Inertia. It's a powerful force. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. When we think of inertia we usually think about the first part- the staying in motion - baseballs, cars, planets, all of that. But the second part is the one that affects human beings the most. We are hard wired to want to take the path of least resistance. Thousands of years ago, this helped us to survive by avoiding dangerous situations. In today's world this unfortunately manifests itself with our brains telling ourselves excuses of why we can't make it to the gym or exercise, why we can't eat healthy, or why we can't do a whole host of other things that we know we should be doing.
When we feel nervous or scared or uncomfortable, it is our body's hardware telling us to avoid danger. Often times we try to look for ways to not feel this way but for me, I've found this to almost never work.
I have terrible stage fright. While I'm not old, I'm not 20 years old anymore and my body doesn't feel the same as it used to. When I first found Capoeira classes in Gainesville, I almost didn't start. I got SUPER nervous and started telling myself I wasn't strong enough and probably needed to go to the gym before I took my first class. If I had succumbed to my inertia 20 years ago I probably would never have started capoeira. By pushing myself to be uncomfortable and taking that first class (and making a habit of doing so) I've
Met my wife
Traveled the world
Been on Brazilian TV twice
Been interviewed on Brazilian Radio speaking in a 2nd language (Portuguese)
Become an undefeated cage fighter
Been solo on stage in front of thousands
Kept a healthy lifestyle
And a whole bunch of other scary and wonderful things
I sing and dance and speak in front of crowds of thousands of strangers. Sometimes those strangers are elementary school kids which I can tell you is one of the scariest groups out there. They aren't scared to tell you anything!
When I tell people I have stage fright they don't believe me and think I'm patronizing them. But it's true. I feel uncomfortable every time I pull up to class, or arrive at a school to give a presentation, or show up to teach a workshop. What Capoeira has taught me over the years though is how to turn this feeling of being uncomfortable in to a driving force instead of a disabling force.
When I go to a roda, I look around to see who is the person there that I'm most nervous to play with and I do everything I can to play with them first. I know that if I don't take care of what has me uncomfortable, it will paralyze me from not only the scary thing at hand, but will keep me from doing other things that I know I have to do as well. If I "slay that dragon" right away though, it frees me to tackle everything else I know that needs to get done. Outside of capoeira I use this in my day job constantly. If I have a report that needs to get done that has me worried, I jump on it. I know if I don't, I'll be spending a lot of wasted energy worrying about formatting, gathering more information, presenting it, etc. And if I'm wasting extra energy, then I'm not as effective at doing the 100 other things that need to get done on a daily basis.
Here is my step by step approach to pushing myself out of my comfort zone
Identify what scares me
Head straight for that first (this doesn't mean jumping off cliffs of course, fear is still helpful!!)
Approach this as a habit and as a "muscle" - Practice this over and over again and try to improve
The more I do this, the more confident I become in an area (even though I'm still uncomfortable!) This then becomes a positive feedback loop
Repeat for the next scary or uncomfortable thing
I'm at the point now that if I start to feel comfortable, I know that I'm not growing and so I seek out how to make myself feel uncomfortable. I have a positive mental association with the feeling of being uncomfortable. I like it. I enjoy the experience. I'm thankful that we as humans have this built in radar to tell us exactly where we need to go and what we need to do.