Tag Archives: Comfort Zone

Living By The Opinions of Others

DSC_0397“Conformity is a copout. It threatens self-awareness.” –Alexandra Robbins

Hello friend,

Most weeks after I write my letter to you, I forget about it immediately and move on. After a few days of allowing my mind to be free and open, I start to wonder about what I will write to you next. This week, however, has been different. As I was closing last week’s post, “How to Change and Still Be Yourself,” one of the thoughts that sprung from my fingers to the screen regarding fear of being judged by others was, “Why do these people have so much power over you? Have they earned it?” It was one of those moments of writing when I said to myself, “Where did that sentence come from?” I didn’t think of it; it just came out. But when it hit me, it stuck. Really stuck. It resonated way down deep in me, touching a nerve that, apparently, needed some care and attention. All week long, I have returned to to this question.

I have questioned myself more than once as to whether I really got to the heart of the matter in last week’s post. It was about daring to break out of your comfort zone, and I talked about how I was trying to balance my desire to share my new business, which I really believe can help people, with my innate discomfort with selling anything. In the process of writing the letter, I became more certain that it was worth it to get past my discomfort in selling things because that is outweighed by the potential good I can share with others. The issue was supposed to be resolved with that realization.

So why has the topic lingered so much? It was that question about granting other people enormous power over my choices and actions without doing anything to earn that power. I have been thinking that maybe the crux of the issue is not that I am not a salesman; maybe my real comfort zone is when I don’t do anything that could draw criticism or rejection from my peers. This includes sales. I am thinking that the essence of why I don’t want to share a product and business that I believe in is that I am scared to be judged and rejected.

You are probably thinking, “Yeah yeah, we are all a little self-conscious and want our peers’ approval. It’s natural. Aren’t you used to that at your age?”   Well, yes and no. Of course, there has always been some desire for public approval (I was an actor, after all, and now I am a writer). But I have actually passed through periods where I believed I was somewhat free of my ego’s need for acceptance. When I was in my early twenties, I lived for a short time in New York City. The city was an animal like nothing I had ever experienced before. Everything—everything—was so big, so loud, so busy. And I didn’t know anybody. I was completely anonymous. I loved it! I have vivid memories of walking down the streets of Greenwich Village in the evening, singing out loud. Not to get anyone’s attention, but just because I felt like it. I felt so free to follow my whims because I was totally anonymous. No matter who I passed, I was quite sure I would never see them again. If they thought I was a lunatic for singing out loud as I walked, that didn’t bother me at all. Their opinions meant nothing to me. I could just as well have been walking alone in the desert. It was me and only me who I had to answer to. That freedom from caring about judgment gave me a free pass to be myself. It was a new Myself, though, one that I hadn’t known before, because I had always been around people that I knew and whom I had given permission to make me feel right or wrong, good or bad. But it was definitely me singing down that city street. The song in my heart was expressed. I was liberated.

Until I wasn’t. Gradually I slipped back into being too sensitive, too aware of what others might think of me. Maybe it was living in Hollywood, where everything is about the look, the image that people have of you. I suppose I succumbed to trying to be what I thought was the right way to look and act for the people in those circles. Eventually, though, I tired of that mindset. In my last several months in California, I took a deep dive into my spirituality and was heavily focused on its development. I was reading lots of books, and a genuine internal revolution was beginning that would come to shape my outlook on life for all of the years that have followed. I found myself achieving moments when I seemed to transcend this world, causing me to believe that I was becoming immune to the opinions of others. This week, as I was working on my late-night hobby, The Journal Project, I happened to arrive at an entry I made on September 1, 1997, about a month after I had left California. I was assessing the period of deep personal growth that I was in the midst of, and these were the phrases I used to describe my progress and position:

“It is a feeling of total peace within myself, as though there is no place I would rather be than my own skin. I have completely accepted who I am, and I am so very happy about the person who it is that I have accepted….I feel as though I have gradually but certainly taken a good look in the mirror and owned all of my attributes, some of which I am happy with and some of which need some work. But I have embraced them all and committed myself to become a positive force in this universe by trying to improve each attribute and use them to the best advantage of that universe. It is in embracing my total self that I am freed from self-doubt and freed from the opinions of others. In becoming free from the opinions of others, or perhaps because of it, I have allowed God to more fully become the true force guiding my life. I surrender myself to His will, and thereby make my life an extension of His hand. With this comes my release from the bondage of opinions. And with this release come a freedom that is so far beyond that which we speak of in our daily conversations. And it is as though I had no idea I wasn’t free until I was actually free.” 

