Shifting from Fear to Love and Comfort to Adventure
In their quest for power, some people manipulate, abuse, or destroy others. Their lust for power is based on fear. They erroneously believe that they have to control others and whatever happens to them in order to be in control of their lives. They have yet to understand that if we wish to control OUR lives, we need to control OURselves. Rather than trampling on others, we need to raise ourselves. And the best way to do so is to transcend ourselves. That is, we need to realize that there is more to life and the world than just ourselves. When we awaken to the fact that people are not here to serve us, but we are here to serve them, we awaken to a life of purpose, meaning, and significance.
We can live in one of two ways: in fear or in love. When we live in love, we live in a friendly, joyful world, but when we live in fear, we live in a hostile, scary world. The world we live in is a world of our own creation, for what we see is what we feel, and what we feel is what we believe. That is, if I were to believe that I live in a hostile world, that people are untrustworthy, and that life is full of suffering, that is exactly what I would experience, for our beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies. An understanding of this is vital. For as Albert Einstein wrote, “The single most important decision any of us will ever make is whether or not to believe the universe is friendly.”
When we surrender to love, we become victorious over fear. But what do I mean by love? I mean the unconditional acceptance of all that is. That is, living without complaint and without demands. Another way to put it is, living with gratitude and appreciation. This way of life is natural and is the way we once were. Infants cannot help smiling, laughing, and squealing in delight, for they are in awe of life, trusting, fearless, and joyful.
So, what happened to change that? Caring for children who are anxious to explore and experiment with everything in sight is no easy task. Especially if mom is busy with two or more children at the same time. Her eyes cannot be everywhere. How can she remain vigilant and do her housework at the same time? Even the best of parents at times will lose their temper, express their frustration, or grow resentful. That’s understandable, isn’t it? But not to a 3, 4, or 5-year-old. For at that age, they lack the power of rational thought. But born with the capacity to recognize facial expressions, they know when mama and papa are angry, which makes them fearful.
Moreover, as children are exposed to occasional bouts of displeasure by their caregivers, they develop self-doubt. They grow to believe they lack the ability to fully cope with life. Born to live in love, they find themselves as adolescents and adults living in fear more often than not. The result? They experience frustration, shattered dreams, and mediocrity. Overwhelming success eludes them. At times they feel like prisoners of their own self-limiting beliefs, for their insecurities and fear limit their choices. But for the fortunate few that live in love, their lives are characterized by freedom, empowerment, and happiness. For those who live without fear, there are no dead ends, only possibilities. They delight in what is, trust in the world, and have faith in themselves. Their relationships are free of conflicts and rife with cooperation, harmony, and mutual respect. Storyteller and filmmaker, Sarah Nean Bruce portrays the differences between love and fear in the following poem.
LOVE VERSUS FEAR
LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL (fear is conditional)
LOVE IS STRONG (fear is weak)
LOVE RELEASES (fear obligates)
LOVE SURRENDERS (fear binds)
LOVE IS HONEST (fear is deceitful)
LOVE TRUSTS (fear suspects)
LOVE ALLOWS (fear dictates)
LOVE GIVES (fear resists)
LOVE FORGIVES (fear blames)
LOVE IS COMPASSIONATE (fear pities)
LOVE CHOOSES (fear avoids)
LOVE IS KIND (fear is angry)
LOVE IGNITES (fear incites)
LOVE EMBRACES (fear repudiates)
LOVE CREATES (fear negates)
LOVE HEALS (fear hurts)
LOVE IS MAGIC (fear is superstitious)
LOVE ENERGIZES (fear saps)
LOVE IS AN ELIXIR (fear is a poison)
LOVE INSPIRES (fear worries)
LOVE DESIRES (fear Joneses)
LOVE IS PATIENT (fear is nervous)
LOVE IS BRAVE (fear is afraid)
LOVE IS RELAXED (fear is pressured)
LOVE IS BLIND (fear is judgmental)
LOVE RESPECTS (fear disregards)
LOVE ACCEPTS (fear rejects)
LOVE DREAMS (fear schemes)
LOVE WANTS TO PLAY (fear needs to control)
LOVE ENJOYS (fear suffers)
LOVE FREES (fear imprisons)
LOVE BELIEVES (fear deceives)
LOVE “WANTS” (fear “needs”)
LOVE versus fear: what do you feel?
If we’re still living in fear, rather than love, how do we turn things around?
