“Do One Thing That Scares You Everyday” Why should I? And What Exactly Should I Do?

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About five years ago, friend gave me a birthday card depicting a cat comically endangering his little life. On the inside it read “Do One Thing That Scares You Everyday.” We all chuckled when I opened it, but I didn’t take it to heart. I wasn’t about to dance with death every day. I didn’t understand the message. At face value it seemed like a recommendation to jeopardize my safety, to gain some… fear? No thanks.

Alas, now I understand. To step into a new a life, a YOU 2.0, your 2nd Act of life (like me), or whatever newness you are creating, the inside-the-box, comfortable, non-scary modis operandum simply won’t cut it. To be a badass on a new frontier, new moves, new skillz and new habits need to be called upon. Since these are new, they are not familiar and comfortable, so they are SCARY.  Hence, doing the “scary” things is how we get to leave the old “box” where all the now-comfortable things we do and think allow us to hang, and UP LEVEL to AWESOMER, more impactful, more purpose-driven space beyond what we know now. In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink writes: “We need a place of productive discomfort.”

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” – Fred DeVito

My yoga teacher, Andre Houle, says “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” and makes us flow in a way that we aren’t used to and try new poses. We do things that feel completely wrong, because we are so used to going in the opposite direction… or so used to knowing what comes next.

I personally gag a little at the box metaphor, but it is a simple one, and we have all heard it. We can all picture a cuddly, comfortable, familiar box.  The yoga metaphor is similar. You have to do new things that don’t feel comfortable, but those are exactly the moves that will let you do a new pose… perhaps one you never thought you could do. If you want to be someone new, you have to find a way to get outside the walls of your current box: push and bust that sh*t open! The power to push comes from newness — that scary, challenging, productively discomforting, new thing.

When we were 2, we thought we knew it all. Same at 15. Same at 23. But did we? And remember  flip phones? I had a red one that was so cool! Best OS. Best apps. And what happens? There was a v1, then there’s a v2, a v3…. Growth, growth, growth!

My mom used to save me clothes that I would grow into. Well, there’s a “box” for me to grow into too. I picture it like a round hat box, this way I can think of it like the rings within a tree.

Grow baby, grow! How could 2 year old me fathom 48 year old me? She could not. She wanted her middle name to be Snoopy. (And now, instead of taking the middle name of a dog, I took the last name of a dog: Jake!) If you want to grow, look at your BE WHAT’s (for starters). BE WHAT’s are your beliefs, emotionality, words, habits, actions and thoughts. Stagnation or misalignment in any of those can stunt your growth.

In yoga as in life, if we get comfortable with the uncomfortable we get to grow and create in amazing ways… sometimes involving amazing donutty ways. Yes, I said donutty. Some people are big on feeling discomfort and hearing “no,” for the sake of getting used to rejection.  Part of today’s food for thought includes Jia Jiang’s What I learned from 100 days of Rejection:

Also, the wonderful Carrie Grace was recently interviewed on the Redesigning Wellness podcast.  She mentioned that she was doing a 30-day rejection challenge and the example she gave was to have a hula hoop contest with someone in Target. Carrie’s mission is to spread love and kindness, so I won’t be surprised if I see that her other rejection challenges for herself involve elating others.

Face Swap with a Stranger!
(Jade & I demo this here quite hideolariously.)
Bonus points if you get the stranger to share the news that he/she found a “long lost cousin.”

In mapping out an impromptu plan for someone to “up” her Positivity:Negativity ratio, I sprinkled some fun things in there, like: Face Swap with a stranger. (If you are curious about this “plan” it was basically mapping readings and activities from Positivity and Wise Mind Living into 8 weeks.)

Alas, the cat was a misrepresentation… Rather, the near death experience was a misrepresentation. The “scary” things can involve asking for a crazily-designed donut, a hula hoop contest, and a face swap.

Productive discomfort is the key phrase kids! It should scare you (that’s the signal that this is newness before you) AND is should be aligned with your purpose, your mission, the core of who you are. Familiarity isn’t scary. Newness can be. But newness helps us grow. You may feel squirmy (discomfort) all the while accompanied by a sense of engaged and purpose-aligned aliveness and excitement.

“So what exactly should I do?” If you have a clear goal, say growing your business, there may be some things on the ‘ol to-do list that you have been avoiding because they are scary. A lot of time the things we procrastinate are the scary ones. So try those. And then reward yourself. The whole exercise is to put yourself out there. The resulting YES’s or NO’s are not the point of the exercise. You should also pay attention to that little voice that has an exciting idea — if you are scared by it, do it anyway. If you watched Jia Jiang’s video, you saw that sometimes the NO is followed by a conversation that gives helpful, elucidating information. And what if you don’t have a clear goal in mind? I personally like Carrie’s take on this — rooting the challenges you craft for yourself from a place of spreading love and kindness. She speaks of “being someone’s kitchen-table story.” And then, the most genius advice I heard recently was to ask “What can I do better?” when you get a YES. Ask when you get a NO, and ask when you get a YES. Listen to Saul Blinkoff on Cathy Heller’s Don’t Keep Your Day Job podcast.

So what fears should be attractive to you? Jen Sincero writes that it’s the scary things that also get you excited. She says you can use fear as a compass in this way.  Jonah Sachs says: “If you are compelled by it, but it’s making you nervous, that’s a really good sign that you should be considering it as a possibility if you’re in a world where what you are doing is no longer working. It’s really that self-coaching towards not being crazy and taking every risk you possibly can, but moving towards those things that scare us most. That’s where growth really happens.”

Do something ballsy everyday… the daring and good kind of ballsy.