Trying anything new in life can be scary. As humans we tend to stick with what we know and hope for the best. The thing about this risk-averse approach is that it keeps us stuck. Whilst sticking with what we know is comforting to some degree it also keeps us prisoner within some pretty small parameters.
I’m sure most of us harbour secret dreams of what we would like to achieve in life. For some it could be a change of career, a desire to take time off and travel or perhaps a yearning to go back to school and learn a new skill. Whatever it is, when faced with the reality of actually making it happen most of us chalk it up to a pipe dream and carry on with our regular lives.
Here’s the thing about dismissing our pipe dreams, whilst it may feel like the sensible thing to do right now, imagine how you will feel about it towards the end of your life.
In 2013, Bronnie Ware – a nurse in a terminal care unit, decided to investigate just that. She decided to poll her patients in their last days in the hopes of uncovering their regrets in life. What she found was so astounding she wrote a book about it called the ‘Top Five Regrets Of The Dying’.
Incredibly she noticed a consistent theme running through the hundreds of patients she cared for. The most common regret from her patients was that they wished they had the courage to live a life true to themselves and not the life others expected of them.
Ware remarked that “When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
Reading through these regrets brought me to tears. I was filled with a sadness knowing that we so often walk the path from birth through to our last days with our eyes closed. Without chasing after what we really want.
My heart broke at the idea that sometimes the one thing that wakes us up to life is its imminent ending. That we have to reach a place where there is no turning back from, to be forced into a place of regret.
Despite the sadness echoing from these regrets, there is also a message of hope hidden between the lines. A message for us to wake up, open our eyes and start living life on our own terms.
It can be hard knowing where on earth to start when we’ve been living on autopilot for most of our lives. From my experience the following three steps might just help point you in the right direction.
1. Clarity Is Everything
When we want to achieve something in life, it can be very easy to get mired in the details. Analyzing the move from where we are right now to where we want to be can be overwhelming. Instead of trying to micro-manage all the details, take a step back and get really clear on what it is that you actually want.
If you want to transition from your corporate job into a creative endeavor, map it out in your head or on paper. Imagine yourself sat at your ideal place of work. Get really specific. Would you be working from home? Renting an office space? What would your ideal daily schedule look like to you?
Focus on the experience of it all. And when you inevitably start to question the How, What, Why and When’s take a deep breath and let it go. That is out of your control. Just spend your energy imagining what it would feel like to play big in your own life.
2. Take Action.
Getting clear on what we want is all well and good but unfortunately I’ve yet to find a fairy godmother who will wave her wand and magic it into existence. We can have the best intentions in the world yet if we fail to take the necessary practical steps, it simply won’t happen.
If you want to make a career change, start taking baby steps in the right direction. Update your resume, speak with recruiters. If you want to start your own business, take the necessary first steps to make that happen. Sign up for a business course. Create a website. Figure out what you need to do to get the ball rolling and take it one step at a time.
3. Get Comfortable With Risk
Trying anything new in life is risky; the key is to get to a place where we feel comfortable taking risks. These risks don’t have to be earth shatteringly large. Ask yourself what a small risk would look like in your own life.
If you are uncomfortable meeting new people perhaps try signing up to join a networking or meet-up group. If public speaking terrifies you, sign up for a toast masters class or practice speaking to a small group of your friends. The point is, when we get comfortable with the premise of taking tiny risks we learn that the only thing standing in our way is ourselves. We become emboldened to take bigger risks, push ourselves a little further.
When we learn to get comfortable with the premise of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, this is where the growth happens. This is where the miracles can happen. For when we learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, we can discover that life really does begin at the end of your comfort zone.