Confort zone expanding for a thrill

Last year I wrote about my trip to the Monaco GP and how this birthday gift taught me some valuable lessons about learning to let go.

Well, I am still celebrating that birthday as one of my gifts was a “Formula 1 experience” where it is apparently a “thrill” to whizz around part of the Silverstone circuit in a Formula Ford with your bottom inches away from the tarmac. Thanks Dad! This was outside my comfort zone by some margin. I quite fancied being driven around the track at speed by someone who knows what they are doing, and you know that I like to watch other people who know what they are doing race. But me? Drive? No way! I don’t trust myself and I don’t consider myself a good driver.  I get nervous driving unfamiliar cars. But what could I do? I am a coach after all. I had to treat this as just another valuable comfort zone experience I am bound to learn from. That said, I still made my husband take his full driving license so he could take my place if I bottled it or, fingers crossed, I was considered too short!

Not so comfortable now!

“To achieve anything, you must be prepared to dabble on the boundary of disaster” – Stirling Moss

Here I am. In Silverstone on Saturday morning.  Caffeine-deprived to manage the nerves and awaiting my “thrill”. The only girl in a group of 10, the shortest person there (we were arranged in height order) and the only one not appearing to relish the prospect of clambouring into these cute little cars.



Hey, even wearing a balaclava and helmet was outside my comfort zone!  They are so suffocating. But I look the part don’t you think? Plus I got the keep the balaclava as a souvenir!  I listened the briefing very carefully, perhaps too carefully.  I had to remind myself several times that I could already drive so instinct would take over. I didn’t have to worry about the basics of moving the car around the track just pay attention to the racing lines and the tips on how best to use the brakes and the throttle. I dealt with cornering all the time on the road (often too fast) so I had to believe I would be okay on a race track. Worse case, if it was all too much, I could just pit early and get out.

Being overtaken…again

Are you wondering what happened? Well, the answer is not a lot! I would love to tell you how I turned into a demon driver, cut through the pack with some audacious overtaking on the corners, Daniel Ricciardo style, and zoomed into the pits victorious. But no! I drove around as fast as I dared, but so fearful of oversteering and spinning (we were warned about this a lot) that I took corners too cautiously.


With legs full stretch to reach the pedals, even with two pieces of foam behind my back, I never really felt in control over the car.  I was slow to change gears and really open her up. I tried to summon up some competitive spirit or red mist but it just wouldn’t come. I was overtaken by everyone on every lap.

“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” ― Mario Andretti

Silverston F1 experience
Comfort zone expansion complete!

Just as I was starting to get the hang of it, the chequered flag came out and I rolled into the pits in decidedly last place. But I was smiling. I actually enjoyed my time in the car but was relieved to have the experience behind me.  I realised far too late that I was driving too slowly.  More speed would have got the nerves going, given me more of the advertised thrill and brought out my competitive spirit.  Now there’s a lesson for life and my business!



“It doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that” – Fred Lebow (founder of the NY Marathon)

Not that I was wondering, but I do now know for certain that I will never be a racing car driver. But as I didn’t want to be, that’s fine! I was last and I was okay with that. After all, when you are learning to do something for the first time, it is okay not to get it right.  Had I been harbouring ambitions to be the first 50+ female to race in F1, then I would have been VERY disappointed in my performance.  Then I would have had another go, learned from my mistakes, got some coaching and a stack more foam!  However, although I am sure that I would be able to drive more aggressively in future, I don’t need to prove it.  I am happy to say that I did it and appreciate having another reference point to counter any future moments of self doubt.  At the very least, I will refer to those wise words of Andretti.  If I feel I have it all under control then I clearly need to put my foot on the gas!


  1. Martin Jarvis

    Well done Shirley.
    It’s odd how we seem to strive to have some control over how we are in our World (I do!), but I guess we’re fighting against what we see as ‘bad stress’ rather than ‘good stress’. I see bad stress as something that can cause our internal systems to start shutting down, whereas good stress is something that can heighten senses and help us achieve things we would not have thought possible. Is that right?
    Anyway… did you actually finish on the Saturday or the Sunday? 🙂

    • Shirley

      Thank you Martin. Stress is only ever seen as a negative these days but as you rightly point out, it all depends. I definitely thrive on the good stress and my drive around Silverstone proved that I really need that to keep me energised and focussed. It’s exhilarating and if I had driven harder on Saturday, I could have so much more and ended (on the Saturday!) with a bigger sense of achievement. Stress becomes “bad” when it stems from a lack of control – real or perceived – and when it is relentless. We are just not designed to operate under a permanent state of emergency. Our health will suffer and we lose our clarity of thinking and sense of perspective. I have experienced this for myself and I definitely see this in my stressed and overwhelmed clients.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>