Do one thing every day that scares you. —Mary Schmich
Always do what you are afraid to do. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
You must do the thing you think you cannot do.—Eleanor Roosevelt
You’ve probably heard these quotes before, maybe even seen one on a dangling refrigerator magnet or peeling bumper sticker.
And when you did, you might’ve felt a surge of inspiration to face your fears or scale your insecurities, to “do the thing you think you cannot do.” But just as quickly as it came, that part of you that wanted to stand up to the monotony of life eventually fell back into the plush e-z chair of your normal routine, or got consumed by the crowded chaos of your schedule. Because the truth is, even if you want to be bold and fearless, sometimes you are just too tired or busy to add one more thing in. Or, if you’ve become the protagonist in your own repetitive version of “Ground Hog Day”, you might not even know what new or exciting things would light you up anymore.
WARNING SIGNS THAT YOUR LIFE NEEDS A KICK INTHE PANTS.
But here’s the deal: I want you to remember that you have been built with a creative energy that demands that you expand and grow in order to feel alive. You have been given the ability to dream up ideas and play with life for a reason: because having your hands in the clay of existence and shaping cool, fun things is why you are here in the first place. So If you’re emotions have been falling flat, if your body feels soft, if you mind feels uncreative, if you relationships are unattended to , if your sex life is mundane- my guess is that you are not really feeling alive. You’re just living. And let’s just agree that’s not good enough.
SCARING YOURSELF INTO BEING AMAZING.
So here’s the good news: The antidote for when life feels monotonous, automated, boring, dull, repetitive, depressing, anxious, overwhelming, or just not fun anymore is to do something that scares you everyday. By “scares” I mean challenges you, stretches you, makes you feel butterflies in your belly, forces you to focus, and asks you to show up.
Now I’m not suggesting that you be so frightened that you’re throwing up on your shoes or popping Xanax, but you definitely should feel nervousness in your stomach at least a few times per week.
You ever hear the phrase “You have to go out on a limb because that’s where all the fruit is”? Well, to get to that fruit you’ve got to move away from the safety of the trunk of the tree. You’ve got to rely on your inner strength, some core faith, to balance you as you shakily put one foot in front of the other. The nervousness you feel as you take risks is simply confirmation that you are growing. And this is a good signs that you are actually living.
IT’S YOUR BIG OL’ EGO THAT WILL KEEP YOU SMALL.
A few months ago I walked into a Crossfit gym for the first time. Funny thing is that it wasn’t the first day that made me the most nervous.- it was the second. Sure on day one I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t know anyone or what to expect. No biggy, I could handle that. But on day 2, day 3, day 15 my stomach would drop like an elevator to my feet as I pulled into the Crossfit driveway because I KNEW what was going to happen inside that gym.
It’s not just that the workouts were hard. So what? I can do hard, or at least try (and there are modifications that adjust for beginning hacks like me anyway). It was actually all the mental and emotional stuff that made me the most apprehensive- the way my ego started acting up as I moved away from that trunk and went out on a limb.
A few facts about the adorable ego: everyone has one, it’s always fear-based, and it must be tamed repeatedly if you want to live your most amazing life. The ego will show up in a variety of ways- it can make us overconfident or self-depricating, tell us we are better than others or not good enough at all. The ego wants to be good at everything, it doesn’t like learning curves, and it will do anything in it’s power to keep you from feeling embarrassed or looking like an imperfect idiot. It’s main strategy is to keep itself safe by scaring you into not trying new things.
So you can imagine the temper tantrum my ego was having as I ventured into Crossfit, which is all about technique, whole-being-strength, pushing your limits and learning a brand new vocabulary. You can still hear the reverberations of my stunned ego as I was told to climb the rope, toss over a tire, or got gently corrected by my coach literally 1000 times about my inflexible shoulders. But since the ego only wants to be a master and never a student, I decided that I would become a master at being willing, at looking silly, at being an open-minded student whose only aspiration was to learn.
PLATEAUS, BURN-OUT, AND OTHER INDICATIONS OF MASTERY.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our routine and the goals we had in the past, that we fool ourselves into thinking we are doing our current best. It’s like driving forward by looking in the rearview mirror. But if you aren’t getting awesome results from your daily actions, it’s time to get real and challenge your life-patterns in some way. I like to think of plateaus or feeling “bored” as a sign that I mastered something and it’s time to push things higher and harder.
Since you are an inherently creative being, that flat boring plateau is your inner GPS driving you to create something new, to put it in 4 wheel drive and off road into the bumpy terrain of expansion.
