It takes time, focus and deep determination to live outside of your comfort zone. And it doesn’t happen overnight. Discomfort, awkwardness and vulnerability are at the very core of real change--and it’s hard to actively seek out the feelings that make us squirm. But if we conform to the status quo and fade into the background how will we ever know what we’re truly capable of?
Fear is a biological response, a flawed system that our bodies use to keep us out of harm’s way. But quite often, these fears pose no threat…and are doing us more harm that good, working overtime to keep us comfortable and out of the spotlight.
But what would happen if you met some of these fears head on? What if you challenged yourself to do something that scares you once a month, once a week or every day? What would we learn about ourselves? How might our lives become richer and what opportunities might arise as a result of leaning into situations that make us uncomfortable?
Meeting discomfort head on requires practice, setting an intention and identifying people in your life that are willing to push you.
Let’s dig in!
Grabbing Discomfort by the Gonads
1. We’re all scared
Really. Everyone is scared of something (or lots of things) and you’re not alone. Experiencing fear, doubt, anxiety and paralyzing bouts of imposter syndrome simply means that you’re human. And, many ‘successful’ individuals will tell you this: when you feel that fear, it often means that you’re dangerously close to making a life-altering shift. Transformation is afoot! So when your body and mind tell you to run (unless you’re running from a serial killer, in which case RUN), flip it and ask yourself, “What if I moved in closer?”. Override your lizard brain and make yourself uncomfortable. This is going to create new connections in your brain, snap you out of your routine and shed light on a piece of yourself that you may never have known existed.
2. Move forward by being present
There is a good deal of value in evaluating and learning from the past. But reaching a point of fixation with the past is a very different story. By obsessing over past events, we become increasingly counter productive. When we constantly look at what’s behind us, sadness, guilt and depression start to creep in.
Alternatively, if we always look to the future, we are going to be perpetually anxious creatures. What we have will never be good enough. We will measure ourselves against our future selves–how completely unfair is that?! Again, though helpful to have goals and aspirations, only looking to the future can be a detriment to our forward mobility.
Try living in the present for a change. Notice your surroundings. Acknowledge your victories and feel a sense of gratitude wherever you can. When you truly begin to live in the present moment and pay closer attention to yourself and how you’re affected by the world you will begin to notice unnecessary fears and hesitations that you would be better off without.
3. Practice makes it easier
Now, let’s get one thing straight: you don’t need to ditch your whole routine for the sake of stepping out of your comfort zone. Start small. Perhaps begin with 20 minutes per day of being truly present, reflective and cognizant of things that challenge your levels of comfort. Assign yourself a small, uncomfortable task; talk to that neighbor that you haven’t introduced yourself to, show your face on the next video chat as opposed to disabling video. Make these tasks brief and achievable–build of that discomfort tolerance! Eventually, the negative emotions associated with your discomfort will begin to fade and you’ll be ready to face your next challenge head on!
Steps to move through the pain of change
1. Acknowledge the pain
The first step to freedom and lasting change is acknowledging that what you’re going through is difficult. Accept the fact that this is a process and give yourself the space to feel each and every emotion that comes with this change. Change is painful. And confusing. And raw. Put one foot right in front of the other, accept that you will make mistakes and that it’s all part of the experience. Because, you know what? You are literally rewiring your brain when you confront fear and discomfort! This is hard work and takes bravery, focus and commitment to get the job done.
2. Set a new course; YOU are the boss
YOU have the power to choose how you want to feel. It sounds corny but it’s true. Your mind is the ultimate influencer and holds ALL of the power to make life altering change. When you open your mind, the possibilities are endless.
So try new things and rate them on how you really feel about it. It’s an experiment! You can’t control a lot of things in life but you have the power to make choices about where you want to spend your energy. So veer off course, reach out to that person you’ve always admired, take that salsa class, record that first podcast–whatever! But do it NOW. Because who the hell knows what will happen tomorrow?
3. Check your happiness
Happiness is available every single moment of our life. Take the time to appreciate the things that make you happy, that bring you joy and recognize those things. Within that simple recognition, you are choosing happiness, curiosity and gratitude over sadness. You are in control.
These transitions may be difficult but they can inspire self-discovery. Embrace and work through the pain until you become a better version of yourself.