Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
NEALE DONALD WALSH
I’m finally here! Settling in on the other side of the world in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I plan to be here for three months and then spend time travelling around Asia…. ALONE!
So many people have told me how brave I am; what courage I have; how they couldn’t imagine doing the same. Yes, I bucked convention; and quit my job and my very comfortable life to travel. At 42 years of age, this is hardly sane behaviour. I have built a very successful and secure life over the past 20 years; and decided to step out of it into the unknown. “But WHY?”, you ask.
Well, I need to take you back to a conversation I had with a friend about three years ago. But first, let me give you a bit of background; I have always enjoyed travelling; I have always been curious of other cultures; enjoyed eating foreign food; meeting people who are different from me; and seeing the beauty that is present everywhere. But, regrettably I have had limited opportunity to do much travelling. My worldly footprint is still very small. There are many reasons that prevented me from travelling much; but I really only want to focus on one of those reasons today: FEAR!
So back to my conversation with my friend. She is very well-travelled; and can also travel comfortably on her own. On this particular day, she was telling me about a trip to Bali which she decided to do on a whim, on her own a few years before. I was not in a good space at the time, still dealing with the aftermath of my divorce. I was feeling incredibly insecure; and my self-worth was at an all-time low. I was also doing a deep analysis of my life; and the meaning of life. During the conversation, my friend suggested that I should consider doing a similar trip on my own; it would be healthy for me. When she said that I knew, intellectually, that she was right; and that I could only grow from such an experience. But, from an emotional and psychological level, the thought filled me with such anxiety that it felt like a knot in my chest squeezing my heart and would eventually kill me. In that moment, all I knew was that it doesn’t matter how healthy this could be for me, I would NEVER do it – it was too far out of my comfort zone. I had the most incredible admiration and envy for my friend who was so brave.
As I write this, I am sitting in Chiang Mai. I’m not on holiday. I didn’t take a few weeks of leave to visit a country to return to my comfortable job. I am here contently embracing the unknown. It is not without fear; but that fear no longer has the power of me that it once had.
So, what changed that I am now doing the very thing that made me anxious a few years ago? Well, the past few years I have been on the most incredible journey of self-healing and personal growth. During this journey, I did a lot of self-reflection and introduced a number of practices that helped me build the confidence to find my courage and take some very brave steps in my life.
Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.
Top points from the podcast
When facing a fear ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- What can I do to mitigate worst-case scenario?
- If the worst does happen, what are the opportunities in that?
- What if best-case scenario happened: what would that look and feel like; what would it mean for my life; what would it mean to my loved ones; what else could happen as a consequence of this
I learnt that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.