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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Stop Living in Fear and Start Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

How to Stop Living in Fear and Start Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

I think I may know why we are so obsessed with super heroes – good versus evil.

Good overcoming no matter what — no matter how big, scary or evil the arch enemy.

It’s because it symbolizes how we wish it could be in the real world.

Imagine it…your life is now a movie…

You have music in the background because you are off to work/college/meet friends and your life is pretty normal (all appears well) then on screen, we get a few scenes where your life looks great.

You water your plants (or shrug at your ability to kill anything green), walk the dog, feed the fish, kick back with a good book or hugging a loved one on the sofa with a bucket of popcorn, then all hell breaks loose…

Within 20 minutes, if your life were a film you are feeling, like nothing could ever be the same again and that no one understands what you are going through.

Fear is not the word that springs to mind. It’s more likely to be:

  • Why me?
  • Life will never be good again.
  • I can’t fight this.
  • I don’t know where to start.
  • This is too big.
  • I can’t do this alone.
  • My life is over.
  • We are all doomed!

If your life were a movie, then it’s all fine (you really don’t need to worry) because at this stage in your film life, when life is so all consumingly going in the wrong way with no way out and death is likely imminent, along comes:

  • A scientist who can’t necessarily get you back to “Normal” but can make you a nifty suit and help you become a super hero that everyone loves; after some quirky, funny and lesson learning scenes where you get a few things wrong but learn tons.
  • A rich tycoon who already has a team of super heroes they secretly work with, can see true potential in you (after the “you’re rough around the edges kid” scene) they introduce you to the other superheroes and you learn that it doesn’t matter what you are like; you will find a network of people that will love respect, trust and help you.
  • An evil so big that everything you’ve ever believed in as at risk of the worst case scenario, therefore no matter how petrified you are, you somehow find a way to save the world (and your pot plant, dog and/or loved one).

Okay back to reality.

Alas there are not many super heroes’ around (if you know otherwise – I can keep a secret), however I think we feel more than ever we need to feel that there is a solution.

Life is fun exciting, challenging (in a good way) fast paced, energized and a ton of other awesome things – but it’s also overwhelming, scary and sometimes feels like you are fighting a super villain and you don’t have the super hero kit to get through it.

I’ve never had a client ask me to help them make them a super hero, however I’ve had plenty ask me to help them feel more in control of their life – and I think that is something we all desire to some degree.

Control of our lives can be eradicated when we feel frightened, un-powerful and like we are trapped in our lives. And often the first sign that we actively recognize is a comfort zone or stress.

But if you think back to our super heroes, no matter how trapped they are, they always find a way out. A solution that no one ever thought could work and that’s often what coaching is about – coming to a problem and looking at it in a unique way that enables you to find solutions to fight fear and get out of your comfort zones. And you won’t need a scientist, a rich tycoon or a devastating intergalactically incident to find those solutions.

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I want to share with you some of the winning techniques I’ve used with my clients to help you too.

1. Rethink the Question “Am I Weird?”

I’ve had so many clients ask me this question, I think I should call my next book “Am I weird”!

Everyone thinks that the way they are responding, acting, feeling and thinking is unique; that they are the only person to feel like they can’t face work or their friends or their day because of a fear or a comfort zone.

We all have times like this and it’s important to remember 2 things:

There is no such thing as normal in my book

Everyone is just who they are. It doesn’t need analyzing, or questioning if you like who you are. Or if who you are serves you well, respects those around you. And if giving you the life, career and happiness you want, then no, it’s not weird. And it’s all good.

The issue becomes when you find yourself trying to compare your weirdness (or lack thereof) to everyone else and how that then impacts on you.

Weird is good

Check out the best characters in film, book or TV, and you are likely to see that someone else has tried to insult them with the term “weird”.

Weird is used when you want to suggest that someone or something is different. Different is not bad, the hard bit is finding the confidence to be who you are – to embrace your differences and your weirdness.

A little useful side note – according to the Oxford English Dictionary:[1]

“ Weird – The adjective (late Middle English) originally meant ‘having the power to control destiny’”

And who wouldn’t want that?

Truly, hear me when I say – embrace your weird.

