I am the boss of my fears
I write this post literally sitting on a plane traveling across the country. To many, traveling is a common occurrence, but I have not been on a plane in three years because I hate to fly. Let me back up and tell you that I have three situations that make me horribly uncomfortable: 1) flying, 2) traveling and 3) public speaking. This weekend I am tackling all three, and I am so freaking proud of myself for getting this far.
When Lissa Rankin emailed me to inquire about my interest in a special project with her, I was honored…and super psyched! The project was right up my alley, but I had 'wrongly' assumed that I would be asked to write an experiential piece, or be interviewed via telephone for my contributions. It wasn’t until after I enthusiastically accepted -- “Sure, I would love to help out” -- that I was given the details of the project by the sponsors: a video shoot in Los Angeles…for which I would need to be physically present… in less than two weeks!
My initial enthusiasm flipped to complete terror. What had I just agreed to? The mere thought of flying made me what to throw up (literally). Impending every trip I have ever been on, the dread and sleepless nights start weeks prior to the actual departure. I am an uneasy traveler to say the least. I pack, unpack, catastrophize all the things that can go wrong -- and have a terrible sense of direction and time -- leaving me lost and chasing my tail everytime I leave for a trip. I like my creature comforts of home. Traveling sends me too far from my comfort zone and I have been known on many occasions to decline fabulous offers of travel if I had to fly or stay away from home for too long.
Although I have always received positive feedback from public speaking engagements, the task is always completed with a bundle of nerves and an almost out-of-body experience to get me through it. When I speak on camera or in front of a crowd, no amount of planning or rehersal makes a bit of difference -- as something takes over and I have no idea or control over what comes out of my mouth! So to say that embracing all three of these fears at the same time has been consuming me for the past two weeks would be an understatement. I have passed up professional growth opportunities because my discomfort was too much for me to handle. I am owning all three of these fears (at least for this weekend)!
Go with your gut
After I committed to Lissa's project, I won’t go on about all of the realistic and not so realistic thoughts I had of everything that could possibly go wrong. Let’s just say that after I had a reoccuring thought of my plane going down in the ocean and drowning leaving my widowed husband with motherless children, I set an intention to stop thinking all crazy! I was either going to apologetically decline the offer, or change my perspective about going -- because where I was currently living in fear was making me nuts! I decided to do it, and to do it completely. I thought back to my initial feeling when the opportunity presented itself. These were feelings of excitement, possibility and pride. I wanted to go back to that place. I couldn’t ignore all the fear, but I wasn’t going to let this discomfort own my decision or me. If going outside of your comfort zone wasn’t such a big and sometimes scary experience, they wouldn’t call it “outside your comfort zone”. It would be called the “warm and cozy zone”. I was damn scared, so I must be doing it right -- I took these natural feelings and started to view them as growth. I was ready to spread my wings and fly.
What works for me
I was very in-tune with this emotional journey. I thought back to previous times in my life of stretching, growing -- and yes, discomfort -- as I went outside of my comfort zone. I felt similarly as I embarked on every major milestone and life event: going away to college, moving far from my family as a young adult, getting married, career choices, starting a family, creating a business, etc. All of these events had a series of emotional triggers. The pattern, that I haven't unveiled until now, has always worked for me in the end. I love my life, I own every major decision I ever make, and I have no regrets. I must be on to something! I realize that everyone has a different decision making process and an array of coping mechanisms associated with the discomforts of getting outside of your comfort zone. In sharing my process, I hope to inspire someone else to start his or her own comfort zone challenge. Whether you are a baby toe in the water kind of person, or you zestfully jump right in the pool, you have a process that works for you. You just have to discover it.
My discovered process
- Initial reaction. Go back to your first emotional response. Was it something positive? Is it still there? Would you do it if you knew you couldn’t fail? If you had a magic wand to make all the fear disappear, how would you feel about moving forward?
- The “oh crap” feeling. Know that going outside of your comfort zone will elicit some negative feelings. Acknowledge them, and then debunk all of your irrational thoughts. Thank them for being a part of your journey and tell them to get lost.
- Commit-Just do it! What is your heart calling you to do? Don’t just commit in your head, but tell another person, tell everyone you know. Make a payment, book your flight, register and sign your name on the dotted line -- make it hard to turn back. Keep the energy moving in a forward direction. Pretty soon, you will be owning whatever it was that made you fearful.
- Work out the details as they come. After you are fully committed, details can and will be worked out. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with the details before you are fully committed, as they just add irrational reasons not to do something. Continue to move forward and the rest will figure itself out.
What would do right now if you knew you could not fail? How does it feel if you own up to the fact that growth is uncomfortable -- because you are in fact out of your comfort zone? Do you have a process for working through all the muck and owning it despite your fears?
Wishing you a limitless life, and may your fears take a good ass kicking!
Photograph is of June Meyers, skydiving at age 90 (Bing)
Life Coach for Moms