Expanding Your Comfort Zone: A Reflection from the Faculty Director

With the second class of the M.S. in Global Commerce Program well under way, I have been thinking a lot about the process of expanding our comfort zones. Many, if not most, of the students in our three-continent program explicitly express the desire to move beyond their current zones of comfort in order to gain confidence and new skills. I believe this is a wonderful goal, and it’s definitely an objective of our program.

Professor Lynn Hamilton, Program Director

Many years ago, I had the good fortune to read a book by the late Susan Jeffers called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” Dr. Jeffers wrote about the fact that when we set out to expand our comfort zones, we by definition will feel discomfort. It’s by tolerating the feelings of discomfort (doubt, frustration, anxiety) that we push the boundaries of our comfort zones outward until they are more encompassing. Our initial circle of places and activities in which we are at ease grows larger and larger.

Dr. Jeffers wrote, “Each time you move out of what feels comfortable, you become more powerful. Your whole life expands to take in more of what there is in this world to experience.” This idea has been personally important to me over the years; I’ve often reminded myself when taking on new challenges that, of course, I’m feeling discomfort but that it will pass as I gain experience and confidence.

I’ve had the opportunity both last year and this year to watch our students encounter some of the realities of pushing their boundaries. They’ve experienced cross-cultural living arrangements and team challenges, different grading and administrative systems, unfamiliar customs and foods. Both last fall and this, I’ve watched with admiration as our Asian and European students have encountered American ways of doing things and the fast-paced, fairly intense environment at McIntire. Last June, as we graduated our first class in Barcelona, students talked with energy and wisdom about the growth they’d experienced since leaving the United States. It was clear their lives had expanded to “take in more of what there is in this world to experience.”

A wonderful aspect of the M.S. in Global Commerce Program is that no one has to expand their comfort zone alone. During each of the program’s initial two years, students have built an incredibly powerful cohort of peers and friends to offer support, knowledge, and fun. Across the year, on each continent, students from different regions experience the challenges inherent in expanding their comfort zones while other students step forward to guide, educate, and lead. It’s an awe-inspiring process, and I’m very grateful to be a part of it.

– Professor Lynn Hamilton, Program Director

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