2. Listen up

Just as the newly discovered super hero struggles to accept their super skills, limitations or fears, so do you have to do the same. And if you strip back any successful story (fictional or real), you will discover it’s not a magic potion or a superior race that enables the hero to achieve success, it starts with who they listen to.

How many times in your life have you heard yourself saying:

Why didn’t I listen to my gut instinct?

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Why didn’t I listen to my Mum/Aunt/Friend/Boss?

Just as being weird in its original meaning meant to be able to control destiny until you can actually do that, you do need to learn who to listen and when to listen.

Here’s how to take action on this:

Listen to yourself (sometimes)

I was working with a client who told me that they could never upset the way things worked in their company. They couldn’t tell their boss they felt there was a better way! This meant that they felt trapped in their career, incapable of achieving more and like they weren’t meeting their true potential.

Enter frustration, anger, stress, work hatred and a sense of being trapped – if only they could get out of their comfort zone and tell their boss what they thought!

Learning to trust what they knew meant that they could rationalize and justify their thoughts and reasoning and work out what to do (if anything.)

We worked together to understand why they wanted to say something:

  • Was there envy at the boss’s job or was this genuine belief that they knew a better way?
  • Could they prove what they felt was possible and the benefits to those involved?
  • Did they have ulterior motives that weren’t positive?
  • What would be the best way to move forward and why would it work best for them?

If you need to learn to listen to yourself, start by asking questions (not looking for solutions) and you will start to ask some really smart questions that help you analyse your feelings, actions, etc without guilt, stress and other negative emotions getting in the way.

This process also allows you to find answers personalized to you. In my experience, so often it’s the silly little ideas that have the most power. Okay so Dumbo is not considered a super hero – but think back to Dumbo and his magic feather that enabled him to fly, was there any magic?

Nope, but there was a belief that the magic existed – this process helps you do that.

This process also enables you to know when your own thoughts are doing their best to keep you trapped. You can become your own Kryptonite telling yourself the most awful things (that are usually not even true!) So be cautious of what you say to yourself and the questioning will help you to become more aware of this.

Choose your network wisely

We’ve all trusted someone and later questioned “How could I have let that person have had an impact on my life, thoughts and actions?”

Back to weird being a good thing, right?

But the fact is the people you choose to spend your time with can in their selves become a powerful tool to getting out of your comfort zone – but could also trap you there!

So look out for the heroes in your life, that say things like:

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  • “What’s your thoughts on that? Do you think it’s a good idea?”
  • “Where did your desire to do this come from?”
  • “Do you really want that or are you hiding something from yourself?
  • “Hang on a minute, you can do this, remember the time you did xxxx”

People that can supply you with evidence of your brilliance and who reinforce the positive and your goals, but also challenge your beliefs, thoughts and actions are like gold dust (or super hero serum.)

They will enable you to be able to take a step back and really understand why your comfort zones are controlling your life. They are there to celebrate your wins, appreciate your frustrations when it doesn’t go to plan and give you the faith and confidence to keep going – don’t think you can do it all on your own.

Everyone, even super heroes get an element of confidence from their network. It’s not all internal!

And look out for the super villains who say:

  • “Are you sure you want to do that?”
  • “That sounds like a lot of work, are you up to that?”
  • “Why would you want to do that, I thought you loved your life/work/partner/house plant.”
  • “You should tell them what you really think.”

People that make comments like these aren’t looking at it from your point of view, or with your ultimate wants and needs at the heart of their responses. They are seeing it from their perspective of life and their own limitations on what they feel can be achieved; and this influences the way they respond.

Yes, there are a few social vampires out there that will try and ruin your belief in anything better but, most super villains are far subtler than that.

3. Go Deeper

In life, we often get an inkling of what needs to change or feel like something is not right. If you dig deeper, you usually find it’s not the first thoughts that were the issue.

When I work with clients, the “Go deeper” exercise always (and I genuinely mean always!) produces the big Eureka moments. It’s almost as if they are hearing their own voice for the first time.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Firstly start with a thought (any thought related to why you feel like there is a comfort zone or a fear) and write it down.
  2. Now write below it the answer to this question: “And that means?”
  3. Now below that ask yourself: “What does that mean?”
  4. Keep going asking further questions like:
    • “So how does that affect me?”
    • “What does that mean to me?”
    • “Is that really what I think?”
    • “If this is the case what does that mean I must believe?
    • Does that serve me well?”
    • What does that mean?”

