Change Your Life By Embracing Fear
Hello, and welcome to my blog! I’m hoping that you find it informative, helpful, and perhaps even a bit entertaining!
As I’m writing this, it is Tuesday, January 10th, 2023. It’s a new year and a that brings a new opportunity to do things differently from how you've been doing them in the past. In this first blog post, let's talk about doing hard things, doing scary things and the benefits of how that can help you to reach your goals and create the life that you want for yourself. Let’s dive in!
Okay, why hard things, and not easy things?
If you are someone like me, who has had a very, shall we say “complicated” relationship with anxiety in your life, then the idea of intentionally doing hard things or doing scary things probably sounds pretty terrifying. At the minimum, it probably doesn’t sound very intuitive or natural to you. You may even be probably asking, “But Benjamin, why would I want to intentionally do something that's scary? Why would I want to intentionally do something that seems hard? Why wouldn't I just want to take the easier route? Why wouldn't I want to go for something that feels safe?” Well, my experience and a lot of research tends to show that oftentimes, the things that are the scariest or feel the hardest are the things where we have the most opportunity to grow and change. And change or growth is what improvement is all about!
Okay, but why does the thing feel so hard or so scary?
Often, the reason that something feels scary, or feels hard is because there's some part of you that is pushing back on the discomfort. You’ve gotten comfortable in your world and the ways that you live. This is often true even if it doesn't feel comfortable. Even if I say, “Hey, you're comfortable staying at home all the time, never going out, and never being social.” and that elicits a less than positive response from you, (which is exactly how I would have responded to that in the past,) that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about this, observing it in clients that I work with, in my own life, and more often that not it is true. (To clarify, "comfort" that doesn't mean that you enjoy it necessarily, but that it feels safe.)
So, we get in our comfortable little places in our comfortable little worlds, we don't push ourselves to change, and we don’t grow or move into new territory in our lives. (This reminds me of a quote that I often recite when working with clients: “There is no change if there is no change.” So simple, yet so accurate!)
Okay, but now what?
If you're not happy with the way things are in your life right now, if you're not happy with your relationships, if you're not happy with your business, if you're not happy with almost anything in your life, stop and ask yourself these few simple questions:
When was the last time I tried to change it up?
When's the last time I tried to do something different?
When's the last time that my initial instinct was to pull back away from something but instead I leaned towards it?
This last one is a key point: instead of backing away from that scary thing, get right up in the face of it and say “Yeah, this is a little scary, this is a little bit uncomfortable, but I'm gonna go ahead and do it anyway.” I promise you, that is where you're going to get your biggest results. That's where you're going to see the most growth, that's where you're going to hit those moments that feel just joyful, that feel like an accomplishment and make you feel like “I can do these things and my life can change.” Remember, "There is no change if there is no change."
Additionally, leaning into the scary things or the uncomfortable things also give you the opportunity to prove to yourself that you are much more capable than you think you are. It's very easy to get caught in the thought processes that “These are my limitations, these are my boundaries, this is the realm that I can do things in and that's where I need to stay.” The problem with that line of thinking is you don't ever grow. And what is the opposite of growth? Entropy, or maybe to put it more directly, the opposite of growth is decay and death. If you're not growing, if you're not changing, then realistically what you are doing is you're slowly losing ground. You're slowly losing the ability to move forward. You're losing the ability to turn your life in the direction that you want your life to turn into. I assume that is the opposite of what you want, or you wouldn’t be here, reading this blog post.
Okay, that all sounds, great, but how do I DO it?
Well, that is tricky. That can depend on the person that you are and what your current relationship with discomfort is. From what I've found, a good place to start is to take a small step that seems less risky.
Here are some possible examples:
You’e noticed someone in one of your classes, at work, etc, and you’d like to get to know them better, possibly even date them. If the idea of asking that girl or guy out on a date feels hugely threatening and feels completely impossible, start out with just saying “Hi.,” Don’t set the bar higher than that, and don’t have any expectation on the outcome, just do the thing, don't have any expectation other than that, and celebrate taking that step.
If the idea of going out to a party, being social, etc, sounds very threatening or very frightening, then take a small step. Maybe start out with just going down to a local coffee or tea shop, getting a cup, saying “Hi” to the barista behind the counter, and maybe even saying thank you.
Warning: Tangent ahead, but I swear, it's applicable!
Currently, I'm reading The Four Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss. One of the things that he talks about, which is very akin to taking small steps and applicable to what I’ve covered so far, is devising little mini experiments in discomfort, and pushing yourself to do them. For example, the first homework assignment in the book is to look people directly in the eye when you are around them. Now, this may seem like “Okay, why is that such a big deal?" Well, if you aren’t comfortable with being direct, or with being seen or noticed by others, it is potentially a very big deal. Think about how often when you're talking to someone, you're looking down at the ground, you're looking over their shoulder, you're looking the other way, or looking at your phone.
Here’s a thought experiment to illustrate this point: think about a recent conversation you had with a friend, a co-worker, or anyone, for that matter. Now, think about that same conversation, only imagine looking them straight in the eye while the conversation happened. Does that feel uncomfortable? If so, ask yourself why is that uncomfortable? Does it feel confrontational? If so, and that feels scary, ask yourself “Why am I afraid of confrontation?” Or, perhaps it feels disrespectful. If it feels disrespectful, ask yourself “Why does it feel disrespectful to look someone in the eye directly?” You might be surprised with the answers to those types that you come up with, and those are often pretty insightful and show where you need to grow.
Okay, are we done yet?
Just about, I promise! The point of this blog is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in small ways. Whether it shows up as anxiety, as shyness, or in a myriad of other ways, oftentimes, as previously stated, the things that we fear the most, the things that feel the most uncomfortable to us are exactly the things that we need the most in our lives. So, when you feel that uncomfortable feeling coming up, take a moment, look inside yourself, and ask “What is coming up for me? What is the story that I’m telling myself?” In those answers, you will find your growth edges, and pushing through those will help you to build the life that you want for yourself!
Hey you! One more thing:
If you made it to the end, thank you! I’d love to hear from you, and while I likely won’t have time to respond to each individual message, email, or comment, I make sure to read them all, I take the feedback to heart, and use it to better improve this blog!
I wish for you nothing other than peace, love and happiness in your life.