1. In your dealings with people, choose to learn rather than judge. That is, instead of looking at people as good or bad, right or wrong, wonderful or nasty, look at them as good, right, and wonderful. Look for the good and you will find it and learn. Remind yourself that everyone deserves to be heard and understood. Use every interaction with people as an opportunity to practice love.
2. Would you do what a 4 or 5-year-old child told you to do? Every time you give in to fear, you are following the wishes of your 4 or 5-year-old inner child (your subconscious memories and beliefs). Isn’t it time to acknowledge that you are now an adult and your happiness is more important than playing it safe? Gently take the hand of your inner child and lead it to freedom and victory. Tell it that it has nothing to fear because you are big and strong enough to safely accomplish whatever you wish. And prove it to it and yourself by taking action. In other words, stop acting on the false beliefs you inherited as a child, and start using your skills as an adult to build new, positive beliefs based on reality, not on the fears of a child.
3. You don’t have to hold on to fear. You can release it. Let it go. For as Dr. Gerald G. Jampolsky says, “Love is letting go of fear.”
4. Start the day by choosing to feel grateful, looking for good, and remaining determined to make the world a better place for everyone you meet. As you grow increasingly grateful for what you have, you will grow less fearful.
5. Why are we so afraid of criticism? Remember how we developed self-doubt in childhood? Well, because of it, we believe we are defective. And we don’t want anyone to know our faults, so we build walls to conceal our imagined weaknesses. And once someone criticizes us, we believe our walls of defense have been breached, and the criticizer has discovered our defects. This embarrasses and angers us because of the fear of further discoveries. But if you remember that everyone shares the same fear and is equally vulnerable, you can change your feeling from one of fear to compassion. After all, why are you being attacked? It is only because of the insecurities of the attacker. Confident people who are at peace with themselves don’t go around attacking others!
6. Fear is often a signal that we haven’t yet coped with a situation. To overcome this fear, we need to face, think through, and resolve what is troubling us. Look at the issue for what it really is, not a ‘problem,’ but an opportunity to grow stronger and more creative. Once we embrace it, the fear will dissolve.
7. The surest way to get rid of fear is to do what we fear. For what blocks us is not horrible consequences of actions we wish to take, but horrible imagined consequences. And it is only when we act despite our fears that we discover they were the mere imaginings of a child. Allow this discovery to set you free.
8. It is important to remember that acquiescing to fear or standing up to it is a choice. You don’t have to act automatically. You can stop and reflect. Before acting, you can decide to do what is best, rather than what is easiest.
9. Practice this fear-busting exercise. Pick a time where you can spend five minutes thinking about something you would like to do but are afraid of doing. Next, imagine what you would think, do, and say if you were not afraid. Now pretend to be unafraid and write in a notebook what you, as a courageous person, will think, do, and say. Next, complete the following sentence, “These are some of the first steps I can take now…” Follow this by completing this sentence, “This is the first step I will take now (today, tomorrow, or on this date)… Finally, take the action you committed to. Repeat as often as necessary.
10. Take the time to regularly enjoy laughter, inspirational material, art, and nature. There is nothing like beauty and inspiration to remind you how much you love the world. Don’t get so busy or wrapped up in useless worry that you neglect this important practice.
Leave Your Comfort Zone and Enter Your Adventure Zone
It can be as small as a prison cell, as narrow as a coffin, as stifling as New York City in summer, or as constraining as a straitjacket. It is your comfort zone. It is the enemy of growth, expansion, and personal development. That’s why on September 17, 1992 Bill Clinton said to New York Times reporter, B. Drummond Ayres Jr., “When you’re starting to have a good time, you’re supposed to be someplace else.” In other words, if you’re comfortable, you’re in the wrong place.
That is to say, when we refuse to act because it’s uncomfortable to do so, that inaction holds us back and prevents our growth. Like flies stuck to flypaper, we become mired in our comfort zone. And whenever that happens, it’s time to struggle our way to freedom. Unlike the flies, we can break free, as long as we are willing to put up with the pain.
The pain that we run from comes in many forms. It can be the pain of accepting responsibility, making a sacrifice, or practicing self-discipline. Other forms include the fear of failure, the fear of stepping out into the unknown, and self-doubt. Our innate power to overcome fear and pain is inspiring. We can shed old habits and beliefs, while clinging onto nothing for support. All we have to do is stop resisting, believe in ourselves, and be willing to fly.
We talk about the PATH to success, but that word conjures up too much comfort. After all, paths are easy to follow. But the trail to success is hidden among brambles, thorny bushes, and jagged footpaths. Any one of us can follow the trail, as long as we are willing to bear the pain.
