* * * Before I begin, for those of you on the email list, I’m switching over to another email provider so I can attach mini e-books,wallpaper I’ve created, as well smaller “how-to” posts and challenges that I’m sure you’ll like. All you have to do is click the link in a confirmation email I’ll send out within a week’s time. Afterwards, just unsubscribe from the old subscription so you don’t get double emails. I really appreciate your efforts, and I promise to put great things in the new newsletter!
Back to my post!
In my last post, I wrote about how life doesn’t really follow a linear outline as glorified in a pamphlet for some retirement village in Florida (“You’ve worked so hard your entire life. Now you can enjoy the fruits of your labour!”) In some utopian version of real life, we’d probably all live comfortable, safe lives in some sunny, gentrified corner of the Western world while raging a full-out civil war in our heads. Kind of like daily life in Star Trek with ten times the Klingons.
The truth is, I had another equally compelling inspiration to write my last post. I wanted to write about the fun part, the part that makes it a GAME.
Quite honestly, the past few years have unraveled so quickly and fantastically for me that I’m often unable to comprehend the whirlwind of events happening around me. I often allow the tidal waves of change carry me momentarily, until I harness enough strength to have a another surf. It’s simultaneously confusing and delightful, like when you first set foot in the hurried commotion of a foreign city you’ve always wanted to visit.
I’m not sure if I’m convincing you if change is good thing at this point, but perhaps I’ve piqued your interest. To reach this point of chaos, I had to lay out some groundwork – which I didn’t know I was doing at the time. Exhausted from my grey daily routines and predicting no foreseeable improvement, I laid out each major component of my life – health, finance, career, relationships, adventure, mental balance/spirituality – and then set a number of challenges for myself in each category.
Each challenge would push my comfort boundaries by making me do something different. After all, a well-known definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Tim Ferriss calls them comfort challenges, but I’ve come across many synonymous terms. How did I choose the challenges? The pre-requisites were pretty simple. If it was new and different, it was a fair challenge. If it made me apprehensive or uncomfortable, then it was a high-level challenge.
Mind you, the implementation stage was not easy – at the beginning. Everyone has varying tolerances for fear. Outside of horror movies and extreme sports (both of which don’t really count), my fear tolerance was about as low as you might think yours is. Believe it or not, I spent a good deal of my life marvelling at other people’s social, creative, and technical abilities – things that I probably could do, but didn’t have the courage to set about doing.
When I first started experimenting with these challenges, I was often fighting against myself. A LOT. When you attempt to upset your reality, your mind deploys various life or death self-preservation mechanisms, such as constantly reminding you of the pleasant security of following the crowd or focusing on potential failure situations. And not only will you have to deal with your own resistance, but you’ll also have to deal with other people’s likely criticism to your new non-conformist self.
But here’s the good part. As I’ve mentioned before, if you challenge the status quo (without committing a crime), fantastic little changes will start sprouting with increasing frequency. Maybe you’ll meet some great people. Maybe you’ll look in the mirror with more confidence. Maybe you’ll set foot somewhere exotic. Of course, not all changes will be so great (some might lead to a slap in the face), but if you persevere and don’t beat yourself up too badly, you’ll likely reap benefits from those bumpy moments. Remember that each experience, good or bad, is a brick in your palace.
And here’s the best part – just like learning how to play any sport, at some point, the learning curve will level out, and you will be progressively desensitized to that overwhelming fear you had when you first started. And once formerly terrifying tasks start to approach triviality, your challenges will start to feel like a game. Get to the point where you’re treating life as a fun game, and you’re in a really, really good place.
You won’t take yourself or others so seriously, which means you’ll waste less time protecting your ego or dealing with drama. You’ll encounter less conflicts, manage them better, or just allow them to slip off you. Instead, you can spend your best days having fun and enjoying each moment as it comes. Really, why do we need to make our lives as stressful as they’ve become?
Go out and meet some elderly people in the park. You’ll notice right away the ones that have played the game well. They are the ones that may have had an above-average amount of turbulence in their lives, but have overcome their challenges to reach their better years content, with good energy, and looking years younger than their peers. They might be the ones who approach you for a bit of conversation first.
So let me finish with some tidbits on how to get started. First, pick the aspect of your life that’s most out of balance, and come up with a number of challenges, starting with small steps and continuing with lofty by achievable milestones along the way. Don’t worry about changing yourself as a goal- it’s not about that yet. Think of it as a fringe benefit. We first just want to change our reality, our view of the world, a bit.
Write out a plan of action or simply, some challenges – things you must do, whether it be joining Toastmasters for some public speaking or buying the domain for a website you want to start. Make sure everything is written down, because you’re infinitely more likely to follow through than if it was just floating around in your head (Remember this post?). Not writing down what you need to do only makes you a daydreamer, just like that co-worker who constantly conjures up daily universe-changing ideas at the cafeteria (“You know what? Someone should invent a vibrating toilet brush!“) Try to avoid electronic documents, unless it’s something you plan on referring to very often.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but since this post is getting lengthy, I’ll save further implementation specifics for a future post. Stay tuned for more!