Overcoming the Fear of Trying Something New
With groggy animosity, you glare at the 7 a.m. blinking at you amidst the deafening honks of your daily wake-up call. You slap off the alarm and allow yourself to slide off your mattress and onto the hardwood floor, relying on the proceeding impact to breathe life into your weary shell. The remainder of your morning routine follows a similar fashion as you prop yourself up for the day ahead. A day of toiling away at an overly familiar job only to return home and follow the same basic routine.
Throughout the monotony, you feel an itch gnawing at the nape of your neck. It's a sensation which can't be satiated by the mundane. You jealously look on as others find their life’s purpose in passionate pursuits. You desire that prestigious sense of identity. You want to create and make your own impact. But you're terrified. The daily grind has you in its grasp of conformity, and you're too comfortable in your routine to take such a risk.
So how do you overcome the fear of trying something new? Really, it all seems so silly at first that we can be so loathe to pick up a new craft. It's not like you plan on breaking into elevator shafts to catch a topside ride, or cling by nothing but your fingertips to Yosemite's famous rock formations. Unless you are, in which case good luck with that. Generally though, the fear of bodily harm isn't what restrains us. So come, let's take a stroll through the reasons for this hesitation, and figure out what you can do about it.
Your Comfort Zone And Your Identity
Pretend for a moment that you're a middle aged mother suffering on the reg from fibromyalgia. Your neighbor Stan, a hippy naturalist outcast of your hood, recommends you attend some yoga classes to treat your prevailing joint pain. It's a deliciously tempting deal; further relief from constant soreness without even adding to your mound of meds. However, you're not like Stan, and thoughts of the neighborhood gossip squad associating you with a loosy-goosy, sitar player causes you stress and anxiety. Donning spandex and whipping out a “cow pose” means leaving your comfort zone and potentially altering your identity.
To leave your comfort zone, you must crave excellence. You must visualize the benefits of your endeavor and convince yourself that it's worth it. As Trinity bluntly states in The Matrix,”You know that road, you know exactly where it ends. And I know that's not where you want to be.” Nothing ever changes if you refuse to make change for yourself.
There's a mistaken notion that leaving your comfort zone means donning a new identity and becoming “Batman”, or in this case “New Agey Yoga Mom”. The fate of your identity doesn't lie helplessly in the hands of gossipy rubbernecks. You can be “New Agey Yoga Mom” or maybe you'd rather be “Mother who does yoga to alleviate her joint pain, and because she grew to enjoy it”. Be whatever you want. Take a look at Magum, P.I. star Tom Selleck: He runs an avocado farm in his spare time. That doesn't mean everybody knows him as “Tom Selleck The Avocado Farmer” nor is he likely to introduce himself as such.
You're an autonomous person. It's up to you to decide how much you invest your identity in a new activity. Simply dip your toes into those untested waters and submerge yourself further if it suits you. Take comfort in the fact that your comfort zone will still be there waiting for you, even if you stage a wild foray into the wilderness of the uncomfortable. You're in control, so what's there to fear?
In some cases though, the origin of this fear has less to do with preservation of self-identities and more to do with pride. Actually, there are times where guilt by association with a new activity is desirable. Street activities like skateboarding and b-boying tend to draw in hordes of rebellious teens wanting to express themselves in edgy fashion. Unfortunately, many more are unable to dislodge themselves from the cold embrace of discouragement at their poor skills when starting out.
Yes, we are all lackluster when trying something new. Who would have guessed? Even those with the 'natural jive' pale in comparison to someone with hours of practice under their belt. Progress begins near the bottom, but guess what? You've got nothing to look forward to but hitting those future milestones.
Anecdote time! Around my junior year of high school, I literally jumped into a new sport which was the butt of many a joke, courtesy of The Office. Yes, we're talking about parkour. Those first months... Imagine some skinny, uncoordinated kid waving his arms about in frantic flapping motions as he attempts to stick a landing onto a street curb. I struggled my way through those basic techniques, all within the leering public eye.
Whenever acquaintances got wind of my new hobby, their eyes would bug out and they'd immediately demand a back flip on the spot. Unable to deliver on their self-inflated expectations, I'd demonstrate a basic vault instead. You can just imagine a tumbleweed bouncing past in the ensuing silence. But it didn't bother me.
Work Towards A Goal
Why didn't it bother me? Wasn't my pride shattered into pieces by outside opinions? Perhaps it would've been so if my master plan involved aimlessly jumping over playground equipment, much to the consternation of nearby mothers. The thought of inadequacy is a deal breaker for many because it seems pointless to boldly stand outside your comfort zone only to risk ridicule. However, nothing is pointless or aimless if you create long-term goals for yourself.
Staging goals is imperative to success regardless of who you are. Even those with natural talent need to create a template for channeling their abilities; natural talent only gets you so far. It's all too easy to see people achieving their goals and assume they're just coasting by on 'good genetics' or whatever other excuse pops up in the moment. But behind every work of genius is enough blood, sweat, and tears to fill an Olympic swimming pool. Mozart's genius? 10 years of little recognition before his music reached a prolific audience.
My goals were to jump further, run faster, and learn to flip. Every training session sent me one rung higher on the proverbial ladder of progress. Skepticism and insults bounced off me because I knew that it would all pay off just like it paid off for Mozart. Eventually, my pride became tied to my devotion. Soon enough I was chucking back flips with ease and landing jumps which seemed impossible before. The hard work I put in showed itself to others, and over time, efforts of discouragement turned into acknowledgment of respect.
Find A Coach
Up until now, we've primarily discussed internal solutions to overcoming the fear of trying new things. We examined how leaving our comfort zone isn't paramount to the destruction of our identity, as our comfort zone will always be waiting for us to return. We also touched on the importance of setting goals for ourselves so that we can move forwards with absolute conviction. We now understand that everyone must start at the bottom before they can reach the top. Sometimes though, a change in perspective isn't enough to defeat our apprehension. In that case, you may need to seek a helping hand.
A coach can be just the partner you need to break the ice. One reason for this is what I like to call the “Why Me?” syndrome. We constantly make excuses for why we're unable to to commit to such and such. If only our schedule lined up perfectly like so and so's schedule, we could do what they do. Why me?
Enter, your coach. Try making excuses face to face with someone who’s made countless sacrifices to learn their craft. Make no mistake, the truly dedicated had to overcome the awkward beginning stages and initial fear of being a social outcast. Mas Oyama, the founder of full-contact Kyokushin Karate, trained in isolation for a eighteen months. Eighteen months he thrived in Mt. Kinobu, waking at 5 a.m. each morning to subject himself to countless hours of rigorous training. A coach of Mas Oyama's caliber is exceptional no doubt, but his devotion and struggle is not unique. Anyone who's in a position to coach has made sacrifices of their own. Understanding that alone should inspire you to at least give that new hobby a shot.
One more reason to seek the help of a coach is to correct those aforementioned feelings of aimlessness. Joining a local martial arts academy or pottery class is a great way to get your feet on the ground in those areas and interact with other participants. You receive the tutelage of a seasoned instructor amidst an ocean of others who are gaining their sea legs. That's a double win!
There exist other avenues though, which don't include a group component by default. Say, starting your own business. This is a case where recruiting a mentor can set your mind at ease and give you a realistic evaluation of what to expect. Private coaching over the web is becoming more popular nowadays and a large selection video chatting tools make it that much easier!
Remember, a coach is someone who has already walked the path before you. They can show you the ropes and help you establish yourself in your labor of love. With a tap in the right direction from a seasoned coach, you can overcome your fears of trying something new and fully commit yourself.
You can read more from Connor at his website.