Nikos Kazantzakis offers another metaphor for breaking free from one’s comfort zone. In his novel “Saint Francis,” the revered saint asked a holy man, “What is the path?” The answer he received was, “It’s not a path. It’s an abyss. Jump!” Understandably, it’s scary to leap into the unknown. But once we understand that change is the tool that allows us to endlessly evolve into something better, all fear dissipates.
Everything we are today is contained in our present circle of comfort, our comfort zone. Everything more that we can become lies outside that circle. True, we all take an occasional step outside, and greatly benefit from it. However, we cannot realize our full potential until we accept pain and discomfort as the norm.
As we push ourselves and expand our comfort zone, we also increase our tolerance for discomfort and our threshold for pain. Each success makes the next one that much easier to reach. And each new success is accompanied by feelings of exhilaration and pride, both of which motivate us to continue plodding ahead. After a long series of victories, we will arrive at the point where we embrace all discomfort and pain, recognizing them as beacons lighting the way to further growth.
What is your inner voice whispering to you? Is it saying that it is time to heal a damaged relationship or break free from a destructive one? Time to leave one’s parents and live on one’s own for the first time? Time to go to college, apply for that better job, or join a public speaking club? Time to become a volunteer and help yourself by helping others? Time to quit a bad habit and replace it with a good one? Or is it saying it is time to enter a competition with yourself, constantly challenging yourself to do and be better?
We can do any of the above, and more, by stepping out of our comfort zone and leaping into the abyss of the unknown. Change will come faster if we stop calling our prison a comfort zone, and start calling it what it is, a death zone. Life is change and growth and their absence is death. So, It comes as no surprise that Stan Dale had this to say, “Comfort zones are plush lined coffins. When you stay in your plush lined coffins, you die.”
Isn’t it ironic that some refuse to take risks because they insist on being secure? It’s ironic because they fail to realize that we become secure by becoming powerful, and we become powerful by facing our fears, taking risks, and evacuating our death zone. Why are we so afraid of failure? Don’t we realize that defeat is nothing more than a lesson to be learned and a stepping-stone to our next success?
Life is a symphony; a symphony that is made up of notes called change. By reaching into a swirling sea of infinite possibilities, we can grab a cacophony of dissonance and transform it into a magnificent, melodious, masterpiece. Such is the power that is in our grasp. We can create order from chaos. We can mold our mixed up and shattered lives into fortresses that can withstand any siege.
We are always grateful for the good things that happen to us. But only the enlightened rejoice over their fears and discomforts. For like Henri Bergson, they realize that “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
And like Pablo Picasso, let us say, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
Just as darkness is the absence of light, fear is the absence of love. To cultivate it, love those that hurt you, but never hurt those who love you. And don’t allow discomfort to kill your dreams. Rather, embrace it, for although the birth of dreams begins with pain, it ends with joy. Are you now ready to choose how you will live from this moment on? Will it be the way of fear or love, comfort or discomfort?
“Be fearless. Have the courage to take risks. Go where there are no guarantees. Get out of your comfort zone even if it means being uncomfortable. The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricades bumps and uncharted terrain. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested And have the courage to accept that you”re not perfect nothing is and no one is — and that’s OK.” (Katie Couric)
“You are to set your own value, communicate that value to the world, and then not settle for less. Sound daunting? That’s just because it takes you out of your comfort zone. You have got to stop being an obstacle on your own path to wealth and security and happiness. You must understand that valuing yourself is well within your control.” (Suze Orman)
“Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids. Even if it’s a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means that you will do something new, meet someone new, and make a difference. Yes lets you stand out in a crowd, be the optimist, see the glass full, be the one everyone comes to. Yes is what keeps us all young.” (Eric Schmidt)
“I’ve learned in my life that it’s important to be able to step outside your comfort zone and be challenged with something you’re not familiar or accustomed to. That challenge will allow you to see what you can do.” (J R Martinez)
- Your comfort zone is killing you: Finding the courage to be you by Billy Anderson
- Limitless: Destroy Your Fears, Escape Your Comfort Zone, and Conquer Any Goal by Patrick King
- The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by PhD Hendricks Gay
- Get Out of Your Comfort Zone: The Exercise Book for your Personal Growth by Sascha Ballach and Andreas Brede
- The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage as Medicine for the Body, Mind, and Soul by Lissa Rankin M.D.
- Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers (Author)
- The Fear and Anxiety Solution: A Breakthrough Process for Healing and Empowerment with Your Subconscious Mind by Friedemann Schaub
- Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously by Osho