What do you dream of achieving not only in your professional singing career, but in life in general? In your wildest imagination what do you see yourself doing? Now, what is standing between you and the realization of that dream?
There are so many reasons and excuses we use for not pursuing our dreams. Sometimes it seems like we are sleepwalking through life and can’t seem to wake up and take control. We become stuck.
“If you don’t make something out of your own life, someone else will.”
~ Margaret Newell
We like to pretend that the reason we aren’t living our dreams is due to something outside of ourselves. We make up a story about our lives and then live out that story. Strangely enough, the truth is that pursuing your really big dreams, the ones of your own choosing, requires the same amount of time, energy, and money as the story you have made up that keeps you stuck and procrastinating in the same place over and over again. Do you pursue what you want, or do you do what seems most comfortable? You are right now, living the life of your own choosing.
So, what tends to keep you stuck where you are? Why aren’t you living your dreams?
My guess is there is something we are trained to honor more than our dreams.
The comfort zone is where you live when you continue to make the same decisions over and over again because it makes us feel comfortable. To even contemplate a new action can make us feel afraid, so it should be no surprise that in choosing to do something new we may feel out of our element. When we feel uncomfortable enough, long enough, we tend to feel discouraged So, we return to our thoughts, feelings, and actions that are more familiar, more practiced and more predictable (regardless of whether they’re helpful); in other words, more comfortable.
Living in the comfort zone is dangerous and tricky for those of us with dreams because it is one of the places we know ourselves intimately and we become very good at fooling ourselves. We wouldn’t dare dream of using an excuse we could see through, or a reason we’d find unreasonable, or a rationale we’d find irrational. To justify staying in our comfort zone we take our greatest aspirations and find excuses for not bothering to aspire. We find someone or something outside ourselves to blame.
Am I pushing some buttons now? Is your comfort zone being threatened by the words I am saying?
Here are some of the excuses we use to keep us in our comfort zone.
Yes, but. – If only… – I’ll try.. – Maybe.. – Should.
You know what I mean. We’ve all used them. No one is perfect. But don’t allow your comfort zone to become static. Every time you hear yourself use one of these words whether it is just in your head or out loud, stop. Rephrase your thought using a bold new word, something challenging. By doing this you will have a better chance of getting what you want out of life.
Expanding your comfort zone is work. It’s a choice and a process. It needs to be worked at all the time. It’s about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It’s about being willing to take a risk and learn from the outcome. We learn by doing. You can read about or study something forever, but until you take action and put it all on the line it is hearsay.
As Cardinal Newman observed, “Nothing would be done at all if a man waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.”
One of the primary reasons we don’t do new things is because we want to do them perfectly the first time. There is only one way to become perfect at something – that’s through experience, failure, feedback, experience, failure, feedback, etc. There is no one right way. We learn from family, teachers, community, wherever, that simply reaching the goal is not good enough. We must do it the right way, or more aptly put, their way in order for the goal to be properly attained. Our brains need to be deprogrammed.
Our mind controls the programming. The thinking mind is a beautiful thing, but only when it becomes a tool at our disposal. As John Kenneth Galbraith said, “In the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there’s no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.”
Do you want to pursue what you want, or do you do what’s comfortable? I understand that feeling uncomfortable is not a happy place to be, but is it a sufficient reason for not doing something you’ve dreamed of?
“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”
~ Alan Alda
Here is a list of sensations you might feel as you get close to leaving your comfort zone.
Fear – Guilt – Unworthiness – Hurt Feelings – Anger.
When we feel any one of these feelings or especially a combination of them, we say we are uncomfortable. This leads to feeling frustrated and discouraged, and eventually exhaustion. Let’s look at each of these limiting emotions for what they really are and learn to change the emotional charge from negative to positive, better enabling us to leave our comfort zone.
“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”
~ Eddie Rickenbacker
Fear – As Aristotle said, “Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil.” Fear allows your mind to imagine the outcome of any action before you actually take action. Then all that is left is to react. It’s the flight equation of the fight or flight response. Here is another way to think about it. Fear is interest paid on a debt you may not owe.
There is no trouble finding something in today’s world to be fearful of, but if you permit your thinking brain to fixate on it instead of deciding to take action on it or not, you are like a gerbil in an exercise wheel. You start avoiding all things and thoughts that might produce fear.