Wow! Who was that guy? I envy him! How did he disappear? He definitely slipped back into being too concerned about what his family, coworkers, and Facebook friends think. And even though I try every day to be authentic and share myself honestly with the world around me, I know I fail at it. Every day. I don’t walk my neighborhood streets singing. I catch myself wondering what people will think of my wardrobe as I set my clothes out for the next day. I want a positive reputation. And clearly, as last week’s post reveals, I am worried about how people will think of me when I talk about my new business on Facebook. I am guilty!

And yet, I have my moments. I overcome it sometimes. I think I do it best for these Journal of You letters that I write to you. I made a little deal with myself during the first few posts I wrote that I would “follow the fear.” If a topic seemed uncomfortable to reveal my opinion about, I made myself address it. I made myself write about my weaknesses and insecurities. I made myself take on religion and politics. I shared about my family. I did this because I wanted Journal of You to be authentic, and I believed in its/my purpose. If the examples from my life and my opinions can get someone to start a journal and get to know themselves better, then exposing myself was well worth it. Maybe writing my Truth here will make me feel confident and more willing to share my opinions elsewhere and not be so sensitive to the opinions of others. The “real me” has appeared and disappeared too many times through the years. It is time to claim Myself again!

How about you? Whose opinions most dictate what you do and how you do it? Open your journal and expose yourself. Are you marching to the beat of your own drummer, or are you following someone else’s lead? In what areas of your life do you feel you are being most authentic, living your Truth? When you are in that mode, do you feel more or less sensitive to the opinions of others? What is it that allows you to be authentic despite your insecurities? Do you think you can carry that courage with you to other areas of your life? Has your sensitivity to the opinions of others remained pretty consistent throughout your life, or are you like me, having passed through periods of greater freedom and authenticity? When were you at your most free? How did you get there? Do you ever think you will get to the point where you literally do not care what anyone else thinks of you? How far down the road might that point be? Exactly which people are the ones you are allowing to oppress you (whether or not they know it or are intentionally doing so)? Is it your parents, family, friends, coworkers, Facebook friends, or society in general? I go back to my lingering questions from last week: Why do these people have so much power over you? Have they earned it? I know that in my life, I have given my power away too easily. The people I have given it to did not earn it at all. That realization is what eats at me. That is why those questions have lingered all week and will probably linger forever. How about you? Have you given your power away too easily? Has anyone earned it? What could someone do to truly earn your power? Leave me a reply and let me know: “Whose approval are you living for?” 

Life is short,

William

How to Change and Still Be Yourself

DSC_0405“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” –Anaïs Nin

Hello friend,

I have been at war with myself lately. I seem to be constantly wrestling with these questions: “Should I or shouldn’t I???” “Do I dare?” “Is this overkill?” “Am I just being annoying?” “Are my friends and acquaintances losing more respect for me by the day?” You may be wondering what vitally important topic I could be feeling this much angst and drama about. What could be so troubling to my usually-easygoing mind? Is it Love? Money? Freedom? World Peace? No, it’s bigger. It’s much bigger. It’s FACEBOOK!

I have shared with you before that I have been embarking on some pretty major career changes in the past year. My “regular job” has entirely changed fields. In addition, I have embarked on two new career ventures on my own. You see, one of the things I have come to know about myself—it has become crystal clear in the last couple of years—is that I should not have a boss. I do much better working for myself: setting my own standards and not having to answer to anyone or be let down by anyone. I crave independence.

Of course, as much as I want to do my own thing, I also have no real entrepreneurial spirit. PROBLEM! I am not inclined toward sales at all, as I have no interest in making people uncomfortable or telling them how great I am. It just doesn’t feel like my nature. I am inclined to help people, to make their lives better, to give them more choices and more freedom. I am inclined toward partnering with people to reach their highest potential. That really lights me up. That is who I am.

This calling to help people live their best lives provoked me to start Journal of You and these weekly letters to you. It also led directly to my two new businesses. The first one seems an obvious choice for my skills and calling: Life Coaching. The second one takes a little more explaining. I have become an independent consultant for a premium skin care company. The wrinkle here—pardon the pun—is that it involves direct sales. I have to actually put myself out there and tell people about the products and business opportunity if I am going to achieve that financial freedom that I long for. Argh!

It is just SO difficult for me to do that! I do not like salespeople. Not at all, I mean. When I spoke to my brother last month about this job and told him it involved talking to my friends and family about these products, he said, “Whenever a friend of mine approaches me with anything like that, it just makes my skin crawl.” Me, too. I am super cheap. I hate spending money. Thus, it makes me doubly uncomfortable when someone I care about asks me to spend money, because then obligation and guilt enter the equation. It is difficult to say no, but if I don’t, I may resent the entire experience and the friend later. So, I mostly just avoid people selling anything of any kind. And now, that includes me.

