to reflect on what I’ve gained from them instead of what I’ve lost or not managed to achieve. After all, that’s how Beyond the C Zone was born. The realisation that it’s the challenges in life that help us grow and develop, not the things that that are effortless or happen exactly as they should.

So, yes, setbacks can be tough but we’re always going to encounter them. We just need to try and look at them differently. We need to see them as change we haven’t adapted to yet. We need to quit the, ‘I really should be….’ or ‘but, I need to….’ statements, take a deep breath and look for the opportunity rather than the potential catastrophe. I can’t say I’ve totally cracked this yet (I still get waves of panic about my half marathon)….. it’s work in progress. On the plus side, I’ve definitely made progress in my reading challenge!

All or Nothing….

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and, in that time, I’ve had to frequently remind myself of the proverbial phrase, “patience is a virtue” – a phrase that takes me right back to my childhood! After being on a bit of a high following the launch of Beyond the C Zone and the completion of a couple of challenges, I’ve gone back to the reality of January…..the day job, the dark mornings/nights, illness, and the feeling that winter seems to be going on forever. I’ve also started to get impatient with the challenges. I’m a perfectionist so, for me, it’s all or nothing….typical black and white thinking. I want to focus on getting the challenges ticked off my list but I’ve been getting impatient with the fact that some of them have quite a few steps that need to be taken to get to the end goal and the highly anticipated tick. In addition to this, the pesky inner critic, perfectionism’s BFF, has been reminding me that I could actually fail the 40:40 Challenge because I’m not good enough, organised enough, brave enough, confident enough……etc etc. Thankfully, a fellow 40:40 Challenger and supporter reminded me that even if I didn’t get all 40 challenges completed this year, that, in itself, would push me way beyond my comfort zone and wouldn’t actually stop me reaching my end goal.

So, in recognising the need for patience, I’m trying hard to stay in the moment and enjoy the steps I’m taking to tick off my challenges. Each step has brought new experiences, learning and memories. I’ve had my first ukulele lesson……I can play a couple of songs (slowly!) and, when practicing the other day, was told that I actually sound quite musical. I’ve started Pilates. I’ve booked a trip to New York. I’ve completed my first ever Parkrun, in the wind and rain, running the whole 5K thanks to the Beyond the C Zone feeling that kicked in and spurred me on. I’ve made seven out of forty new recipes and started my first of the forty books I plan to read this year. I have also achieved another of the highly anticipated ticks having completed my challenge to make a Birthday Cake. You may ask how this took me Beyond the C Zone. Well, not only am I somebody who usually resorts to shop bought cake, this was a ‘special’ Birthday and I didn’t just opt for a basic Victoria Sponge cake, I went for a cake shaped like a bird – there’s a picture of the final result below. I won’t be giving up the day job just yet but the recipient loved it and the taste test proved successful.

As we move into February, I’m going to take my learning from January and try really hard to be patient, to stay in the present and enjoy the opportunities that every step towards a challenge and going Beyond the C Zone brings. After all, it’s slow and steady that wins the race!

Let the 40:40 Challenges Begin….

I have officially completed one of my 40:40 Challenges – my 40th Birthday “Warm Up Drinks” (the warm up to a joint 40th Birthday party later in the year). Like one of my friends, you might question, “how is this a challenge that pushes you beyond your comfort zone”? Well, I haven’t hosted more than 7 people in my home for over a decade, let alone done the catering (canapés without a recipe), decorations and the ‘play list’! We all have our own unique comfort zone, which means we all have different thresholds for going beyond it. But, that doesn’t matter because we can all still reap the same benefits of pushing ourselves out of it.