Suggestion: Face your fear. If you have the courage to go inside and look at your fears face to face, you will find that there is quite often nothing there; it is an illusion or old memory. And you may laugh or cry depending on how you view this wonderful discovery. Don’t let fear cripple you, live your life to it’s fullest.
Anger – Anger is the fight in the fight or flight response. Usually you are reacting to a perceived danger, not something real. Our imaginations are powerful tools that then trigger fear and help create a self-perpetuating circle of fight/flight. It’s exhausting to be trapped in this response.
Suggestion: Angry, or not, once you know something is not physically dangerous, go ahead and do the thing. For better or for worse when we are angry, we usually have clarity of mind, the ability to focus and lots of energy. Transform that energy your anger has generated to do something that might stretch your comfort zone in a positive way. Anger is the impetus for change. Use it, do something with it. Allow it to create forward motion. Once you are in motion you can always make corrections and adjust your path as you move forward toward your dream. Remember, our feelings don’t tell us stop, our programming does.
Guilt – Guilt is what we feel when we do something we perceive as “wrong”. When I hear someone say, “I was wrong”, I always ask, “wrong according to whom?” Everyone has their lists of right and wrong so, who is right and who is wrong? Guilt is shame, regret, remorse. Even if we just do something different, we often feel guilty. We often feel guilty when we feel we’ve failed at something. But there is no failure, only feedback. We learn by trying – regardless of the outcome. Sometimes we even feel guilty about succeeding. You just can’t win!
Suggestion: Begin questioning your guilt; challenge the programmed message playing in the background of your mind. Over time that pre-programmed message fades and is replaced with a new belief. It’s about changing your beliefs about something you learned long ago that probably isn’t in your best interest today. When you change your belief first, it’s a lot easier to then change your actions.
“It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.”
~ Sally Kempton
Unworthiness – Unworthiness is an insidious thought that implies we are not good enough, inadequate and just down right deficient. It hides in the deepest part of us. Just about anything we do brings this to mind. It could be something good or something we perceive as bad. It doesn’t seem to make any difference because that eternal internal voice says, “see, you’re not worth it.” Unworthiness is the foundation of our comfort zone.
Suggestion: Confront that eternal internal voice. Challenge that old belief system that plays over and over in your head. Dare to change the story you have made up about your life that might not be true anymore. Often the unworthiness we feel is intensified by the embellishments and items we add to some simple story that was never quite true. Take a good look at what makes you feel unworthy. Is that really how you feel about yourself in a particular situation, or is it some old tape playing that needs to be changed?
Hurt Feelings – Hurt feelings include sadness, loss and often times, grief. When someone lets us down, breaks their promise, or we don’t get what someone said we could have, our feelings are hurt. It is even worse when we let ourselves down. The most common cover up for these unpleasant feelings is anger. Often we slip into a depression. Therefore we often choose not to expose ourselves to the possibilities of our dreams because we might be let down by others or even worse, by ourselves.
Suggestion: Have you ever heard of the old saying “What you think of me is none of my business.”? Often the other person doesn’t even know you and you somehow get offended or hurt by what they say or do. Hurt feelings are a waste of time and energy. There are more important things to be doing with your time and energy. Simply know that what they are saying is their opinion about something. They are entitled to that. It doesn’t have to affect you. The choice is yours. I believe that the only person that can hurt your feelings is you. Redirect that blame to change. You are in charge. Don’t disappoint yourself – step outside your comfort zone.
“Discouragement is simply the despair of wounded self-love.”
~ Francois De Fenelon
Discouragement – Discouragement settles in when fear, anger, guilt, unworthiness and hurt feelings fester over time. Discouragement promotes inaction. When baby elephants are young, they are heavily chained to stakes driven deep into the ground. Quickly the baby becomes discouraged and stops pulling. It learns quickly to stay put. Over time the trainer uses lighter and lighter restraints and finally a small rope attached to a stick barely anchored in the earth, keeps that same elephant, now fully grown, in place. We do the same thing to ourselves. We have the power to pursue our dreams but our childhood and young adult memories and beliefs often keep us firmly tethered to our modus operendi(sp?) – our comfort zone. Often our minds interpret discouragement as failure. But remember, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
Suggestion: Because being discouraged is the culmination of all of the other sensations and beliefs rolled into one, as you carefully examine and work with changing each facet of your comfort zone, you will gradually awaken and realize that there is nothing stopping you but yourself. All of this sounds simplistic, but I can tell you it will be the hardest and also the most rewarding work you have ever done. Get busy living or get busy dying.
