by Anne M. Bachrach
We’ve all been afraid to try something new at one time or another. Why is that? And it seems as we age, our fear controls more and more of our willingness to try something new. We prefer to forego a new experience because we want to avoid whatever bad thing we think could happen. Or maybe the anxiety is just too stressful for us to even contemplate facing our fears. Whatever the reason, we justify that trying something new is not worth the risk.
Most of us learn to live within our comfort zone by default because we base our daily decisions on whether or not they cause feelings of anxiety. Every action we decide to take is based on whether it lands inside or outside our comfort zone.
As humans, most of us have the tendency to remain within the boundaries of our comfort zone, to avoid situations that cause feelings of anxiety and fear. And although it may feel like we are in control, we are actually out of control. When we live our life inside our comfort zone, we allow our fears to control our daily life.
When we remain inside the boundaries of our comfort zone, we essentially stop growing and stop learning. Sure, you can choose to live the rest of your life in your comfort zone, but if you are unhappy with any aspect of your life, know that it will not change until you step outside your comfort zone.
Your comfort zone is nothing more than an imaginary “safe zone.” This “safe zone” is nothing more than an imaginary area in which the mind has predetermined strategies to deal with circumstances that occur within those boundaries. In other words, your mind craves a controlled environment where it has a pre-determined set of actions to deal with a certain set of situations.
When it has past experiences to refer to, it can recall the details of a past success and apply the success strategies to a present experience. This set of past successes is what creates a “safe zone.” The mind knows exactly what to do when faced with those situations without anxiety or fear. However, step outside your comfort zone and the mind suddenly has no past experience to calculate a strategy from – this is what causes feelings of anxiety and fear.
Feelings of anxiety are often assumed as a “bad” sign, but that is not necessarily true. Obviously if you are faced with a life-threatening situation, then feelings of anxiety would be rational; but when faced with a non-life-threatening situation – exaggerated anxiety is not a rational response.
This is not to say that the mind is not serving a very valuable reaction, but left uncontrolled, the mind will create irrational anxiety. Your mind craves a controlled environment where it knows exactly what to do. When faced with a new situation, the mind doesn’t have past experience to refer to and will create imaginary and often exaggerated outcomes.
This exaggeration can cause such anxiety that we never want to try something new because of the stress. We choose to remain in our comfort zones, because our fear outweighs our desire for new experiences. While it’s natural to feel some anxiety or nervousness before trying something new, it is not natural to let fear control your life experiences.
Life is meant to be lived – not passed by. So how do you overcome the anxiety of trying something new? You simply ask yourself if the feelings of anxiety are rational. This isn’t to say that you won’t face situations which present real dangers, but what if some or all of your anxiety was based on false assumptions imagined by your mind – would you be more inclined to try something new? What if you could have new experiences without getting hurt or experiencing pain – would you do it? Now ask yourself how you don’t know it wouldn’t happen exactly that way?
Think of a baby learning to walk. When they fall down, they instinctively get back up and try again. And they keep trying until they succeed. In fact, there is nothing a parent can do to stop an infant from making repeated attempts to walk successfully. It’s an inherent strength we all have, but allow our fears to take over as we get older.
Remember learning how to ride a bike? You were scared right? Sure, we all were when we first started. As we kept learning we got braver and go a little faster and take turns a little sharper. The more we rode our bike, the more confident we became. Eventually, we were racing our bikes downhill.
I’m very afraid of heights and yet I wanted to try hang gliding. My husband thought I was out of my mind, but he didn’t say a word to me as I was strapped into the hang glider with the expert next to me. We soared with a hawk above us and it was an experience that increased my confidence to do many other things that initially scared me.
You are the one who determines the outcome of your experiences. If you know your experience will be completely positive – there is nothing stopping you from doing it. Here are four practical steps you can take to conquer fear and start living life on your terms:
1. Analyze the rational possible outcomes
When faced with something new, think rationally about the possible outcomes. Most of the anxiety we feel is based on our mind’s inability to calculate an outcome and it exaggerates the possibilities. This exaggeration is what causes fear and anxiety. If there is real danger, then obviously it requires consideration. As an example: Robbing a bank, stealing a car, and killing someone could potentially present life-threatening circumstances, but attending a networking event does not. If you are not faced with life-threatening dangers or negative consequences – just do it!
The more new experiences you engage in, the less fear you will experience in the future. As your “database” of past experiences grows, your mind will have more information to refer to when faced with new situations. The more past experiences you have, the less fear you will experience because the mind will know exactly what to do to create a successful outcome. What is the worst that can happen?
2. The past doesn’t equal the future
There is no written rule that says just because something happened a certain way in the past, that it is pre-determined to happen the same in the future. Explore whether the anxiety you’re feeling from a past experience can rationally be applied to your current situation. Sometimes the mind can create irrational relations – as an example: You experienced hurt in a past intimate relationship and assume it will happen in your next relationship.
3. Visualize positive outcomes
When facing any new situation always come into it with a positive attitude. Following the law of attraction, you will attract the same energy you bring to the situation. Set the intention for a positive experience and visualize a positive outcome. Feel good about your new experience before you even attempt it. A little bit of anxiety is normal, but don’t let it control the situation. You want to go into all new situations with confidence and assurances that everything will turn out the way you want to experience it.
4. Just do it!
The only true and tried way to rid yourself of fear is to just do it! Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Feel the fear and do it anyway? ” Don’t let fear control your life – you are the one in control. Choose to live life the way it is meant to be experienced. While there may be some risks involved with trying something new, the value of what you have to gain far outweighs any fear you will feel.
Don’t wait to start conquering your fear – start today. Make a list of things you are afraid to do and set a time frame when you want to have them all accomplished. Maybe it’s calling someone you would really like to do business with, but have too intimidated to ask. Or perhaps you are afraid of heights, but have always wanted to skydive. Whatever it is you would like to accomplish, but have been afraid of, write them down on your list.
Next to each item write the positive results that will come from doing what you are afraid of doing. For the client you’ve been too afraid to call, you generate a lot of revenue (How much revenue specifically and for how long? Not to mention referrals that can result of this new client.) . For skydiving it will be conquering your fear of heights and increasing your confidence. Once you have all of your tasks written down, prioritize them based on how they will positively impact your life. Place the item with the biggest impact at the top of the list and work your way down. Start at the top of the list and work your way down until you have them all accomplished.
Anytime you feel the fear and are considering passing up a great opportunity to spread your wings, take yourself back to your childhood. Remember that you learned how to walk with nothing more than instinct and how to ride a bike with practice. Trying something new allows you to build your confidence and wonder what you were so afraid of to start with.
‘Progress always involves risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.’
Make a decision today to conquer any fears you have and begin to overcome them so you can experience even more success – professionally and personally.