I read a quote recently that has, sort of, inspired me a little. Quotes don’t normally do that but this one has struck a bit of a chord.
The quote comes from Eleanor Roosevelt:
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
The idea behind the quote is that a lot of people are quite happy sitting in their own comfort zone. Now while this may be absolutely fine for most people, the downside is that people tend to end up in a little bubble of coziness, reluctant to try new things to expand their horizons.
I’m not saying that is a bad thing at all. On the contrary, for most people, myself included, it is a good thing to live within your own harmonious world and be happy with that.
Looking at my own life, I have done some scary things but they have been few and far between. Moreover, in most cases I have had my arm twisted and not chosen to do these things to push myself – I’ve been pushed into doing them by other people.
Now I could quite happily just continue my life the way it is, but to be honest, there is a deep part of me that wants to step outside my comfort zone and, perhaps, try something every day that makes me feel uncomfortable or just plain scared.
I wonder, would something like that really make my life more interesting?
It’s tempting and a tiny voice is urging me to push myself to embrace this philosophy, but not for the reasons that you may think. I am not a Mr Motivator type person who wants to pour his soul into his career; the truth is that there’s not much of my career left when I think about it. I’ve been working within the rat race for thirty years with probably around fourteen years to go. It’s too late to drive myself to the limit, career wise – and besides, I am not willing to give 200% to somebody else (let’s forget the fact that you cannot physically give 200% anyway, which makes these bullshit merchants on shows like The Apprentice look utterly ridiculous anyway!).
If I were able to give 200% - or more accurately 100% - okay maybe 50% - then I would want it to be for me and my loved ones, not some corporate motivation machine.
So why is this little voice in my head telling me to scare myself every day?
It sort of started while I was revising a little Spanish vocabulary, a few weeks ago. As I sat there in front of my computer screen, cursing my failing memory when I couldn’t remember the Spanish word for knife (it’s cuchillo by the way), I had a moment when I started contemplating regrets in my life.
"What on earth are you talking about?" I hear you cry. "Just because you can’t remember a bit of vocab, you start thinking you are a failure."
Not quite, dear reader. I started regretting not attempting to learn Spanish earlier in my life. I am 52 years old and I have only been half-heartedly trying to learn this language for a couple of years.
My regret is that I didn't start to learn Spanish when I was 21. The reason why I didn’t, to be brutally honest, is that I was too scared to start. I learned French for five years at school and my head is full of French words that have embedded themselves into my brain – words that I can’t forget. And the reason why they are embedded into my memory is that I was forced to learn them.
When it came to Spanish, or indeed any other language, I was scared to commit myself to a proper course, to spending time immersing myself in a language instead of wasting my time doing other more mundane things.
Now, many years later, I am frustrated by the fact that I am not a polyglot. I love travelling but it would be so much better if I could go a foreign country and spend my time chatting to the local people in their own language instead of struggling with a pigeon version of the language gleaned from a phrase book and a dictionary.
Two years ago I started trying to teach myself Spanish and I’m getting there, slowly but surely. And now? I keep making excuses not to commit more time to the language, not to join a class and at least attempt to improve myself.
Fear plays its part. It is fear of the unknown and more than a little fear break out of my bubble. It’s easy for me to choose the easy option but my little voice is telling me that I should – perhaps about thirty years too late of course.
And if I had had more courage I would have started this blog a lot earlier than I did.
When I came across Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, I suddenly thought to myself that perhaps it’s not too late after all. Maybe by challenging myself, I could actually have a bit of fun.
I’m not talking about doing big (and stupid) things, like climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge to scare myself absolutely shitless – I’ve done that and the only lesson I learned was that my fear of heights cannot be removed.
I’m talking about little things that are achievable but worrying to a person like me, somebody who is quite shy and loves his little comfort zone.
For example, walking up to a total stranger and starting a conversation might be very easy and not scary to a rampant extrovert, but to somebody like me who is cursed with shyness, that would be a scary thing to do.
Maybe join that Spanish class.
Or try to write comments on a Spanish blog – in Spanish!
Or video myself singing a song I love and publishing it on this blog (if nothing else it will make readers laugh) – actually I think some evil mates of mine might pay me to do that to make a complete fool of myself – so maybe not.
Or how about trying some new food? Actually, I have done that in Japan – and yes it did take me out of my comfort zone but I don’t regret it at all.
I’ll compile a list and see how I get on. I will not be taking suggestions – just in case my evil mates have anything up their sleeves – but you can suggest something if you like, dear reader, just for the amusement factor if nothing else.
And I may even write a blog post or two about it.
Now that would be scary.