Here’s the good news about the comfort zone.
Emotions are infused with energy – use this energy to get what you want. Be productive with this energy rather than destructive. Learn to wield this energy as a tool for your benefit, not your detriment.
The difficulty lies in the fundamental misperception of the so-called limiting emotions. The limitation is not in the emotions themselves, they are merely signals – red flags to alert us of something that needs attention. It is our responses that are often limiting, but the good news is that they are within our control. We choose how we respond.
Take one small step at a time. Face new situations with your newly acquired awareness of yourself and challenge your comfort zone. When you find yourself in a new situation, be aware of your feelings as a signal. Sharpen your awareness to absorb the information being presented and process it for what it is, not with your standard predecided responses. Learn what the experience has to offer rather than run away from it. Once you know enough to discern that the opportunity is of interest to you and is not physically dangerous, take a step back, look objectively at the situation, decide to take action or not. Don’t become attached to the outcome. Respond and stand back to watch what happens. You will be exhilarated by the exchange of active energy rather than depressed by the limiting routine of your unfulfilled life. You will gain more confidence as you go. You’ll have energy not limitation. Just imagine how it would feel to harness all the energy of your many emotions and direct them towards achieving your dream.
So, if you can do something now, do it now. If it can’t be done now decide (A), it’s not going to get done period, or (B) when it will get done. If you don’t do this, you drag the past into the future. It becomes a tremendous burden, and creates just one more reason for feeling unworthy and stupid. What doesn’t get done is always on your mind leaving no space for creative thinking and problem solving. The burden of yesterday’s undone actions is a heavy load to carry. Decide not to carry it. Let it go and move on to what is immediately in front of you that needs your attention. It’s truly doing what comes next. It is that simple.
“When in doubt make a fool of yourself.”
~ Cynthia Heimel
Go ahead and make a mistake on purpose. Let go of that ideal image of yourself – the one that is “perfect”. Allow someone to see you in another light. Ask yourself, how many of the “rich and famous” have completely lost their fortunes, careers, aged, etc and then reinvented themselves with panache? All of them! Try this: on purpose, do something to shatter your false image of yourself. Wear something that you feel doesn’t flatter you, but you love. Be late once. Talk with your mouth full. Sleep too late. Be wrong for once, don’t have all the answers, don’t try to fix everything, etc. You get the idea? Join with the rest of us who stumble through it, make do, fly by the seat of our pants, make mistakes, fail and then turn these efforts into learning something new about ourselves or how the world works. Then move on.
“There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.”
~ Cynthia Heimel
In closing I want to say that there is no comfortable way to step outside or expand your comfort zone. It’s scary stuff. We can’t always choose the opportunities for expansion; sometimes they just show up and you either take the leap or you don’t. One good way to move outside your comfort zone is to create a plan of action. Set goals. Create a map of how you would like your life to happen as a guide. It’s not set in stone. Think of it this way, when you take a trip in a car across the country, you have looked at a map and planned your route on how you will get to where you are going. Once you get out on the road, things happen. Maybe there is bad weather that slows you down or a detour that allows you to experience something absolutely astounding that you would have otherwise missed had you not been forced to take the detour. Or maybe you find something that intrigues you so you take a side or back road for awhile. You can always get back on the highway. It’s more about the journey and adventure of getting to where you want to go. Life happens whether we want it to our not. No one has much control over that, so be flexible enough to adjust your comfort zone. Everyone has to do this.
Plan to be uncomfortable when you do something you haven’t done before. It’s OK. We all feel the same way. Simply start by being willing to feel that way. Then when an opportunity does show up, you can test yourself to see if the willingness part is ready to jump in. Understand that it is a necessary part of the process for success. Have compassion for the part that is growing. Enjoy your journey.
“Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy.”
~ Dennis Waitley
So glad you have taken the time to learn more about yourself. As a singer, you are the product, so the more you understand yourself and all your different inner parts, the easier it is to sell that product.
If you have a subject or issue you would like to have discussed please contact me at [email protected].
Ciao, until next time. Carol