By Jawwad Hassan
Every student has his or her own comfort zone – a safe space where he or she feels at ease. The comfort zone provides a psychological security to students and defines their strengths. However, sticking to one’s comfort zone also limits the experience and abilities of students.
It is a moment of concern for teachers when they realize that their students are not willing to come out of these safe zones and explore the world. The role of a teacher is not just about transferring knowledge and dealing with students’ academics. Rather, it is also, and perhaps even more, about preparing the students to come out of their comfort zones and face new challenges, new tasks with a positive attitude. It is about teaching the students how to react when they feel unsecure.
This is what a student of this era needs. In today’s world, soft skills, proactive behavior and self-confidence are as important as acquiring knowledge and technical and professional skills.
Speaking personally, I really wish my school teachers had known that I was wasting my time and potentials in being limited to my comfort zone. I used to focus on studies only. Apart from studying, I had no other activity during my early secondary school. I never participated in non-academic, co-curricular activities. Yet, ironically, I was one of the most-praised students of my batch due to my studying habit. No doubt, I used to get quite decent grades but I was wasting my time neglecting my potentials.
Excessive studying can make one introvert. Thus, I kept myself limited to studies, without realizing that I was blocking the way to acquiring confidence. This realization came when once I was required to speak before my school mates. I prepared a lot for the small speech that I had to deliver but my knees buckled before I could reach the podium. I got confused as I looked at the audience, even though they were all familiar faces. It was then that I realized that this was an area I needed to work on. The only way out was to expand my comfort zone, if not to break it altogether.
The journey was not easy; in fact, it was depressing and frustrating at times. However, I did not give up. Earlier, I had always kept myself busy with studying, considering other activities a hindrance to achieving better grades. But now, I had come to the conclusion that this was a false impression.
How hockey helped me
I decided to try myself in sports. I appeared for the trials for the school hockey team and luckily I was selected. That was the beginning of a profound change in my life.
I started playing hockey regularly, while continuing to work hard in academics at the same time. Before long, I was appointed the captain of my school’s hockey team, an achievement I had never even thought of a few years ago. I remained the captain of the team until my graduation from school and in this duration, lead my team to many victories. In the early years of my secondary school, I had never thought of representing my school in anything but academics, and here I was, bringing laurels to my school toiling on the hockey field in many inter-school tournaments.
That transition from an academics-bound student to a well-rounded active learner and sportsman did wonders to my personality. I learned the importance of self-belief and confidence and how they can transform our abilities. I also came to acquire and polish my soft skills. As a player who played at the ‘center-half’ position, I would always be in communication with almost all my team members, coordinating the play and attack moves with attackers and other midfielders and also consolidating the defense alongside the defenders. Playing at this key position, I learned skills which were relevant and crucial not just on the field but off the field as well. I became aware of the nuances of communication and team work, of pursuing collective goals rather than just individual ones, of helping and uplifting others while learning from them at the same time. I realized that it was possible to push our limits and to perform well in academics as well as other healthy activities at the same time. Thus, later on, when I was appearing for my intermediate exams, I was playing for the TCS hockey club simultaneously. With some extra sweat, I achieved 7th position in the Board of Intermediate Education, Karachi, while helping to usher my team into the semi-finals of the ongoing tournament.
From hockey fields to LUMS
Playing hockey was an instance of pushing my boundaries to expand my comfort zone. It instilled in me a confidence which would have been difficult to gain otherwise. And this paid off when I sat across the admissions committee at LUMS for my final interview. With a belief in my abilities, I was able to show my determination and ability to perform well in everything that LUMS had to offer me, be it academics, sports, or the extra-curricular.
In hindsight, I feel that even though I was able to utilize the advantages that come with expanding our comfort zone, I did so quite late, having wasted some precious school years up until the later secondary classes. Here I believe that the role of teachers is important. Coming back to where I started this article from, pushing the students towards new challenges, motivating them to do something that they are not used to of doing is what a teacher should do. It is all about building a sense of endeavor and struggle in the students, a struggle within them to achieve something big.
Students who work outside of their comfort zone go on to be more productive and smarter. Restricting themselves to their comfort zones might give them a sense of security, but it can also thwart their progress. The truth of the matter is that security does not reside in anything outside of us, but in our own self. Thus, getting out of comfort zone and trying to deal with new problems and learning new skills leads us from a false sense of security to an inner strength which guides us towards self-actualization and success. As a final word, if our teachers can instill a spirit to accept challenges in the students, it can not only help them come out of their comfort zones but can also potentially help them overcome economic constraints as well as all other difficulties that come in the way of their holistic learning, growth and progress.
Jawwad Hassan is doing B.Sc Honours in Accounting and Finance from LUMS