“What makes you comfortable can ruin you and only in a state of discomfort can you continually grow” - Bill Eckstrom
I recently watched an interesting Tedx Talks by Bill Eckstrom on YouTube. Eckstrom shares his research on how getting out of your comfort zone and taking risks leads to personal growth. I found many ways in which that relates to learning another language. Here are some things I learned and interpreted from Eckstrom’s talk:
The discomfort that we feel when we approach difficult and challenging situations is what enables us to expand our knowledge and grow.
We have the ability to get out of our comfort zone and experience language in a different way.
We are continuously building neural pathways in our brains when we experience new situations. When we stay in our comfort zone or in this case, when we only speak and read the same words in our native language, our neural pathways remain the same. We see and interpret daily life in those similar words. We can only describe ourselves in that limiting vocabulary.
As soon as we step out of the familiarity of our native tongue and build new neural pathways, we automatically view the world differently. For me, when I was first learning French, I associated everything as a direct translation of French to English. I quickly learned that many expressions do not directly translate from French. That feeling of disorder and the desire to understand French better pushed me to build a new pathway in my mind for that new language acquisition.
Bill brings up the topic of unpredictability and how when we don’t have a preconceived and clear expectation of a situation we can become uncomfortable and panic.
An example for me would be when I first moved to South Korea. It took a few months for me to get comfortable reading the Korean phonetic alphabet and be able to express myself in basic vocabulary. Whenever I went to a restaurant or had an verbal interaction with the local Koreans, I tried to predict how that interaction was going to go. This idea was based on my past experiences of going to these type establishments.
The truth was that because I was (way) out of my comfort zone, those interactions were not easily predicted. Many times people’s body language and words confused me and made the whole process hard for me. I had to re-associate Korean culture with specific Korean body language habits that I wouldn’t normally have back in America or even Europe. It was in those moments, that I had the most growth in the Korean language. I cultivated that growth in those moments where I tried, failed and tried again.
Bask in Complexity
Break out of the order of the day-to-day life and challenge yourself with complexity. Sometimes we need to be pushed in thats direction by friends, mentors, teachers, and parents. The path to growth and success is rarely clear and concise. We need to be placed in difficult situations before we actually make a positive change in the right direction.
Watch Bill Eckstrom’s full Tedx Talk on YouTube. His ideas resonate on so many levels and with different situations.
Share your experiences below. Do you have any uncomfortable stories of living abroad or communicating with others that made you grow?