Life Begins Today, At The End Of Your Comfort Zone
Life Begins Today, At The End Of Your Comfort Zone
Photo by Chris Wilson
I'm generally the guy nominated to speak on behalf of the team for projects. I think it's because I don't put up much of a fuss. It's a quick game of not it, followed by a sigh of relief as everyone else settles into the role of spectator. I never felt vulnerable because it wasn't my story. I could speak without the fear of it being all about me. But when I started Simplify Your Why, a decision to design a life on my own terms, I realized that life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
I was asked to speak at Ryerson University in an Interpersonal Communication class, with forty wide-eyed second and third year students. I met with the prof a couple weeks earlier to get a sense of where they were at. Like many young adults, the fear of the unknown and anxiety surrounding an uncertain future weighed heavily on their minds. You're starting to gain a self-awareness and an understanding of how one’s culture, values, beliefs, emotions, experiences, perceptions and self-concept influence your decision making. But it's hard to see how you fit into the world around you.
I thought of my own experience and what I wish others had been honest about. But in order for me to share what I wished I had heard years ago, meant I would be stretched far beyond my comfort zone. A level of vulnerability that is both liberating and paralyzing.
One of my mentors said something that stuck with me, your mess is your message. Personal growth punches through the feelings evoked from the rawness of honesty. It creates a deep-seated connection that we rarely allow ourselves to share. We're blasted with inspiration and motivation, without the substance or context to put it into perspective.
I had no idea if I could give such a talk, but there was only one way to find out. I’ve decided to share a portion of my talk with you today.
I’m a Certified Professional Coach and I help creative high achievers get out of their own way so they can design an extraordinary life on their own terms. But today, I want to share my own story. I’ve learned the empowering benefits of being open and honest about our struggles. It only took two decades and a crap ton of bad decisions to feel comfortable doing it.
If you’re anything like me, the thought of ending university is overwhelming. I had been following the yellow brick road. And now all I could think of is, “What now?” You have dreams of living up to your full potential. You’re sick of waiting for change but you’re feeling stuck on what to do. You’re asking questions like “Am I on the right path?” “What if I’m not, is it too late to change?” Or, you’re just so done with school that you’re looking for a little adventure. Have you ever had these challenges or felt this pain?
Me too. Two years had passed since graduating. I couldn't escape the voice yelling at me to wake the eff up. I felt like I was out of options. My future felt like a mess. I was in a job I hated, living with someone who deserved better, in a city I didn't want to be in. Every day felt like I was shoving my regrets to the bottom of a garbage bag, knowing full well the time would come when the bag would burst.
On April 16, 2011, my 17 year old cousin, Danny, a tall lanky kid who loved working on snowmobiles and talking to girls, had his life cut short. A head on collision with a transport truck ended any hope of living out his dreams. I only knew of the dreams he told me about, like becoming a welder. The rest he never got a chance to share. Like many of us, we hold our dreams tight and die before ever getting a chance to act on them. Except, ours are paralyzed by fear.
Life had already felt like a mess, now it felt hopeless.
I was wild in university, but now I was reckless. I didn't really give a shit about anything at that point. I felt dead inside. And I mean if, if I'm gonna be perfectly honest, I really didn't care if I lived or died. I reached a point where I’d do anything to numb the pain. I made a lot of bad decisions in that period of my life, a lot of shit I'm not proud of. But I'm only standing here today because I decided to take responsibility for my life. But I knew I wasn't able to do that by myself. That would involve reaching out.
I went on to discuss my battle with mental health, touching on the lessons I've learned along the way. I emerged as someone stronger, more determined, and resilient. Not despite my struggles but because of my struggles.
My message connected. A young woman approached me, holding back tears as I saw her eyes well up. She was anticipating saying something that she had probably never shared with anyone. She had decided that anxiety wasn't something she had to live with anymore. Her fears that she was alone forced her to suffer in silence.
Suffering is a choice. Stuck in your head, you're paralyzed by darkness. It feels like there is no other way. But as you start to challenge the way you think, your old way of thinking starts to crack. That's how the light gets in. A trickle at first. You start to see and believe you have choice when you share your struggles. It's okay to ask for help. It's the first step in emerging from your comfort zone. You don't have to live your default life. You don't have to settle.
How did you stretch your comfort zone in the last month (even slightly)? What did you learn from this experience? What’s one new comfort-zone challenge you’d like to conquer?