Turn on the news any night of the week and you will see a million reasons to be afraid. Your food is poisoned. There are chemicals in the tap water. Sunshine causes cancer. The terrorists are waiting at your front door. You will be molested at the airport if you dare to travel far. It has become common knowledge that everything down to the air you breathe is potentially harmful.
What they won’t tell you on TV is that your comfort zone is killing you faster than all of these things combined. Plenty of people are out there living life to its fullest, but you can’t see them from your living room. It’s never too late to get off the couch and start making up for lost time. Be careful, because the difference between life inside your personal bubble and out in the real world is going to be huge. It is best to start with baby steps if you want to make it all the way through without turning back. Here are a few little things you can do to get started on the most important journey of your life.
Take Inventory of Your Boundaries
Doing things differently often starts with thinking differently. Try to think about everything you have always wanted to do. Then, think about what is really stopping you. How many of your boundaries are serving you effectively? Are there things you won’t do? Think about why. Be totally honest when you are examining these things, and don’t be afraid to admit it when you find something completely irrational at the core of a dearly held belief.
Irrational beliefs don’t make you wrong; they make you human. However, nothing is going to change if you cannot recognize your own inconsistencies. You must be willing to re-examine the boundaries you have drawn based on faulty beliefs if you want to move past irrationality. Upon digging deep enough, you will probably find that YOU are the biggest thing stopping you from having the life that you want. It is time to get out of your way, and you cannot do that if you continue to obey self-imposed boundaries that are based on unfounded or irrational beliefs.
Identify and Face Your Fears
Make a list of all your fears and phobias. Much like you did with your boundaries, think about where each is rooted. Some fears are based on trauma or experience, and some are based on lack of information. You may notice that some fears exist without any reason to speak of. If you have never thought about things this way before, you will probably find yourself with many fears that are quite irrational. Try to differentiate your well-founded fears from those which are based on feeble premises, like hearsay or lack of proper understanding. Then think about all the perfectly harmless things you have been avoiding because of these fears. Once you have done this, start facing them one by one. Start with the weakest justifications and move backwards from there. By the time you reach your biggest, realest fears you should have a few victories under your belt.
Let’s take spiders, for instance. When you ask the average arachnophobe why he is afraid of spiders, he will usually say something along the lines of “they are just creepy!” or “one crawled on my face when I was a child!” Very rarely do you find someone who is afraid of spiders and has been seriously harmed by one.
Unless you live near a tropical rainforest or in Australia or something, there is literally no good reason to be afraid of spiders. Those who are should try doing a little research. You might learn that spiders feed on many other insects you don’t want in your home. You might also learn that there are only two or three fatally venomous species of spiders in the United States, and most others are no more harmful to humans than mosquitoes.Did you know that even tarantulas are about as venomous as wasps? You can learn all this and more without even having to touch a real spider. Upon reading about the most harmful species in your area, you will then be able to identify the completely harmless ones instead of living in fear of all spiders that might be poisonous. Best of all, this approach can be applied to any irrational fear. The more you know, the less you have to be afraid of.
Turn off the television and read
Even without the loads of broadcasted content that seems designed to inspire fear and insecurity, the very act of watching television is passive and voyeuristic. All your senses are being appealed to at once and very little is left to the imagination. When your life and habits revolve around this kind of stimuli, it is going to be harder for you to accept the little pains associated with growth. To stop growing is to start dying.
Try keeping your mind alive and thriving with literature. Instead of just watching short talk show interviews with people who have written books, try actually reading the memoirs and nonfiction they are out to promote. Read newspapers and websites instead of watching the news. Even podcasts and local radio can turn out to be better sources of news than American television. If reading is totally out of character for you, try spending a day at the library. Just go through the aisles and read random things until something feels right. The knowledge you gain from reading will inspire you towards doing greater things with your life.
Seek New Information
Let’s go back to that list of things you have always wanted to do. How many of them haven’t happened because you lack the skills or knowledge? Believe it or not, the information you seek is there for the taking, and nobody is going to come drop it in your lap. You have to go out and find it. The motivation to constantly learn new things is very important to an ever-growing mind.
You don’t have to go all the way back to college in order to grease up the gears. Is it your dream to sail around the world? Take a sailing class. Do you want to start eating a healthier diet? Take organic cooking classes. Do you want to get active? Start with yoga or some sort of aerobics class. Even if your dream is to ride around the forest with a crossbow and hunt your own food, you will first need to learn to ride a horse, and then learn to use a crossbow. There are classes for all these things, and it is never too late to take them! If you can’t afford to pay a teacher, there are always books and internet tutorial videos.
Surround Yourself with Positive Examples
Very few things have more influential power over us than the people we interact with most. Make sure this fact is working in your favor instead of against you. When you surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do, you can let their progress inspire your own. You get to see all the little things that go into their accomplishments. You can study their habits and question your own in turn. This doesn’t work as well if you are not able to look critically at yourself. In fact, if you are used to being around people who are stagnant and petty, your first reaction to a real achiever might be intimidation, jealousy, or insecurity. If you can push past these things and admit everything you have to learn, a world of possibilities opens up before you.
Start by choosing a mentor. This is can be any person with whom you enter into a relationship under the stated pretenses of learning about what they do. A good mentor will be patient and understanding of your learning process in a way that other random acquaintances are not. A good mentor will also question you, call you out, and point you in the right direction. It is up to you to respond accordingly to such criticism. This can turn out to be the first step towards many changes in what you look for in all future relationships.
Our culture is so focused on attachment to comfort and convenience that it might seem completely silly to suggest leaving these things behind. The journey is not for everyone, but those who see it through to the end almost always have fewer regrets than those who stay inside. Stepping outside your comfort zone is an important decision not to be taken lightly. If you want to live your life to the fullest, you must let go of fear and be willing to change your beliefs. The sooner you start to change your habits the farther you will go.
Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. How to Break Out of Your Comfort ZoneFeatured photo credit: sofavia Shutterstock