Fear is one of the most frustrating emotions we can experience. Yes there is an evolutionary reason why we have it, but in today’s world, it can often just get in the way. It is the glass ceiling that prevents us from truly living and being the person we want to be.
The brain likes routine, it feels safe when it knows what to expect. How many times have you wanted to do something a little different, or to stretch your comfort zone but put it off because you just couldn’t be bothered? Many times I bet.
We try to rationalise this behaviour by telling ourselves that we didn’t really want to do it, or that we can postpone it for another day.
The truth is that it is fear that stops us. Not the paralysing kind of fear that you would expect in a life or death situation, but the kind of fear that keeps us imprisoned in our boring lives.
We need to break this habit of taking the easy way out and luckily, there is a very simple way to accomplish this.
Punch fear in the face!
A few years ago I spent just under 10 months unemployed – pretty much via a combination of being overly picky about where I wanted to spend 9 hours of my day and a general lack of enthusiasm for… well, work.
Me? Surely not…
Anyway, for me, one of the worst aspects of unemployment was the actual ‘applying’ part of the process. The thought of going in to a store and trying to find out if they had any vacancies was terrifying. A mixture of embarrassment and I suppose, putting myself out there to be shot down.
It wasn’t my idea of fun so I decided to stay at home and do the ‘easy’ thing of phoning up various companies instead.
This was just as difficult because I hate speaking on the phone with a passion. I’m not sure if ‘phonaphobia’ is a recognised condition but it darn well should be!
This, added to my ability to procrastinate like an Olympic champion meant that I would never actually get round to ringing anyone up. Not the best way to get a job I admit.
So one day I decided to write down a list of about 30-40 companies that I wouldn’t mind working for and I proceeded to phone each of them up, one after another. It was probably the worst hour of my life but it did achieve one amazing thing.
It almost completely desensitised me to using the phone. For the next few days I would phone up many more companies (and have some telephone interviews) without feeling that dread and anxiety that I had before.
I was cured! (Ok temporarily)
This is when I had that light bulb moment. If every day I did something that scared me, how much would I grow in say a week, a month, how about a year? Pretty exciting!
Ok what next?
I obviously started with small daily changes. Things that I knew I would push me out of my comfort zone without filling my pants with the smell of fear.
Base jumping from the peak of Mount Everest would have to wait for now…
I used to have this bad habit of arranging to go on a date with a girl but cancelling because I couldn’t be bothered to put on my happy smiley face. This was slap bang in the middle of my unemployment phase so it was related to my general lack of daily human contact. I just became lazy and antisocial with it.
I tried to snap out of it by arranging a few dates and on top of this, using my newly found telephone superpowers to ring up these girls and get into that ‘chatty’ mode which I was doing my best to avoid.
I managed to sharpen my social skills and get back to my usual outgoing self pretty quickly.
This was a pretty ‘big’ moment for me but there were also many smaller moments that I tried to take advantage of each day.
Just stuff like getting used to cooking again instead of using the microwave, taking a walk through a shady part of town instead of walking the long way round, eating a meal in a restaurant (I used to find eating in public strange).
Unfortunately I couldn’t maintain this because I had no long term plan in mind. On the plus side, I have recently decided to give this another go after visiting Belgium on a spur of the moment day trip (I hadn’t left the country in 11 years) and just last week finding the courage to try a Chicken Vindaloo curry (and finding it pretty easy).
Next up is a Phaal which is regarded as one of the hottest curries in the world. It’s pretty nerve racking but regardless of the volcano that will surely erupt deep inside, it will be an experience for sure.
I have already written down a list of small challenges that I am currently working my way through and as I get into the habit I will start adding some bigger and scarier things.
Now your turn
Your idea of scary could be as small as saying hi to that cute girl at the checkout or as big as doing a bungee jump to conquer your fear of heights. Mix it up, do something different every day.
Every time you do something scary, you will slowly become more confident in all areas of your life. You wouldn’t think that saying no to your boss or demanding a pay rise would help with plucking up the courage to change your hairstyle, but everything is linked together. The more things you do that test your character and help bring you out of your comfort zone, the more interesting your life will be. The confidence you gain in one area will branch out to other areas of your life too.
The best part is that if this feels a bit daunting then you can include it as part of your next 30 day challenge.
Here are several examples of how you can do something scary to bring you out of your comfort zone
- Change your hairstyle or wear an item of clothing you have never worn before
- Start a conversation with a member of the opposite sex whom you don’t know
- Travel to another city by yourself
- Try doing some karaoke or public speaking, maybe perform at an open mic night if you play an instrument
- Tell someone how you feel about them
- Ask your boss for a pay rise
- Ask the manager of a company you admire if there are any positions available
- If you do martial arts of a contact sport, arrange a sparring session or an official fight
- Take your top off at the beach if you are usually too shy
There are literally hundreds of ideas I could come up with here so it should be easy for anyone to do the same. So try it tomorrow, and see how you feel afterwards. Hopefully you will feel a sense of achievement and you will feel compelled to do something else the next day. It really is quite addictive once you get into your stride.
What scary thing are you going to try?