Fear. We have all felt it. And we’re all born with an automatic built-in system called the fight-flight-freeze response that kicks in when we perceive threat or danger. When you hear someone yell “heads up” as a flying hockey puck comes hurling off the ice towards you in the stands, or when a large wolf spider darts across your dimly lit living room, or when you’re speeding on the highway and the car in front of you slams on their brakes leaving you only a split second to respond. In each of these scenarios, your body demonstrates its effectiveness at protecting you from danger.
This fight-flight-freeze response system is critical to our survival, but what happens when there is no real danger? When you have a heated argument with your partner who has signed you up for a 10km run and you don’t feel prepared (fight), when your friend invites you to a party where you don’t know anyone so you avoid going (flight), or your boss asks you a question and your mind goes blank (freeze). All of these are examples that mistakenly trigger the fight-flight-freeze alarm and keep us in our comfort zone where it’s safe.
Our comfort zone is a familiar place, like your warm bed. But it’s not where we grow. If we want personal or professional growth, we need to reach out of our comfort zone into our stretch zone, one toe dip at a time. Not so far or so fast though that we extend into the panic zone! When we do that we quickly find ourselves back in our comfort zone licking our wounds, blaming ourselves or blaming others.
Let’s say for example that you want to start your own business but fear is holding you back. It might be fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown or loss of control, or fear of technology (ok, that last one I threw in for myself, but am I the only one who is struggling to keep up?). What small toe-dip steps can you take to stretch out of your comfort zone, face your fear, and reach your goal? When your first toe is dipped, it’s time for another, and then another, until before you know it, your comfort zone has expanded. You have grown with it.
And you’ve overcome your fear.
“What you are afraid to do is a clear indication of the next thing you need to do”.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson