Are you getting in your own way?
Most of us have a notion of the life we want to live, be it our relationships, our fitness, our emotional health, or our business. And most of us also have a laundry list of things getting in our way.
If you’ve ever taken a good look at your own list, you might find it populated with external factors you attribute to why you don’t have the life you want: “I haven’t met the right guy,” or “I don’t have the money to do that,” or “I don’t have the connections to do that.” It is EASY to shift responsibilities to things beyond ourselves, but I venture a guess that most of us would be better served to explore our own role in not getting the things we say we want in life.
A big part (if not THE biggest) part of why most of us don’t ever seem to get what we want out of life is this sticky pit of quicksand called a “comfort zone.”
I like to visualize my comfort zone as a small island in the middle of a blue ocean. My island is beautiful, comfortable, and safe, but on my island, I do the same things every day….day in and day out. It’s comfortable, but boring. I sit in my treehouse high up on the branches of a very tall tree and from my safe perch, I can see, off in the distance, other islands that all look different from mine. Every day I look through my telescope and watch the goings on of the inhabitants of those islands, wishing I too could do the things I see them doing. But then as I scan the horizons, I see choppy seas and worry about the possibility of sharks and other scary things in the water, waiting to take me to my early and painful demise. And I decide to stay put. Safe in my little perch, on my pretty little island in the middle of the sea. Day after day, bored as hell and longing but safe.
There is, I imagine, another way. What if I could build a raft and sail to one of these other islands? What if I became a strong enough swimmer to span the distance? What might it be like to leave my safe, comfortable island and explore??
In my life, I have come to learn that there are a few key strategies you can employ to get yourself off your “island” and achieve the life you want.
Assess your situation: How far is away is the island? How do the currents run? What are the possible upsides to getting to that island? What are the possible dangers and risks associated with getting there? Take an objective look at where you are and where you want to be. This might mean listing all the pros and cons of making the journey off your “island” and onto your life’s’ dreams, but in In Wayne Dyer’s book, “Excuses Begone!” he talks about making a list of “All the Things I’m Unwilling to Do in Order to Live the Life That I Intend to Live.” The easy part of this list might include things you find are immoral or illegal, but the more meaningful items on this list are all the FEARS you have about getting to what you want. Ultimately, once you create this list, the goal would be to discredit and disprove most (if not all) the items on this list using rational thought and a wise-mind approach.
Train for pressure: Don’t kid; getting to that other island is NOT going to be easy. If it was EASY, you’d have done it a long time ago. It is going to challenge you to your very core. What do you need to do mentally, emotionally, and physically to achieve the things you want in life? Do you need to start a simple exercise regimen to prepare you to achieve bigger health goals? Do you need to get some good feedback or advice from a trusted friend or counselor. Do you need to practice distress tolerance skills, noting how you perform under stressors that may be similar to those you could face when you’re trying to achieve a life goal?
Take stock of your resources: Tools. You’ve gotta have tools to build the raft and get yourself to the other islands. This is the nuts and bolts stuff; what transferable skills and character traits do you already have that could be useful on your quest? What does your support network look like and who could you lean on for assistance and guidance? What skills might you need to brush up on or develop to help you achieve your goals?
Embrace discomfort: Ok. The water is going to be cold and you’re going to be scared as hell. But what are the gifts of this discomfort? Might it be invigorating? Might you develop a new-found confidence in yourself and your abilities as a result of pushing through the discomfort? I often think of women and childbirth: It is often an amazingly painful experience and one that requires significant surrender to the miracles of what the body knows it needs to do. Women who are able to surrender to this discomfort as part of the miraculous process of bringing a life into the world often speak of it being the single most transformative experiences of their lives. Things worth having are usually worth some discomfort.
Appreciate the journey: While you’re paddling along on your raft from one island to another, notice the cool ocean breezes, the splash of the water on your skin, the pull of your muscles, the warm sun on your face. Notice your heart beating just a little faster at the prospect of unknown adventures. Soak it up; all of it, the comfortable and the uncomfortable. Be mindful of every precious moment and appreciate that you have the freedom to make the journey.
Immerse yourself: Jump in. Jump all in. Nobody ever got to that other island just dipping one toe in the ocean. Likewise, no big dreams are every achieved by just dabbling in the business of dreaming. For example, if you’re looking to find a lifetime partner, going on one date a year ain’t gonna get you there; you've gotta get out there with regularity!
Embrace opposition: With every big change will come resistance. People (and systems) resist change. I’m no physics genius, but I feel like it should be a natural law. The Colorado River didn’t just show up one day and BOOM! there’s the Grand Canyon; it took thousands of years of rubbing up against the solid resistance of the earth to carve that epic wonder of the world. Likewise, when you attempt something revolutionary, it’s going to upset the status quo of your system. Embrace this opposition. Love into it with all your might and the source of your opposition will begin to relax into your change.
So what is it that you’re yearning for in life? How is the “dead zone” of safety keeping you stuck? And most importantly, how are you going to fight your way out of your comfort zone?