Belinda Kirk is an explorer, entrepreneur, author and Guinness World Record holder for her non-stop row around Britain. Her non-profit organisation Explorers Connect facilitates adventures and expeditions for people from all walks of life. Belinda is one of the judges for our Take Flight business competition.
What is the impact of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?
It’s how we feel most alive - by pushing ourselves. It’s not always comfortable - that’s the point - but it is how we make memories and achieve our potential.
The first time I did it, I was 18. I travelled around Africa on my own and went on my first expedition. And although that was at times terrifying and pushed me completely out of my comfort zone, it was also transformational. It changed me for the better - it gave me a lot of confidence. As much as it was difficult and uncomfortable at times, I felt the most alive I’ve ever felt. Choosing to go outside your comfort zone in one area of your life, which is very different to being pushed, can also empower you to go outside of your comfort zone in other areas of your life. For example, writing a book, which has been my latest out of my comfort zone challenge. Or starting your own business.
How do you recommend people commit to doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable?
I often tell people I’m going to do something. And then the risk of social embarrassment feels bigger than the potential embarrassment of failing.
Share your ideas. Talk to people. You’ll have a lot of naysayers and people saying ’that’s a bit of a risk’ or ’do you really want to do that?’ You’ve obviously got to listen to advice but you’ve also got to surround yourself with people who are going to support you breaking out of what you were doing before. And it’s through talking that you’ll find those people.
Of course, in business it’s not unheard of that someone will nick your idea, but in my experience it’s pretty unlikely. They would have to be incredibly committed to it to catch up to where you are. And actually it’s not usually the idea that wins, it’s the execution of that idea.
How do you keep going when you feel you’re at your limit?
You have to think about what the best outcome could be and remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing - because you want to create something amazing, or be part of something amazing, or create a better future for your children - whatever it is, remember why you’re doing it.
Another technique that I’ve learned from climbing mountains or rowing across oceans is not looking at the whole thing in front of you. You don’t look to the summit, you look to camp one. You don’t look to the finish line, you look just a little way ahead.
How do you experience the aftermath of going out of your comfort zone?
That’s where the magic is. When you leave your comfort zone and go through those difficult, challenging times, the prize that you get are those magical moments that you wouldn’t have had unless you’d gone through the difficult stuff.
For a long time, philosophers have known that life is not about avoiding challenges or trying to make life as comfortable as possible. It’s about living. It’s about seeking life and making memories. When you leave your comfort zone and achieve something, especially when there’s no guarantee that you would be able to do it, that’s when you get the biggest moment of feeling alive.
The reason I took on the row around Britain, which I got a Guinness world record for, is that so many people had failed - I wanted to push myself. Unless you dare to fail, you can’t truly find out what you’re capable of and ultimately fulfill your potential.