As the evening of the ‘Warm Up Drinks’ drew nearer, a sense of fear started to kick in. The voice of the pesky inner critic started getting louder and louder – “what am I doing”, “nobody will come” (there was a potential risk that this could have become a reality due to the dreaded winter ‘bugs’ doing the rounds), “it will be rubbish”, “people might not get on”…… basically the “I’m not good enough” self talk. Even on the morning of the event, I stood in the supermarket aisle with the inner critic telling me how ridiculous I was for thinking I could make canapés when I didn’t even know what I would use for the canapé base!

Fast forward eight hours and the event was in full swing. The canapés were eaten (and complimented), the drinks were flowing and the inner critic was silenced. But, what became most important to me was the company I was in, my family and friends. It didn’t matter that the melba toast with the smoked salmon and cream cheese on it had gone soggy or that the playlist wasn’t to everybody’s taste (I didn’t realise how eclectic my selections from 1978-2018 would turn out to be). What mattered were the memories that were being made as well as the kindness and human connection that manifested in my kitchen. I was totally astounded when two guests from different parts of my life made an unexpected connection over the ‘Cumberland Gap’ (a song that can be found on YouTube)! And, it was the connection of those present that produced a very creative list of potential challenges for me over the next 12 months, some of which we will be doing together.

As I embraced the challenge of the ‘Warm Up Drinks’ (and turning 40) I pushed myself further beyond my c zone (to be fair, the prosecco and gin cocktails might have offered a little support). I made a speech, from the heart, taking the opportunity to thank those present for being there and supporting me through the tough times. I also took the opportunity to complete a challenge, there and then, identified by my guests – a solo dance, ‘with groove’ (it had anything but that!). The biggest, unexpected, challenge has been the absence of my phone following it’s unexpected swim in the toilet at the end of the night!

After the ‘Warm Up Drinks’ challenge, as well as the challenges within this challenge, the Beyond the C Zone glow has remained with me as I plan and prepare for the next 39 challenges (even the voice of the pesky inner critic has quietened down). The completion of this first challenge has shown me that going Beyond the C Zone doesn’t just lead to personal growth through new opportunities and experiences. It builds connection, strengthens bonds, creates memories, and inspires others to join in – it appears that the Beyond the C Zone effect is spreading and people are identifying their own challenges!

Happy New Year! The Year of 40 Challenges……

The first challenge of 2018 has been trying to stay awake – 4 hours and 54 minutes of sleep just doesn’t cut it when you turn 40 in 6 days time! All I can say is that I failed to stay awake and I plodded back up the stairs to bed for a 3 hour nap or, if I was presenting it more positively, I was prioritising self care.

Failure is a funny old thing. For a perfectionist like me, it’s the devil incarnate, a thing I will avoid at all costs, because of fear, and it’s something that transforms me into the Queen of Procrastination. Yet, here I am stating that in 2018 I will complete 40 challenges that will push me out of my comfort zone. Today is also the day that thousands of people will be contemplating their New Year’s resolutions but when the commonly cited statistic is that only 8% of people will achieve these (Forbes, 2013), the first question that springs to mind is, what is the point?

For me, I’m beginning to learn that the point is, if you don’t give something a go, you’ll never know what you are capable of….. what opportunities you might discover, who you might meet along the way, what memories you will make, what skills you might develop…..

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure” – Paulo Coelho

I know that when I’ve pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, taken some risks, I’ve achieved so much more and felt the benefits. After all, it’s where the magic happens. That’s not to say that there haven’t been setbacks, big and small, as there will be over the next 12 months. To keep myself on track with the 40 challenges, I’m going to start small, make them specific, schedule them in, talk about them….some of the things that make us more likely to achieve our goals and resolutions. My ‘warm up challenges’ will be my stepping stones to success. This morning I signed up for a 10k run, a stepping stone to running my best Half-Marathon in April. The best thing about this stepping stone is that my first 40:40 Challenger will be running the 10k with me to tick a challenge off their list.

So, as we come to the end of the first day of 2018, I wish you a very Happy New Year and ask you to consider what it is that will take you beyond your comfort zone, to where the magic happens, and what are the stepping stones that will get you there?