What I learned by challenging myself and moving out of my comfort zone
There is no doubt that most of us are completely outside our comfort zone and feel challenged and tested by the current state of the world. But I would like to suggest that it is completely different to CHOOSE your own challenge. We are being shown that nothing is stable, safe, or predictable no matter how hard we try to make it that way.
The more I conquer the challenges I make for myself, the easier it is to face external challenges. By learning to embrace the uncomfortable and unpredictable, we find ourselves more deeply along with little gems and pieces of magic. I could suggest that we all have a challenge(s) waiting inside of us— that little thing we want to do but down’t allow ourselves because the little voice in our head says “not now” or “who do you think you are to believe you can do that?”
1. It is more important to pursue my own goals and wishes than live a life pleasing others.
Is there something that you really want to do, but don’t because you believe that friends or family do not support you, judge you, or you are afraid that you will let them down?
This is a tough one. I always believed that I lived outside the box of the opinion of others.
In other words, I never realized how much I limited my choices based on how I believed that friends and family would judge my choices. To add to this, there are certain norms that I learned about responsibility and parenting and all sorts of other things that became ingrained. They become part of my value system —never to be challenged. They are part of the societal value system. So when I chose to leave my husband, become a very untraditional mother, and become a citizen of the world with no address traveling the world by bicycle—I had to overcome both personal shame and judgement from family and friends. Now, 5 years later, I am starting to overcome the shame. And family and friends are realizing that the choices I made are the best ones for me and those I love. My choices might not always make them comfortable because they are not the choices they would make. But I know they at least some are proud of me. And more importantly I know I am being true to myself.
2. I no longer trust that voice in my head who says “who do you think you are to believe you can do this.
”I have a voice in my head that constantly insists that I cannot do things—whether it is cycling up a long steep hill, jumping out of an airplane, or waiting (patience is not my strong suit). But every time I challenge that voice and prove that I CAN do it, I strengthen that inner knowledge that recognizes the power of persistence and faith in myself.
3. There is no universal concept of responsibility. Being responsible to myself meant going outside the norm.
I finally realized that “responsibility” to oneself is different for everyone. Since I was a young adult, I believed that I was on an uncharted path. But in reality, I was still trying to please the people I loved. I was never willing to completely be my true self—because it was not considered “responsible” and I knew it would make them uncomfortable. Very few people knew that while I was busy accomplishing, I was suffering on the inside—physically and emotionally. It was not until I really took the time to get to know myself, accept all the parts of myself (including the least attractive ones), and be willing to make others uncomfortable with my choices, that I could finally take responsibility for myself which often means making unpopular choices.
4. Do not underestimate the kindness of strangers
Four years ago, I gave away nearly everything except for a small plastic box and what I carry with me on my bicycle and became a citizen of the world. Since that time, whenever it seems that I need assistance, I am greeted with an abundance of kindness and hospitality from strangers. In the poorest areas of Thailand, locals did not want to charge me for the things I needed, instead offering it as a gift. After my bicycle accident in Australia, several people from the local community came to my aid and people from around the world offered support. When Rene (my partner) and I had a small collision when a cobra crossed our path while cycling in a rural, seemingly uninhabited road in Thailand, a woman came by on a scooter and proceeded to call what seemed to be the whole neighboring town who ca I me to make sure we were okay. And all over Asia, people came out to greet me, waving with enthusiasm as I rode by—and often requesting me to stop to take a selfie. I have hitchhiked all over the world meeting people of so many different cultures. Everyone wins in these exchanges—I have noticed that it feels just as good to give as it does to receive.
5. Expect the unexpected and be willing to be uncomfortable.
From a very good heart, my parents and grandparents did their very best to make sure that life was easy for me. And until I was 45 years old, I pursued the peaceful, easy life. In many ways it was lovely. But for most of those years I was breaking apart on the inside, craving for something more but unable to find it. Finally, at the age of 45, I decided to leave the life that I knew for the unknown. This was extremely uncomfortable for me and those that knew and loved me. I learned that I was yearning for the unpredictable and uncomfortable part of being a human being.
I made choices that broke social norms. Adding to the discomfort, I was unable to explain my choices because I did not really understand them myself. The only thing I knew for sure was that I must pursue this foggy, murky, unclear path. The best things in my life happen when I least expect them.
6. I thrive when I embrace patience, faith, and perseverance.
When I decided to give away nearly all of my possessions and become a citizen of the world, I did not know how I would support myself. I had a small savings and knew I could live on it for a while. My plan was to pursue the journey which is truly a labor of love and the financial part would sort itself out. As a serial entrepreneur who liked to tackle projects quickly, this was a new strategy. Five years later, it is still in the making. I learned that I am an adventurer in the deepest core of myself. Adventure cannot be planned. Adventure is based on risk, unpredictability, the unknown and unimaginable. In order to fully embrace this part of myself, I realized that patience (it will take the time it takes), faith (the process will unfold as it should), and perseverance (hard work and commitment) are my greatest tools.
7. Be open to challenge and change— despite that I resist it with all my might—it is often what brings me the most satisfaction and joy in my life.
Every part of me resists challenge. However, I am learning to embrace it because I know from experience that it is nearly always the most rewarding. I love jumping into a freezing ocean, lake or river. If I don’t take the jump, I don’t get the reward. I can take the route around the mountain or the one that goes up and over the over the mountain. Both are fine but if I cycle up the mountain the reward is bigger and I get the view and the physical challenge. It is the same thing when I choose the the highway or take the uncharted path dirt. René is constantly taking us on the more rigorous route and I am always happy with the decision. In Indonesia he insisted on going to Sumba and Timor—two islands I knew nothing about and did not care to go to. I was on a mission to complete Indonesia and was not interested in these detours which would “delay” us for weeks. In the end, guess which were my two most favorite Indonesian islands? Sumba and Timor! The more I conquer the challenges I make for myself, the easier it is to face external challenges.
8. Be here now. “Ram Das
”When life gets hard and overwhelming, I find that I need to break it down until it feels manageable. Often, all I can see is my hand as I hold it right in front of my face. And that is okay. When I am cycling up a super steep hill, I count each pedal to ten —over and over. When this becomes to hard, I count to 5. Sometimes I have to just focus on one pedal at a time.
Part of being here now is accepting that I do not know all the answers—yet. So I go step by step. Patience, faith, and perseverance play a big part in this process.
If you are interested in creating your own challenge but do not know how or need a guide, I am offering a free Adventure Coaching session to the first 10 people who contact me. I cannot express the power of challenging yourself.
Five years ago I made some decisions that would completely transform my life as I new it. I chose to embrace the uncharted path. I have learned so much. In the coming days I will post key learnings from this journey.
For more info, see the link in my bio. Email to sign up: firstname.lastname@example.org
I learn over and over again that it is the unexpected and often uncomfortable experiences that are the most rewarding and magical.