My hand was quivering as I presented my boarding pass to get on the plane. My knees felt weak. My heart: racing. I was leaving America and heading to Taiwan, where I’d be living and working for a year. This was the first time I’d be living outside the States and I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
As I took my seat, I asked myself, “Are you scared or excited?” I honestly couldn’t tell.
I wondered, “Is this mini-anxiety attack a sign I shouldn’t be going?”
Now, looking back at that experience through my life’s rearview mirror, I can say with certainty that the discomfort I felt on that plan was definitely not a sign that staying home was my best option. It wasn’t a message from my higher self, telling me to slam on the brakes and whip a uee.
In fact, spending that year abroad was one of the best decisions of my life, thus far. The experience was a major catalyst for beautiful shifts within my career, my relationship with my husband, and my relationship with The Divine.
So, if the racing heart and weak knees weren’t signs that I should change course, what was going on?
Simply put: I was experience the symptoms of expansion. I was getting the message, “Whoa. This is new. You’ve never done anything like this before.”
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” -Pablo Picasso
To grow, to become, to step into that life that you secretly yearn for, you have to be willing to gently push your comfort zones. You have to decide that the symptoms of expansion are worth it.
And, they are.
But, how do you discern between a gut hit that a particular path is not right for you and the normal discomfort that accompanies growth? How do you know when you’re truly being guided to slam on the brakes vs. when you’re letting fear hijack your choices and stop you
from moving forward?
4 Questions To Help You Deconstruct Discomfort & Make Smarter Decisions
#1: Does this feel expansive or contractive?
Fear always, no matter what, embodies the energy of contraction. It’s a sinking, shrinking feeling. You might notice your shoulders slumping forward. Your heart: heavy. Your demeanor: defeated.
Expansion often feels uncomfortable, but it doesn’t feel contractive. Instead, it lights you up and brings energy to those around you. It’s exciting and exhilarating. It embodies the energy of enthusiasm and passion. It keeps you wondering, with a twinkle in your eye, “What’s going to happen next?!”
#2: Does this feel like a commitment or an excuse?
Let’s pretend you’re making, what feels like, an important decision around your career. You have two options. Both make your palms a bit sweaty. Have a conversation with yourself where you choose one and justify it. Then, choose the other and do the same.
In the justification process, notice when excuses bubble up. They usually show up in the form of ‘shoulds’ or ‘buts’. For example:
I really should take this offer because a better one probably won’t come along.
I’d love this new position, but I don’t think I’ve got what it takes.
On the other hand, a commitment, just beyond your comfort zone, like signing up for a 5K when you haven’t ran in years, makes you’re palms sweaty too, but it has a completely different feel and is accompanied by a different form a self-talk:
I want this. I’m not sure how it’s going to happen, but I’m ready for this experience.
I’m willing to do what I need to do and learn what I need to learn to make this successful.
#3: Am I focused on service or is this all about me?
When fear creeps in, we become certain that the universe revolves around us. We’re sure that our mistakes and our successes play a vital role in whether or not the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. We put our blinders on and make our choices all about me, me, and me.
When a choice is driven by something other than fear, like expansion, we’re able to see and appreciate the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We notice how our choices affect others and we’re mindful of our influence. The discomfort becomes worthwhile because we can see the potential for creating stunning ripples of impact for others.
#4: Would my 110-year-old self support this choice?
Fear not only causes a narrow point of focus, but it also promotes a very short-term perspective. It tells you, “If you’re going to have to spend a few months being in the midst of the discomfort of learning something new, don’t do it.” It screams, “I don’t care if you hate how you spend your days, your life is ‘secure’. Don’t make any changes.”
That’s why, I always elicit the advice of my older, wiser self, who has seen and lived all my mistakes and triumphs, and knows all is well. I often imagine her rocking on a front porch, sipping tea, with an overwhelmingly peaceful demeanor, and a smile on her face.
I bring to her my problems and my choices. She offers simple questions for me to reflect on and kind advice. She lovingly removes all the drama from of the situation. Her pure and broad perspective is refreshing.
Her support, although imaginary, is worthwhile.
If you have her support and you feel a sense of commitment, expansion, and true service to others, underlying your racing heart and sweaty palms, you can rest assured that you’re growing in the direction of your dreams. This discomfort is a beautiful indication that you and others will experience more comfort, later, as a result of your courage to expand.