To really change, you have to do what scares you most.
For most of my life, my choices were safe and calculated. As much as I like to tell myself that I made those choices because they were what I wanted, it’s not true. I made them because they were safe, and mostly easy.
There were rules that I thought I had to follow. A path ahead that outlined what most people do when they hit a certain age or reach certain milestones. Having these rules in place made things easy and comfortable. I mostly knew what to expect in life and what my next move should be from looking at what other people were doing. The idea of doing something new, something with an unknown outcome that no one I knew I had done before, seemed impossible. I didn’t know how to even begin to do something drastic like move to another country, or handle the emotional labor of explaining to people why I’m making a decision they don’t understand.
I grew up privileged enough to make easy choices. The path ahead was one that pretty much everyone I knew aspired to follow. Go to college. Get a job. Buy a house. Settle down. Maybe start a family. Go on vacation once a year. Possibly get a raise or a new job at some point until you’re old enough to retire. Live a comfortable life that you can’t really complain about because some people would kill for your life.
Choosing the paved road doesn’t mean that you always know what to expect or that you’re guaranteed to reach your destination. But it does create a sort of safe space. You end up in a bubble with everyone around you as your all try and navigate a road that others paved before you, not even really questioning why someone put that road there to begin with, or if their road is the right road for you. It’s just the road you know.
Learning to be uncomfortable and compromise the easy aspects of my life in the name of growth and change was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But it was also the catalyst that taught me how to do scary things and make big life changes.
When I started freelancing, I was broke, unemployed and in my heart, I knew that I never wanted to work in an office ever again. The voice of reason in me knew that I had no money, and I needed an income. My mind went into fight or flight and I got desperate for a job because that was the path I knew. The path down self-employment was foggy and for all I knew it would never work out.
The discomfort of trying something new and not knowing if it was going to work was strong enough to nearly persuade me into taking another job that I knew I would hate from day 1.
When I left my hometown and moved across the world, I was ready to go home after the first day. Lost luggage, food poisoning, scooter accident, debit card skimmed…all while 5,000km away from “home,” with no one around to ask for help. That was discomfort beyond anything I was used to, but in that moment I knew that I had a choice to power through the pain of a new experience, or retreat back to what I knew (and knew I wanted to get away from).
The pain of doing something you’re not in alignment with might seem worth it for the comfort, but it’s not. Embracing the discomfort will get you so much farther than trying to run away from it.
I have a lot of pretty ambitious goals for this year. Some of them even make me uncomfortable saying out loud. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to achieve most of them, but I do know that I can do them because of what I’ve done before.
Taking big leaps starts to seem less scary the more you do them. The more hard conversations you have, the most they start to feel like normal conversations. And the more you do things that you absolutely know are the right things, the easier it will be to push past the hard part and reap the benefits of your hard work.
Things that seemed like huge out-of-comfort zone moments, I barely even remember now. Things like making my first cold call or doing my first pitch to a potential new client. In the moment I was nauseous and ready to quit because I just hated the feeling of doing something that I wasn’t used to doing. But the thing with discomfort is that if you do enough things out of your comfort zone, the feeling starts to fade and you end up with good ways to cope with these feelings and help you push through. Once you do a few things and get a few wins, you’ll feel the momentum to keep doing new things that scare you and push you.
I really want to grow personally and professionally, make more money, travel to new places start new projects and business ventures, and when I look at my goals, I get that heavy feeling in my chest that makes me want to rip out the page and tell myself that things are fine just the way they are. Even if things are great the way they are, don’t you want to do better? Be better? Experience bigger and better things and achieve all of your wildest dreams?
Living in a bubble is safe and it can be fun, but you also owe it to yourself to challenge yourself to grow in new ways.