I love quotes. I collect them like some people collect coins or shells. A few months ago I stumbled across a magnet with the following on it:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Now I know nothing about sailing, and even had to look up what a bowline was (it is a special loop knot, by the way), but I love this image. I love the idea of casting off and sailing away from the harbor. Part of me would love to be that person who throws off the bowlines, but that part often does battle with my other self: the one who loves the safe harbor, who relishes the known, who doesn’t mind the Comfort Zone. Because, truth be told, the Comfort Zone is… well… comfortable.
We all have a Comfort Zone. The Comfort Zone is attractive because it is known; it feels within our control. If I stay here, nothing bad will happen to me. I won’t fail. I won’t mess up. No one will laugh at me. The Comfort Zone is our protection. At least, this is what we tell ourselves.
But what happens when we want to break out of our Comfort Zone? What happens when we are forced out of our Comfort Zone? What happens when our life path takes us to the farthest reaches of our Comfort Zone? What happens then?
We run into a wall.
As we move closer to the edge of our Comfort Zone, we realize there is a wall blocking our exit. There are images and messages scribbled on this wall. The images depict what we are afraid will happen if we leave our Comfort Zone. The messages are what we tell ourselves to keep our dreams and plans small. As we draw closer, we realize this isn’t any ordinary wall. It is the canvas for our anxiety and self-doubt. It is our own personal Wall of Fear.
Standing at our Wall of Fear, we are faced with two options. We can turn around and retreat back into our Comfort Zone. We can return to the safe harbor and the known and predictable. We can try to forget what we saw on that Wall and convince ourselves that we are retreating out of choice and desire, not out of distress. To ensure that we never have to see that Wall again, we make our Comfort Zone smaller and smaller. If we can control more and predict more, then we won’t have to feel afraid. At least, this is what we tell ourselves.
OR we can break through our Wall of Fear.
Breaking through our Wall of Fear does not mean those fears suddenly vanish. Breaking through our Wall of Fear means we take hold of the Courage being extended to us. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is acting in spite of that fear. The Courage is there for the taking. It is there for us to seize. Like manna in the desert, we trust we will be given the courage we need for the day ahead and we step out. Breaking through our Wall of Fear means we no longer choose to be defined and contained by the messages scribbled on that Wall. It means we embrace the possibility of failure and criticism and hardship and, yes, even success (sometimes that is just as scary as failure) rather than running in the other direction. It means we choose Freedom over Fear.
Once you break through your Wall of Fear, you soon realize that life is a series of Comfort Zones and Walls that need breaking down. After all, that is how you become the person you were created to be. You keep throwing off the bowlines. You keep sailing away from the safe harbor.
What is scribbled on your Wall of Fear?
You can retreat or you can move ahead. The choice is yours. What are you going to choose today?