We all know fear.
Fear is the snarky bully who introduces itself somewhere around puberty and attends the School of Life with us from that moment on. The details of fear vary by person and by circumstance, of course, but generally, we adorable, self-interested little humans all tend to be scared of two things, regardless of any other factors at play:
We fear complacency. We fear the unknown.
We want to accomplish all of those lofty goals that keep us up at night, but the idea of taking the risk and possibly failing, well, that scares us away from taking action. On the other hand, the idea of settling for a life of mediocracy, when we know at our core that we are capable of and destined for so much more, often leads to deep-rooted, chronic restlessness, a dissatisfaction that ends up affecting every aspect of our lives.
Even for those of us who are aware of these universal fears and determined to out smart them, it can be all-too easy to spend entire decades nervously straddling the line between a life of challenge and a life of comfort. Comfort is very appealing; it’s often the cumulation of a lot of structured, safe work; a lot of good intentions; a lot of planning and strategic living. There is a lot of good to be said for a life of comfort, but not much to be produced from it.
Deciding that your desire to live up to your potential outweighs your fear of failure is one of the most important, though often most overlooked, tasks of adult life. Some of us will decide that the risk is simply too high, either consciously or subconsciously retreating back to what feels safe; some of us will default to indecision, avoiding the choice altogether.
But, for the sake of my ramble, let’s say you’ve gone ahead and bravely made that choice, and made it courageously.
You’ve chosen a life of challenge over a life of comfort; you’ve decided to dive into the Deep Unknown. Congratulations! Welcome to the wild world of authentic living! Now, I wish I could say I come bearing instructions, but that would imply I’ve figured out exactly what it is I’m doing, and unfortunately none of us on this side of certainty really have any answers; we sacrificed those as soon as we parted ways with comfort.
What we do have, though, is a pretty good handle on how to embrace the questions, how to welcome the process of unpredictability in a way that still fosters meaningful, productive work.
Here are three things to keep in mind if you’ve decided to break free from your comfort zone:
How Much You Talk About Things Doesn’t Matter. At All.
No matter how enthusiastically you articulate your ideas and your objectives and your plan, unless you add some action to those pretty words, no one will really care, and, more significantly, nothing real will ever come of it. Action is worry’s worst enemy. Don’t waste your time seeming to be busy or seeming to be focused on your passions. Be the way you want to seem.
Reframe Your Perception Of Failure
You can live with a lot of intention and work really bravely (and really hard) toward the things you love, and one of two things will still happen: You will either succeed, or you will stumble. One important thing to remember, though, is that failure is only as scary as you allow it to be. Change what it means to you; decide that ‘failure’ is really just a rerouting of sorts while you navigate toward your authentic life. Don’t wallow; don’t throw a tantrum; don’t end your efforts. Decide that one mistake, one set-back, one seemingly world-ending misstep, is not going to get the best of you. Expect those hurdles, greet them confidently and adjust your sails.
Get Clear About What You’re Chasing
If you’ve officially decided to ditch the expected and focus on what you love, to dust off and cultivate old talents, to re-ignite your excitement for life, then it’s already clear that you possess the boldness required by an honest life. So, don’t un-do all of that by half-assing this brave new personal world of yours. Know what you’re working toward; have a concrete goal in mind. Even if you aren’t a 5 Year Plan person (I’m not either), it’s important to have an idea of how your goals should be evolving. What are your personal benchmarks? These shouldn’t have anything to do with how your progress was measured in that corporate job you walked away from, or how successful your friend’s new blog is becoming. These are yours alone, so take ownership of them; don’t cheapen them with comparison or convention that doesn’t make sense to you. Recognize every time you feel proud of yourself, then examine what your efforts look like in that moment. Apply that kind of work to each of your days. Your path doesn’t need to be perfectly paved or even fully visible, but you are on a path…so act like it!
Create your own confidence in the face of uncertainty; realize that the very worst that will happen is that you will not get what you want in the way you thought you would, or within the time frame you had in mind.
Adapt. Embrace. Appreciate.
Look failure in the face and kindly tell it that you’re done taking its shit. The human experience will never exist without fear; that’s something we need to accept. But how we coexist with that fear, how we allow it to dictate our accomplishments and our personal development, that is up to us. That is ours to decide, and it always will be.