“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
I love this quote by Neal Donald Walsh because it challenges you to question a number of aspects including:
*How can I look at previous limits differently?
*What actions can I take to make a positive change?
*How can I become the best version of myself?
The world we live in today is filled with distractions, we’re bombarded with messages, social media, advertising, all taking up our most valuable assets: attention, energy, and time.
In addition to the overwhelm we’re experiencing, these messages are also setting up comparisons, with the overall theme that you’re not enough.
They don’t explicitly say this, but in their messages, it’s showing how great you could/should be. This sets up unrealistic expectations which you can then negatively judge yourself.
I don’t place blame on the media though, they’re doing their job to try getting your attention, so while they’re pumping us with external noise, it does provide a convenient place to go that allows you to avoid going to the most frightening place…which is going inside.
The journey of self-discovery is the place one must go in order to gain clarity, understand what makes you tick, and how you’re getting in your own way.
It brings issues to the surface, where they can be acknowledged, addressed, and overcome.
The very thought of this is frightening, I know this from personal experience.
I always wanted to think of myself as “perfect” nothing was “wrong with me”…nope, it was everyone else that had issues 😉
My personal journey started in 2010, where after a job layoff, the anxiety condition (panic disorder) which I had been trying to hide/avoiding for 15 years.
This avoidance came from 3 main feelings: frustration, isolation, and fear of people’s judgement.
When operating at this level, I went into a cycle of survival, building an armour for protection, but this armour was a barrier from others getting to know the “real me.”
It was a false armour, over-compensation, lies about how I was feeling, all to avoid actually “being seen.” This armour, which came from a desire for protection, also led to unhappiness, lack of authentic connection, and a lot of anger and resentment.
Making a change
As uncomfortable as it was, this is a process of peeling back the layers of an onion.
This is not a quick fix, it’s a journey of continuous exploration and self-discovery, which will continue until the day I die…and this is what excites me.
With each realization, with each layer that is uncovered, understood, and optimized, I gain a new sense of freedom.
Freedom from the conditioning of past events, freedom to choose my own path, freedom to be true to myself and authentically shown up in the world.
So while it may sound exciting to go inside, there’s a number of reasons you may avoid it:
- You’re not aware of it
- It’s easier to distract yourself
- It’s uncomfortable, so it’s better to stay the same
These reasons make it simple to rationalize an avoidance cycle, so let’s break each one down:
It’s simply a matter of you don’t know what you don’t know. This is where reflection is helpful to take an honest look at your life. Are there habits that are holding you back from achieving your potential?
If yes, question yourself and ask what’s the payoff I get from continuing to do these habits.
To gain additional perspective, you may want to ask a close friend or family members for feedback. This will be uncomfortable and they will possibly be reluctant, but if you frame the feedback as “My goal is to improve, so I would appreciate your honest feedback.” This will often give them the permission to give you valuable insight on how you’re showing up in the world.
You’re aware you need to make changes, to go inside and gain clarity on what you truly need, but will find yourself spending your time and attention on external items.
This could be spent with hours on social media, watching TV, gossiping about others, drug and alcohol consumption, etc. It’s anything you can do to distract you from internal reflection, asking the tough questions, seeming what you really need.
When consumed in distraction, I often refer to this is as the fast food of attention as it gives you a temporary feeling of satisfaction, then it changes to a feeling of emptiness and regret/guilt as why you made that decision to consume it.
It can also take the form of watching other people’s successes and vicariously living through their life. You see them, they’re inspiring and you focus your attention seeing what they’re doing and cheering them on. This can be healthy for inspiration, but be aware if you catch yourself focusing more time on others successes and less time pursuing the actions to achieve your own.
This is something I often see with clients as they comment on how hard it is to change, how uncomfortable it is, and why go through that?
I understand, with my anxiety this is something I faced daily, but the resistance to change will try to seduce you to stay the same in many forms, one of the most common is highlighting all the effort it will take to change.
First, we must take a closer look at the “easy route.”
In our work with people that get nervous speaking in public, the main challenge is they feel nervous/anxiety when speaking to a crowd of people.
There are a number of factors contributing to this. Feelings of audience judgement, fear of embarrassing themselves, insecurities that they’re not good enough, inability to control the nerves fo public speaking, lack of confidence, etc.
On calls with potential clients, I often hear “This is going to be so hard and uncomfortable to change.”
They say this because they’re focusing on going on camera, seeing how they look, getting back on camera and pushing their comfort zone. What they’re not seeing is our training in limited to group’s of 6 people, so it’s small enough to feel safe, plus you connect with 5 other people that are all facing the same challenge as you, this reduces the feelings of embarrassment and isolation.
The one question you must ask yourself is “What is it costing me to stay the same?”
This is important as in the public speaking fear example listed above, often staying the same means:
*Struggling with nerves/anxiety days before you have a presentation
*Missing speaking opportunities because of nerves, then beating yourself up because you know it would have been great for your career to take it
*Increased stress because of the additional income you could make if you were able to confidently speak in public.
*Adding regrets as you hold yourself back from achieving your potential, this can erode your self-confidence.
There’s many more, but this is to get you thinking what is the real cost of you staying the same. The more detail you go into on the actual costs to you, the more incentive you will have to take go inside and get the answers you need.
People can spend years and even decades in an avoidance cycle. They will go to great lengths to avoid inner reflection.
I believe when you’re able to quiet the mind, you get the space necessary to have your questions answered and find clarity.
There’s a number of ways to go inside, here’s a few of my favourites:
- Self-development. This can be through books, online courses, live trainings. I’ve benefitted greatly from taking these programs as they often have the structure and exercises that lead you down the path to get your inner questions answered. My best experience was attending Tony Robbins’s “Unleash The Power Within” live seminar, it brought up a lot of resistance in me, but led to powerful results.
- Yoga. In 2010, when my panic attacks and anxiety was at it’s peak, trying yoga was a turning point. I’ve gravitated towards the restorative and yin yoga practices as getting to a place to quiet the mind and reduce stress has been amazing. To this day, it’s my go-to place and I regularly attend classes.
- Activities. Hiking, walking, getting into nature, have all been great ways to disconnect from the stimulation of our technology laden world. When I’m out there, it’s about being present and observing nature. This is a great way to recharge.
The last one I’ll mention is a meditation practice, known as Vipassana. I can’t comment on how it is as I’ll be attending my first retreat at the end of this month and to be honest, I’m both excited and nervous.
Vipassana is described as a silent practice in meditation.
There’s variations on the length, often they’re between 5-10 days in silence, with meditation, and instructional teachings.
From the retreat centre I’m attending, Cloud Mountain, they describe it as:
“Retreat is an extraordinary opportunity to disengage from the rhythms of our daily lives and bring ourselves wholeheartedly to meditative practice. Coming together for periods of sitting and walking meditation, daily meals, and Dharma instruction, we use mindfulness to observe what is happening in our minds and hearts to see how it impacts our lives and those around us. In this way we can explore the roots of our suffering, as well as our potential depths of peace, compassion, and wisdom.
By observing outer silence and temporarily renouncing our usual habits of conversation, we provide a support for the cultivation of a deep inner silence.”
I will be there for 5 days of silence and meditation. The thought alone scares me.
The day after I got the registration dates, I went into my own distraction cycle and tried to flee by booking a trip to Mexico. The reality is, I don’t need more external stimulation, only inner reflection. but I also feel if there’s this amount of resistance, then this is something I should lean into.
I hope this has inspired you to look inside, to shine a light into your darkness, see what’s there, and what you need to do.
Wishing you the best on your journey. Let me know your favourite way to reflect internally and what you’ve gained from it.