For me, I hit a big fat plateau with my physical fitness despite running 5 days a week and weight lifting 2 or 3. This fitness program allowed me to lie to myself a little everyday because I told myself that getting up at 5 am to run in the dark, frigid winter was my personal best. See, I wasn’t radically accepting that my routine WAS NOT and WOULD NOT create any new results because I had hit a long flat plateau that went on for years and miles. It was time to get scared and try something new like Crossfit.
I don’t know what your plateaus are, but I bet YOU do. Ask yourself in what life categories you keep doing the same action and expecting some brand new result. What feels stale? What needs shaking up? What desires are you silencing to keep the status quo of life humming along?
CRAZY, FUN, SEXY FEAR.
I’ve noticed something cool that happens when you do stuff that makes you a little afraid: all your senses start to wake up more. After a few days of crossfit, I felt more creative. This happened because my inner blocks were getting moved around, the film of stagnancy that muddied up my joy-receptor sites cleared.I started painting and writing more, even taking the time to play with the poetry magnets in the foyer of the Sayville library. I experienced a more intense vibrancy in all ways: flowers smelled more potent, music vibrated deeper. Even though I was living a pretty cool life before, any black and white edges suddenly sprung into technicolor.
In other words, trying new things takes you out of the sleeper-choke hold you accidentally wrested yourself into. You wake up and life becomes sexier, richer, and more fun.
REMEMBERING WHEN YOU WERE MOST AWAKE.
When I think back on my life and review the times when I felt most creative, excited, powerful, or alive it was often when I was doing something that scared me and pushed my limits.Traveling by myself in Europe when I was 19 with no phone, luggage, or set destination. Jumping out of an airplane. Driving across country for a month with my girlfriends after college. Giving a workshop to 300 people. Zip lining in Costa Rica. My first time being a DJ on WUSB. Stuff like that.
I would like you to think of the times you felt the most vibrant and enthusiastic and see what the common denominators were. My guess is that you were challenging yourself- maybe even feeling a little scared- and that’s why you felt the most alive.
REDEFINING THE GOAL OF LIFE.
Here’s a hint: the goal of life is not to succeed at everything or to always feel safe. Now I’m not asking you to be adrenaline junky or to trade in the hard earned, mature security you have reliably built your life around. But I AM suggesting that you rethink the purpose of your daily existence. The ego is going to tell you that the only reason to pursue goals is to gain more status, or money, or comfortable safety. It’s also going to tell you that you shouldn’t do things that don’t guaranteed success or might make you look like a chump. But I’m telling you that’s exactly why you SHOULD do new things. Make a fool of yourself, get unsafe for a minute or two, be uncomfortable. Because the goal of life is to expand and grow, and to beat fear with love, curiosity, and trust.
I can’t tell you what scares you. I don’t know what you have been avoiding, or what would really make your heart sing if you had the courage to go for it. Maybe you should finally take guitar lessons and do open mikes at the coffeehouse. Maybe it’s time to travel-volunteer, to open yourself up to love or dating, to sign up for that marathon, to mountain bike in Machu Picchu, to fire your job and start your own business..
All I can say is be willing to get scared and jump. Do one thing today – like right now– that makes you afraid and then do it several times a week at least. Push yourself. It’s worth it. After all, this is your LIFE we are talking about. Don’t let your ego keep you small.
Here’s a big SHOUT OUT to Bayport Crossfit in New York for creating a atmosphere that challenges your limits while also being super-fun and extremely supportive. If you’ve heard rumors that the Crossfit workouts or coaches are wicked or militant, you will be pleasantly surprised by how community-oriented and kind Bayport Crossfit is- though you should definitely expect the workouts will kick your butt in all the right ways. Check out their website and also their facebook page.
Beth Miller, LCSW-R, CEC, CAHC is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Life Coach, energy healer, meditation teacher, and spiritual counselor in private practice in Bayport, Long Island, New York, USA. She is the owner of the group practice POSITIVE ENERGY Holistic Counseling & Institute where she and her fabulous team of therapists use the breakthrough model Advanced Holistic Counseling & Coaching™ to create transformational change in their clients. Beth is the creator of the trademarked Advanced Holistic Counseling & Coaching™: Modern therapy that combines the very best of traditional psychotherapy with life coaching, energy healing, science, and spirituality. Now, Licensed Therapists, Healers, and Coaches can learn how to experience huge transformation in themselves, their clients, and their careers by becoming Certified in Advanced Holistic Counseling & Coaching™. For free holistic and psychotherapy tools, visit the POSITIVE ENERGY Holistic Counseling & Institute YouTube channel, or contact us directly via phone at 631-533-0708 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.