It probably sounds like the easy and obvious answer is to just quit this business and focus on the Life Coaching and the writing. And sure, I might be less stressed if I did that. But there is a problem: I actually believe in it. I do. The products work like nothing I have ever seen before, and the way they improve people’s confidence is so uplifting and right up my alley. If it were only for those things, I would definitely still quit the business without a thought. However, there is something much bigger going on with this company. There is a chance to directly help people make astounding shifts in their future by joining as a consultant (a.k.a. salesperson). I have seen a few family members and friends, within a couple years’ time, change their lives to the point of having total time and financial freedom. I have seen others make smaller changes, like going part-time and getting to stay home with their kids, paying for college funds, going on dream vacations, or retiring their spouse. The examples go on, but the key is that this business, like Life Coaching, taps into my calling to help people live their best lives. I truly believe that it is a gift and a way out and up for so many people.

So, I am stuck. I have world’s biggest aversion to selling, and yet I really want to give the people in my circle this amazing opportunity. And frankly, I want to give myself the opportunity. I want to succeed in the way that I have seen others succeed, because I am desperate for that time and financial freedom for me and my family. The way I will get that freedom is by sharing this business with others. It is the beauty of it. It is also the curse of it in my case. Sharing it with others—educating them–is a huge deal, because people need the tools to make an informed decision that could be the key to their family’s future. It is big stuff.

So, on one hand, I have something that feels like it is completely not in my nature. On the other hand, it is exactly who I am. I am torn. This is my own civil war. And this is where Facebook comes in. I have vowed to myself to only ever post things that are authentic to me, that feel like a representation of who I am. The way my skin care business runs is by connecting to my network, most commonly through Facebook. So, I suppose the crux of my war is, “Can I post about my business—i.e. sell—and still be authentic?” This question causes me much stress. I guess that, for me, it represents a much bigger question: How do you “Be Yourself” while trying to grow and change your life? I think of the quote, “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.” I know I have to go well beyond my comfort zone in order to achieve the goals and lifestyle I am shooting for. My challenge is stay true to my principles and my purpose while taking my activities past my normal limits.

Up until now, I have been very hesitant about posting about my business. Maybe once per week was all I dared to do for fear of feeling like a phony or having my Facebook friends think I was only on there to sell to them. What I am coming to see now, however, is that I have just been playing small. I haven’t been true to myself, because I actually want people to know about this company. I think it would be a great service to them to get involved in it. It could change their lives. Holding back for fear of their opinions of me was just me being weak and inauthentic. So, I am now beginning the process of convincing myself it is okay to share about the company, as long as that is not all I share. I want to put my other passions out there, too: my kids, Journal of You, and maybe even some Life Coaching ideas as my practice develops. As always, I want my posts to share who I am and also offer something that uplifts the people seeing them, whether that is the smiles of my children or an amazing story of transformation on one of my skin care posts. Happiness and positive change are central to who I am, and I am beginning to realize that it is okay for me to share that in whatever form it takes on a given day. In the end, authenticity must captain the ship.

Amidst all of this doubt and insecurity about posting and sharing transformation stories on Facebook, I received a message last week that put the wind back into my sails. It was from an old high school buddy whom I had not heard from in over twenty years. The essence of the message was this: “I noticed your posts and shared them with my wife. It is time for at least one of us to escape the rat race somehow. Do you have time to talk with her?” It blew me away, truly. One of these posts–that I had so tortured myself over–had gotten through to someone! A few days later, she became one of my business partners and was so excited about her future possibilities. I was absolutely thrilled to have had a small part in what will be a huge event in the story of her life. My purpose was being fulfilled! I could feel that. I was finding my bearings just outside my comfort zone. A new normal was being established. I was alive and well—and completely myself—at my growing edge.

How about you? Where is the end of your comfort zone? Open up your journal and think about the purpose of your life and the fears that keep you from living it. What makes up the real you? What do you believe is your life purpose? What is the best version of yourself? What fears or insecurities keep you from living that purpose and that best life? What gives those fears so much power? How much do you fear looking bad (or fake or dishonest or whatever) in the eyes of others? Why do these people have so much power over you? Have they earned it? Name some examples of times when you have stepped out of your fears and into your purpose. How did it feel? Exhilarating? Liberating? How far out of your comfort zone did you have to go to get there? Was it worth the trip? I think it is true that the people who make it their norm to chase their limits and expand their comfort zone are the most vibrant and successful people. Do you agree? If so, why do you think most of us don’t dare go out on that limb very often? Do you? How true to yourself are you? On a scale of one to ten, how authentic are you? Do you think if you faced your fears and stepped out of your comfort zone more often, that your authenticity number would go up? What is one thing you can do today to take on your fears in the service of living your purpose? I dare you to do it! Leave me a reply and let me know: How can you make a big change and still be yourself?  

