If you had told me a year ago that today I would be living in an open air apartment (read: visited by lizards and spiders in the night) in Bali, running my business from my laptop and that most of my belongings would fit in a carry on backpack, I would have laughed at you. Secretly, I would have liked to believe you, but I would have looked around my gigantic and cluttered house in Denver on my way out the door to one of my 4 jobs and thought, “sure, maybe someday,” before pushing that thought aside and focusing back on my giant to do list.
How many times have you said, “oh, I wish I could do that!” or seen someone up to something amazing and thought “wow, that’s really brave.” Ever wonder why some people seem to have it all figured out and make things happen, while your dreams remain just dreams?
The thing is, your life is your responsibility. The other thing is, your tendency to play small and stay where you are isn’t your fault. We are genetically wired to play it safe. Your reptile brain has one thing in mind: survival. And the best way to survive is to keep doing what you’ve always done, because hey, you haven’t died yet! Now, this made a lot of sense back when our instincts said “run, fight, eat, procreate”, and our fears came into play when we were being chased, or were starving.
Fast forward however many hundreds or thousands of years, and hey great news! We no longer (for the most part) have to continually fight for our survival. Our fears have evolved from things like “That wild boar is chasing after me” to “But what if I’m not good enough to go after my dreams?”
Pretty lucky, right? Yes- the problem is though, our instincts are still stuck in primal mode, and there is a big chance your subconscious is going to sabotage anything big or new or bold or scary that you want to take on.
A year ago if I had been given the opportunity to go to Bali, I’m not sure I would have taken it. It would have seemed too big, too foreign, too sudden, and there is absolutely no way I would have been able to sleep with the chance of giant lizards wandering around in my space.
Another example is that I have been super afraid of heights my whole life. More specifically, afraid of falling from somewhere up high. About three years ago I jumped out of a plane for the first time, completing my first of many tandem sky dives. A couple of years before that, there is no way I would have done it. Yet, when the time came, I was the first person to go for it.
So how did I move beyond my fears?
To increase your capacity for doing the big scary-yet-awesome stuff, you have to get uncomfortable.
To practice discomfort, you will deliberately do little things every day that make you feel uncomfortable. Yes, you will consciously decide to and do things that may initially feel unpleasant or awkward.
Just like building up habits over time, we can increase our own capacity for change and courage over time. By actively seeking to be just a little bit uncomfortable, soon your body and your subconscious will begin to think that a little bit of discomfort is normal, so it can save the freaking out for the really big stuff, and all of your fear-busting reserves will be ready!
(Note: When I say discomfort, I don’t mean like sitting in a chair for eight hours and my butt fell asleep kind of discomfort. That’s the worst, and I don’t condone it! I mean things like going to your first hip hop dance class, buying a one way ticket to a country where you don’t speak the language, telling someone you love them, saying no to a social event… etc.)
Face Your Fears Head On
Most discomfort has its basis in fear. It’s uncomfortable to ask for directions because I fear being seen as an outsider. I feel uncomfortable attempting new styles of workouts because I don’t want to look stupid if I do it wrong. So how do you get over this? Watch the video below for the 3 simple steps.
As a recap:
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Fear and Discomfort!
If you won’t admit to what is scary or makes you uncomfortable, you’re never going to move beyond it.
Step 2: Tune in to the Underlying Fear
Most of our discomforts and fears are driven by just a couple of underlying fears. Being seen as an outsider. Looking stupid. Appearing ignorant. Even the fear of public speaking, the number one fear of humanity, isn’t really based in actually saying words in front of people- it’s the fear of how you will be received or how you will sound in front of an audience. Know your underlying fears! It’s surprising how many of them are similar.
Step 3: Take small steps toward facing your fears and discomforts
Take the example of traveling alone. Maybe it doesn’t SCARE you, but it seems hard or uncomfortable or weird. Or maybe it is straight up scary. What’s the underlying fear there? You’ll be lonely? Feel disconnected? Be ignored and seen as an outsider? Get lost or do something wrong and not know how to fix it?
Whatever it is, practice those things! Go get yourself lost and ask for directions, right where you live. Spend some time on your own- maybe start with going out to dinner by yourself, and work up to taking a day trip on your own to a neighboring city.
When you break down your fears and discomforts and unknowns into actionable steps, they don’t seem so monumental or scary anymore.
I had a lot of solo travel and practice working for myself before ‘up and moving to Bali’. Things seem sudden- selling all of my belongings on a whim and moving across the country appeared to be a very rash decision- but a lot of what I had been working toward was preparing me to make that decision, so that when the time came I could go for it.