We all know that fear is the natural response of our body to dangerous situations. Still, sometimes, we overemphasize it. Our mind goes black, and we run away, without even realizing how much our fear is controlling our actions. Basically, we don’t know how to exit the comfort zone.
Eventually, this becomes a problem. We end up losing the people we love or our dream job, and we notice that something needs to change.
Deciding to fight fear is already an impressive demonstration of courage, but it isn’t enough. Since this feeling is part of our nature, it is impossible to stop being afraid, but you can always learn to control yourself better.
As they say these days: “Fake it till you make it.”
I remember the days when I was afraid of speaking to people and make new friends. I moved to another city, and it was painful to stay at home every night. Those were the worst years of my life.
I ended up not having social interactions at all. Still, this harmful situation caused the biggest change in my life. I realized I needed to become more confident and strong. It wasn’t easy, but it needed to happen.
Now that I overcame my fear of initiating small talk with people, I want to tell you how tp exit the comfort zone, so you won’t wander in the dark alone.
Four Steps to Exit the Comfort Zone
1 – Acknowledge Fear
If you know yourself, but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer defeat— Sun Tzu
The first thing I learned to do on my journey was acknowledging fear.
To overcome something, you have to know what that something is. Understand where your fear comes from, or you will try to solve an issue that may not be the correct one.
Keep in mind that most of the times fear comes from past experiences, so try to figure out what made you fearful in your past, so you can fight it.
Most people skip this process. They try to solve the problem without studying it first, and this may cause an enormous amount of extra work or even failure.
You don’t want that. Changing is already challenging, you want to make it as easier as possible.
If you have the fear I had, for example, and you are afraid of initiating small talk with people, it is worthless to prepare yourself by having conversations online, right? That wouldn’t be of any use.
I understood, with time, that my fear came from a group of close friends that abandoned me when I was younger. Because of that, I was afraid to make new friends, assuming they will all leave. Still, in the beginning, I thought I lacked social skills, so I lost a lot of time trying to improve them.
2 – Relax
What the mind doesn’t understand, it worships or fears.— Alice Walker
The second step I had to take was to relax.
For me, relaxing wasn’t hard. I was already doing meditation, which helped a lot. Yet meditation is unnecessary. All you have to do is to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and focus on the air flowing through your chest.
You need to calm down and stabilize fear. Then face it. Observe it. Look at it. Can you see how harmless that fear is?
Ask yourself: which is the worst thing that could happen if your fear becomes true?
In the worst case, you will live again the situation from your past, but you went through that at least one other time, so what are you afraid of?
Everything that could happen will be temporary anyway. It was in the past, right?
(The answer is yes, by the way. In case you were still wondering.)
3 – Think about the Benefits
He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.— Aristotle
Let’s talk about how to overcome fear now.
The most efficient way of succeeding is by thinking about the benefits of your actions.
Your fear already made you think about all the negative scenarios, but not about the positive ones. Do this by yourself, so you can find the motivation that makes you break out of the comfort zone.
What if you succeed? What is the best thing that could happen? Or if not the best, what is the average-pleasant scenario?
Find as many benefits as possible: the more you have, the greater the motivation, and your possibility of succeeding.
It won’t happen overnight. However, there will be a moment in which you will unleash your motivation, and you will finally step out of the comfort zone.
4 – Take Action
Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.— Chuck Palahniuk
We can talk about it all night long, but in the end, what it matters is to take action.
Everything that I told you until now is your preparation, but without action there’s no progression. You will build up this taking action phase for quite an amount of time, and finally you should act.
Keep in mind that there will be two simple scenarios waiting for you when you do that: you win, or you fail.
In the first scenario, you will get over your fear faster. Keep doing what you did, but it will be easier to understand that you had nothing to be afraid of, and that wonderful outcomes are possible.
The second scenario is a little trickier because fear will try to bring you back to your comfort zone stronger than ever. Here, stay strong. Don’t allow it, don’t fall on your mission, and keep striving.
Realize you did something only a few people can do. But you can’t predict the outcome, and it does not depend on you most of the time. What you can control is how you react to it, and what you decide to learn from it.
So ask yourself: what did you learn from this negative outcome? Process the answer, then go back into the field, faster than ever, and keep trying.
Keep overcoming your fear, keep fighting, until that fight becomes routine, the overcoming becomes doing, and fear becomes a memory of your past self.
Exit the Comfort Zone
If we have to define what overcoming fear is about in one word, that would be “strategy”. The entire process is a strategy, consisting of an initial part of studying the problem, a follow up of mental preparation, and the final action.
Without action, you cannot win the war, but you would be a fool to go into the battlefield without studying it first. Your mind has to be sharp, your plan clear, and your action definitive. Moreover, as in all the greatest battles: even if you lose a fight, you haven’t lost the war yet.
Study more than the enemy, prepare more than the enemy, build an army that is 10 times bigger, and go for the ultimate win. Only by building up courage, you will become the strongest person, the most confident one, aware and in peace with your feelings.
And in the worst times remember always that:
Fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.— Dale Carnegie
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Article first published in Change Your Mind.