Be the one and only YOU,

William

Making Friends With Uncertainty

DSC_1100“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.” –Confucius

These last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for me. My quiet, simple life has been shaken. First, I went back to school, finally starting on my official path to certification for life coaching. Big change! Then, as if juggling multiple classes per week amidst my other usual craziness were not enough, I just accepted a job offer for a totally new career. BOOM! Suddenly, it feels as though I have become the juggler who has just thrown all of the balls up in the air at once and is tasked with smoothly catching them all at the right time to continue the show. Except, instead of balls, maybe they are flaming torches.

In any case, it seems that I have found myself in one of those Life moments when nothing seems certain and I don’t have a clue how it will turn out, either next week or next year. I have moved to the very edge of the cliff, and then taken another step. Of course, I am crossing my fingers that it will be a “Leap and the net will appear” moment. But, it very well could be a Wile E. Coyote moment instead, with me doing a couple of mid-air strides before plummeting to oblivion. What have I done? Uncertainty rules!!!

I wrote to you last week about the mighty fear and self-doubt that I must overcome to make these kinds of life moves (See “Challengers of Change”). So, making two big ones in the blink of an eye is quite a feat for my psyche. But, before I can finish pinning on my Badge of Courage, the howling winds of change have blown the stark map of Uncertainty right across my face. Where are those old familiar landmarks? I used to know so well what the day ahead was going to look like, how much I was going to be challenged. Now, who knows? I have to wait for my cues from the day itself. It feels like I am on patrol duty in the middle of the night in the dark forest, completely on-edge in my vigilance because I have no idea what might be lurking out there. My adrenaline and cortisol are dialed all the way up. Every neuron feels alive and on fire. Hyper-awareness is the side effect of this drug called Uncertainty. In its own scary way, it is wildly scintillating and energizing.

One of the big self-help gurus, Tony Robbins, says, “The quality of our lives is directly related to the amount of uncertainty we can live with comfortably.” Basically, if you are good with Uncertainty, you are good with Happiness. I love this! I frequently tell my clients and friends, “Make friends with uncertainty!” and “Embrace the unknown!” Of course, it is easier said than done, but I believe in the message. I have a dear friend who is about to drop just about everything he knows for sure—his schedule, his paycheck, his home, his city, his career—and start again from scratch. Even as he has some grave doubts, he is still doing it. It is a beautiful move in my eyes. I have no small amount of both envy and admiration for what he is doing. It is a courageous leap, but I am certain he will be rewarded for his bravery many times over in both Happiness and confidence.

You see, I think that one of the primary components of Happiness is an atmosphere of growth. If we are to grow, we must stretch our limits, move past our comfort zone, live on what I call our “growing edge.” But when we go beyond our comfort zone, naturally we feel uncertain. Doubt creeps in. It feels like a risk. It is a risk! But embracing that uncertainty—indeed, making friends with it—is essential to the growth that is essential to the Happiness that we are talking about. It is like an equation in Mathematics, or at least Logic:

  • If you want Happiness, you must have Growth.
  • If you want Growth, you must have Uncertainty.
  • Therefore, if you want Happiness, you must have Uncertainty.

Well, I want Happiness, darn it! And I want to keep growing, keep learning, keep stretching my limits. I understand that the price of growth (and, by extension, Happiness) is uncertainty. I am going to have to live with some doubt. I will have to take risks and not know the outcome. That may feel like a heavy toll to pay. But hey, we are talking about The Holy Grail here: Happiness. Did I think it was going to be free? So, show me where the line starts. I am ready to pay. I am eager to take this amazing ride into What’s Next. I am already grateful for all of the magic to come. Uncertainty, you are about to be my best good friend!

How about you? How much uncertainty can you live with comfortably? Open up your journal and write about your dreams. What do you most wish you could do in your world? Are you living where you want to live? What about your career: is it the best fit for who you are as a whole person? Does what you really want require you to get some more training? Are you willing to both admit that you are in the wrong spot and do what is necessary to get on the right career track? How about your relationships? Are there any issues that have gone unaddressed for too long simply because you are afraid of what opening that can of worms might lead to? Is today the day you feel strong enough to take that risk?   Do you agree with me that one of the components of a happy life is an atmosphere of growth, or is that part unnecessary? Do people who play it safe with everything and never take any risks in their lives—never stretch themselves or make any big moves—really have any more control of the outcome of their lives than people who constantly challenge themselves and make a few mistakes in the service of growth? Is their safety real or imagined? Think of all of your friends and family members and try to place them in order, on one end the people who never take risks or try anything new or push themselves, and on the other end the people who challenge themselves and embrace new experiences. Which side seems more happy and fulfilled to you? Where do you fit on your spectrum? Leave me a reply and let me know: Have you made friends with Uncertainty?

Be unabashedly YOU today,

William