As I grow older and learn more about people in my community and the world around me, I’ve noticed a distinct change in the ideas and goals we Post Twenty-fivers have for ourselves. There are moments of pure gold when a friend or a colleague’s eyes light up at the the discovery of a potential new idea or new purpose. You can almost see their soul lit on fire and can feel the determination & excitement in their eyes. Conversations like these are so encouraging to me. In my late teen years, it seemed like every conversation I had was one of those conversations budding with possibilities. As time has passed, the luxury of dreaming has been replaced with something else: fear disguised as comfort.
A few years ago I worked a comfortable customer service job. I had amazing benefits, a great work environment, co-workers that became family, and a steady income and steady schedule. All of that wasn’t inherently bad for me until I let comfort become the foundation of why I would not take a step forward. I remember assessing my job status a year and a half into my job, contemplating what my next move should be. Was I growing? Was there potential to get me closer to my goals? I was confident that I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to have influence on my community. However fear settled in through the cracks of my doubt when I realized there wasn’t a set path laid out for me to follow. There was no guarantee that I would succeed. Behind all the reasons why, were cleverly cloaked thoughts: “What if I try and fail?” “What if I am no good at the thing I love the most?” So instead of following after or even redirecting my focus to pursue what set my soul on fire, I continued to live life as normal. That being said, it wasn’t like I wasn’t actively doing good things but they everything I did had a common thread: comfort.
Fear, or more appropriately caution, when you are a child is pretty simple; you learn what to do by cause and effect. Once you’ve bruised your knee running without tying your shoe laces, you learn to tie your laces so you can run more successfully. Fear initially designed to keep me from touching a hot stove or running with scissors, morphed, somehow got a hold of my thoughts and dreams, and began to dictate my every move culminating in an unexpected crisis. And what was more astonishing was that living with that passive voice of fear was more comfortable that I would have ever thought.
So how to we prevent this? How do we train ourselves to keep fear and comfort from delaying our dreams and goals? I think it starts with being comfortable with fear. (Wait, what???) Yes. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Instead of backing away from the things that are more high risk, lean in to them. Take a step, whether big or small, towards your fears and eventually you’ll find yourself standing in the unknown territory just past the boundary line you were never brave enough to cross. Bring select friends and family along to support you and encourage you as you navigate your journey.
I’ve learned in my short life that the opposite of bravery is not fear, its comfort. Lets ditch comfort and ourselves uncomfortable on a regular basis. Follow that internal prompting to encourage or talk to someone you normally wouldn’t or to reach out to estranged friends and family. Invest in yourself and the work of your hands. Seek to understand those who have opposing views. Start that one project that’s been sitting on the shelf of your thoughts.
If I could impart one piece of advice for my future child to carry in his/her pocket for life, I would tell him/her to be brave. Fear is designed to keep you safe. But it also can keep you from jumping into the greatest adventures. Discern the difference and be brave.
You can do the same too.