This process enables you to really explore what’s going on in your brain and can be used in so many elements in your life.

4. Be Your Own Coach

I’ve worked with coaches and mentors for many years and I don’t think I could be without one to challenge me in the ways I’ve share with you.

After years of challenging questions and realities, creating goals and getting great results, I know to a degree I can coach myself. As one coach told me “Mandie, you don’t need anyone to kick your butt – you do it for yourself” That was a good session.

So sometimes, it’s enough to coach yourself. By taking on the role of your own coach, just give yourself a little time once a month where you actually challenge what you think.

Here’s a few ideas to help make that a powerful moment:

Free write

Don’t think about what you write, just let the pen go to the paper and write anything – in the random thinking there is often the right questions and thoughts to follow – if you create the space to do it.

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If you crave order and structure, don’t free flow.

If you love art, then draw. If you hate numbers and lists, steer clear of them. You want to create a new way of thinking that is natural to you, not what you read in a book or heard in the office as “a good idea.”

Learn to explore your natural style. Ask yourself: When set a task, how do I love to work, think, explore, learn and act? This will guide you to the best approach to coaching yourself.

Create your own discipline

Do you need to diary time to be your own coach or is it enough to know that you want to do this and get results? Just like finding your natural style, you need to learn how you will create your own definition of discipline.

Get this wrong and you’re highly unlikely to be taking action in 3 months’ time!

Tell someone

I’ve seen some awesome planners laid out in many colours with lots of tabs and tons of ideas. But as that new client realized, great ideas are little use without action.

The first step to the action is to actually tell someone you are going to do it. Do you need to declare your goal online? Phone a friend or just stick a picture on your kitchen wall?

You will learn what makes you take action, which leads to our last idea…

5. Know When to Start And Stop

Knowing what to do and actually taking action and knowing when to stop and when to go for it are 2 very important skills.

If you take action on what we talked about today, you will not only challenge yourself, but also challenge those that can manipulate and mould you.

You will learn to trust and have faith. Llittle by little (not always – some clients see massive levels of change after just a couple of hours), you will step out of your comfort zone. As I described it to one client years ago:

“Some people like to slowly step out of their comfort zones and others like to leap so far out that they can’t see it any more. Learn to know which you are.”

Neither is wrong, neither is right. Some people like big challenges, big goals and big actions; others like no one to know what they aim to challenge but quietly work through their action plan to achieve it.

The true super hero in any film learns to know what works for them, accept it, love and go for it. And they don’t need a scientist, a tycoon or super villains either.

Featured photo credit: Ludomił via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Oxford English Dictionary: Weird

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

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Published on February 19, 2021

8 Greatest Obstacles In Life You Must Overcome To Be Successful

8 Greatest Obstacles In Life You Must Overcome To Be Successful

Whether it’s planning a public speech or a kid’s birthday party, our intentions lean toward success no matter the endeavor. And whatever success we are hoping to attain, there will likely be obstacles that we must face. When these obstacles surface, we can either shy away and miss our chance or meet these challenges informed and ready.

Although obstacles can seem like the outside world is plotting against us, in reality, these external challenges are merely triggering hurdles that already exist within. They might be memories or beliefs we have about ourselves that act like mud and slow us down. We can be trapped by our own self-sabotage.

What could happen if you knew about and prepared for these obstacles beforehand?

If you knew what you were up against, perhaps you could come equipped with just the right tools to get through anything that threatens your chance at success. Perhaps you could take an obstacle that felt like a mountain and turn it instantly into a mere molehill!

Here are 8 of the greatest obstacles you must overcome on your way to success:

1. Perfection

One of the most common obstacles we face is the need for perfection. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, shared that her mother always used to say, “done is better than good.” Anyone prone to perfectionism is going to find it difficult to remain on the road to success if everything has to be “just so” all the time.

Perfection is the killer of creativity, vitality, and accidental discoveries! There are so many instances of people fortuitously discovering things that we use every day.[1] If they had been so concerned with perfection, they may never have enjoyed the success of their “mistakes!” Plus, learning from our mistakes is how we develop and grow throughout our lives. Therefore, “perfect” will never provide a straight shot to success.

