You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us…

- Maya Angelo

From the beginning of our lives, we have parents telling us what to do and how to work, or telling us to study hard. We have teachers who judge us based how well we do in one class. Later on, we have managers who direct us. We have girlfriends (or boyfriends) who sway our decisions this way or that. All throughout our lives, we have news agencies telling us who to be afraid of. Television, billboards and ads, tell us what’s trendy or acceptable. We have now, and probably always will, a society that creates a mould and constantly pressures us to fit into it.

JUST STOP. Take a timeout for yourself, and figure out who you want to be.

For me, that took travel.

For you it doesn’t have to, but it will take a devotion to adventure or a willingness to step outside your comfort zone.

Act Fearless

We all have unspoken rules, or things that we expect of the world without a really compelling reason as to why. Some of these rules are societal, like “oversharing” your emotions with a stranger. Some of these rules are strictly familial or personal, like putting ketchup in a saucer and leaving the bottle off the table or not singing in public. Both types are ingrained into your mind from childhood. They come from how your parents treated each other, how your siblings behaved, how your group of friends valued their time, among thousands of other factors. They dictate how you interact with the world. Some are there for good reason, while others are “just how it’s always been”.

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#dancingalone #nomusic #married
I used to be terribly afraid of dancing in public until I talked to a man who was so afraid of it that he did NOT dance with his wife at their wedding. I knew that wouldn’t be me no matter how bad (good) at dancing I was.

Acting fearless doesn’t necessarily mean traveling to the other side of the world and get stranded in some god-forsaken jungle that’s full of bees. All it entails is breaking a rule.

Being that the rules are “unspoken”, what they are may not always be clear. My advice? Experiment!

How does sitting in a restaurant or a movie theater by yourself make you feel? Afraid? Uncomfortable? Just do it. You’re treating yourself, because you deserve it and you don’t need another reason. For my wife Deborah, eating alone was a precursor to stepping out into the (dangerous) world by herself. Doing it gave her the confidence to do other things by herself, the bravery to talk to other people, and the realization that no one ever actually judged her for doing it like she thought they would.

Deborah began her conscious effort of acting fearless in restaurants but later went to parties, clubs, meetups, business events, new cities and new countries all completely on her own. Each new thing she did without a sense a familiarity was a new answer to a question she had never even thought to ask. Each was a step in figuring out who she is, and with the ever-changing nature of the beast, she was able to look from the outside in at who she was and eventually what she wanted to be.

How The World Looks Different When You Know What You Want

It’s easy to get lost in the monotony of life.

Those unspoken rules I mentioned earlier don’t just change small nuances of everyday existence. More often than not, they dictate entire life plans.

I went to University because I really wanted to go. For as long as I can remember, that was the thing to do. My parents had never graduated and that was one thing they always believed would make my life better. Every major player in my life, from my parents to my girlfriend to teachers to the TV, told me it was a good idea.

I obviously had a “choice”, but never even thought twice about it.

I’d like to be clear that you can “learn from your mistakes” without regretting a decision. I don’t regret my decision to go to University. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it, but if I had taken the time to discover what I wanted first, maybe I would have traveled more. Maybe I would have started a business earlier. Maybe I would have figured out that countries like Germany and Sweden offer foreigners University for free. Or maybe I would have known from the beginning that a University I went to for a semester called “The Harvard of South America” is about 1/5 the price of my state University. Maybe I would have realized that that school was both cheaper and more valuable. These are all things they don’t teach you at University. Almost like they’re secrets that you have to unlock yourself.

When you don’t know exactly what you want, you end up going along with what is expected of someone in your age range, of your status, based on your academic or athletic abilities. You may have ideas here and there and vague goals like “doing great at school,” “winning the majority of your wrestling matches,” etc.., as I did, but if you don’t write them down, if you’re not more specific, if you don’t think about them every day, they’re just a jumbled mess in your head, which is probably just causing you stress, because you’re not “living up to” your expectations.

You have options, but the important thing is taking the time to figure out what they are.

Taking the Time

Taking the time to find yourself may sound like a selfish goal. Quite the contrary: life is a marvelous gift, and not utilizing it to its fullest potential is one of the most selfish things you can do. Once you better understand who you are and what you want, you can more easily acquire the tools to contribute your best to the world. Invest in yourself. Use every opportunity to evolve. Always try to be better than before, and never stop learning.

Taking Time = Taking Action.

I’m not advocating for or justifying the actions of the high school grad who’s taking a gap year from college to “find himself”, all while working a 15 hour/3 nights per week dead end job and partying the other four nights. Finding yourself takes action, and it takes fearlessness. If there’s something you want to do, try it out. Right. Now. If you want to explore the world, but maybe not sure if you want to commit to a 15-hour flight, try your neighboring country..or city! Or don’t travel. Go to a meetup-by yourself. Go to a new cafe and talk to new people. Invade their personal space and invite them to do the same.

You can always take it in smaller steps, but unless you actively pursue the things you want in life, you’re actively choosing the passenger seat. Remember to be fearless.

Be Fearless

When I first made the conscious decision to try new things, I did very small tasks to push myself outside of where I felt comfortable. Even though I was still afraid, I acted as if I wasn’t. There was a loud nagging voice in my head that told me to stop every time I entered hot water. Sometimes the nagging voice won, sometimes it lost, but most days, it got quieter. The more I did it, the quieter that voice got. The more I acted fearless, the more I became fearless, because the more I realized my fears were never really founded.

That nagging voice is now quiet enough that I can hear myself reflect on my mistakes as well as my successes. I can separate myself from everything that’s going on, and look at the past objectively. With the voice less of a distraction, I write down my future and, without thinking twice, take each step to make it a reality.

 

I have a challenge for you this week: think of an action or activity that makes you nervous or gives you butterflies. Something that your nagging voice doesn’t want you to do. Write it down in the comments below (for the whole world to see). Like any goal, writing it down will make you more likely to actually go through with itThen do it. 

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