How can you stop going for perfection? Just as it may have taken years of practice to “perfect” a skill you have acquired, it takes practice to undo perfectionism.

Try the following:

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  • Try new things and let go of your expectations.
  • Don’t do everything on your “To-Do” list. See what happens when you leave it for tomorrow.
  • Learn how to prioritize (no, everything isn’t equally important all the time).
  • If you’re feeling particularly rebellious, send an email with a typo in it!

Have fun with this and learn how to laugh at yourself. Welcome to the wonderful world of being human.

2. Fear

Fear is triggered when we have a thought or perception that we are not safe and secure. This is quite a useful tool when there is a real threat to our safety. However, when the threat is imaginary, fear can actually prevent us from doing the work we need to do to achieve our goals.

As with perfectionism, the best way to deal with fear is to become more mindful.

Here are some steps you can try in working through fear:

  1. Sit with the emotion of fear and notice where you feel it in your body. Notice the thoughts that accompany the feeling.
  2. Ask yourself what you are afraid will happen and write down your answers.
  3. Visualize yourself experiencing your worst fears. How did you feel imagining your worst fears coming true?
  4. Ask yourself when you have felt this way before. How did you cope with it that time? What strengths could you use in your previous visualization?
  5. Imagine yourself using your strength with the imagined worst fear. How does it feel to know that no matter what happens, you have the tools and resources to handle it?

In this exercise, we’re trying to be okay with the emotion of fear. Fear is actually trying to help by keeping you “safe.” It calls upon memories of when you were threatened in your life. But when we spend all of our energy trying to prevent the feeling of fear, we make it stronger. We also deny ourselves the memories of all the times we have faced our fears and triumphed.

Allowing the fear to be present and calling upon memories of making it through challenging times helps to convince our minds that, as President Franklin Roosevelt said, the “only thing to fear is fear itself.”

3. Lack of Clarity

Imagine that you are going on a trip and you need to pack. Your suitcase is out, but you don’t know any details of the trip. You haven’t decided where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, or what you’ll be doing. How easy will it be to pack for this trip?

If we’re trying to run our careers or lives without clarity, it can be nearly impossible to figure out what we need to be doing to get to our destination of success. So, how do we get clarity?

Author and speaker, Simon Sinek, had some excellent advice for businesses on how to get clarity, and it applies beautifully to just about any area of life. According to Sinek, when clarifying your “message,” you should start with your WHY.[2] In other words, why are you doing what you do? Once you are clear on your “why,” it will be much easier to figure out your “how” and your “what.”

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Let’s go back to the packing analogy. Perhaps your why for vacationing is to get some much-needed rest as you have been stressed out lately. That tells you that a quiet vacation might be better than one with lots of museums and crowded attractions. Your “why” tells you that you don’t want to be very active, but you do want to take care of your body, mind, and spirit, perhaps by spending a few days at a nearby spa. Less travel means less stress. Looking at the spa, you see they have a 3-day retreat. Now, you know how to pack.

See how easily those details fell into place once you got clear on your “why”? Imagine what success you could achieve once your “why” is uncovered!

4. Making Comparisons

It’s natural for us to compare ourselves to other people. That’s how we know whether we’re doing things correctly or not and how we can continue improving. When we get into a habit of making comparisons all the time and feeling bad about not being able to “keep up with the Jones’,” this can pull our energy down. And when our energy is down, so is our motivation to keep working toward our goals.

As with perfection, it’s important to be mindful about how much importance you’re placing on “keeping up” with what you think everyone around you is doing.

Want to stop sizing yourself up to others? Try the following:

  • Notice the feelings that come up for you when you compare yourself to someone else.
  • Ask yourself, “what information am I really getting from this comparison, and what’s helpful about it?”
  • Keep the helpful bits from that line of questioning and let go of the rest.

Remember that when you compare yourself to another person, oftentimes you are seeing the potential that already resides within you.[3]

5. Untamed Inner Monologue

How do you talk to yourself? Do you tend to say uplifting and encouraging things to yourself? Or is your self-speak often negative? An untamed inner monologue can serve as a great obstacle to many people.

Many people grow up with the idea that the inner monologue is what drives us to become better people. We get “tough” on ourselves to prevent laziness or sloppiness. If unchecked, the monologuing can quickly become negative and purely critical. Despite our intentions for self-improvement, this constant habit of pointing out what’s “wrong” with what we do and who we are can become a huge energy drain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, overcoming negative self-talk is good for our health.[4] Some of the benefits of maintaining a compassionate inner voice include lower levels of depression, better immune function, and improved coping skills in stressful times.

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Activities to develop awareness about your inner monologue and make it more compassionate include:

  • Keeping a thought diary (there are so many great apps for this!).
  • Reframing negative self-statements neutrally or compassionately.
  • Asking yourself what a trusted friend might say to you.
  • Thinking about what you might say to a friend if they were in your shoes.
  • Considering EFT Tapping or saying affirmations.
  • Allowing yourself to follow the inner critic down the worst-case-scenario path (this version might have you laughing at how ridiculous your inner critic’s imagination truly is).

6. Unclear Boundaries

So far, we’ve covered several ways that internal boundaries are necessary on the road to success. These include monitoring your fear, limiting your need for perfectionism, lacking clarity about what you want, making unhealthy comparisons to others, or having a mean-spirited inner monologue.

How about those boundaries we need to clarify with other people in our lives? To be clear, boundaries are not about saying “no” to everything and cutting yourself off from everybody. Healthy external boundaries are about being communicating to others about what you want, how you want to be treated, and what your plans are.

If we have unclear boundaries with others, success will result only by accident, if at all.

People pleasers and empaths especially know how challenging it can be to set boundaries with others. The desire for harmony can be so strong for some people that they convince themselves that it is easier to let others make the decisions rather than risk creating conflict.

The problem here is that no matter how hard we try to avoid conflict with others, we will create conflict within ourselves that results in roadblocks to success. If you have trouble setting clear boundaries with others and you want to be successful, start building your muscles around this skill slowly.

Here are a few steps:

  1. Identify little things that you like and want.
  2. Tell people about what you like and want in your life.
  3. Notice what happens in your body when you say this out loud.
  4. Identify things you don’t like or want.
  5. Notice what happens in your body when you think about these things. (Your body is really smart when it comes to telling you what you don’t want!)
  6. Tell trusted people what you don’t like or want.
  7. Notice how it feels in your body to say this out loud.
  8. Practice saying “no” to something really small that you don’t want and work your way up to bigger things.

Without boundaries, it’s like being water and trying to hold a shape without being in a container. You get to create your own container and watch your success take form.

7. Unreasonable Expectations

It’s important to dream big. It’s how we allow inspiration and big ideas to come to the surface of our awareness. But if our dreams are not grounded in the reality of our current resources, we might be headed for some disappointment or even worse, the loss of our dreams!

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Setting reasonable expectations is the bread and butter of success. If you haven’t been introduced to setting SMART goals at this point in your life, it would be a good idea to try it out.

It might not always be possible to know whether or not something is reasonable, especially if you’re trying out a brand-new-to-you project. If the expectation is for a new project to work without any bumps or glitches, this is likely to be unreasonable. The consequences of this experience could be losing your drive to succeed.

If the expectations for a new project include the idea of bumps and glitches that hold seeds of learning and growth, then even the perceived “mistakes” will turn out to be a success. This has the positive benefit of fueling your motivation to keep working toward even more success.

Be mindful of where you set the bar—neither too high nor too low.

8. Unreasonable Definition of Success

What is your definition of success? Asked in another way, from what perspective are you seeking success?

It’s easy to think that success means achieving the goal(s) you set for yourself. But there are so many ways to look at success. You might be missing out on some opportunities to really feel like you are shining in your life.

An unreasonable definition of success might be one that only allows for one specific outcome. If that outcome is not reached, then success is not the result. But if we allow for multiple definitions of success, we might find that success is much easier to come by than we previously thought!

To expand your definition of success, ask yourself the following:

  • What would need to happen to make me feel successful?
  • What else could happen to make me feel successful?

Keep brainstorming all the outcomes you could experience to create a feeling of success.

Final Thoughts

Being successful requires overcoming a lot of obstacles, and many people will fail at some point. The key is to tackle these obstacles one step at a time. In the words of Joyce Brothers, “Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success.”

More Tips on How to Overcome Obstacles

Featured photo credit: asoggetti via unsplash.com

Reference

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