Saturday, September 15, 2012

Boxes, Bars and Chains

“Boxes, Bars & Chains”

            Life lessons often have a way of sneaking up on you. When you least expect it, you experience one of those flashes of insight, one of those big, bold, life-altering “ah-ha’s” that you absolutely HATE to see coming, DESPISE when you’re in the midst of it, but are oh, so GRATEFUL for when you’ve learned from it and seen the light. I recently had one of those “ah-ha’s.”  I learned that it isn’t very comfortable in the comfort zone; that I don’t feel very safe having a safety net; that nobody can 

guarantee a guarantee and that a sure thing is never really for sure.  I also learned that I actually prefer 

life this way!
            I found myself over the last few months doing something people in recovery programs refer to as “isolating.”  Others refer to it as “cocooning.”  Basically, it’s holing up in your nice, comfortable little world and rarely venturing out into the sun. I didn’t really do it on purpose, but I did find that when you work at home, as I have been for the past ten years, it’s very easy to get used to being alone.  I soon found that I wanted nothing more than to just be left alone, to stay inside, at home, where it was safe and nothing out of the ordinary was asked of me.
At first, this way of life felt very safe and cozy. Rarely did I feel the need to take a risk or step outside of my comfortable little bubble. I could wake up each morning pretty certain I would be able to face the day with the least amount of energy or concern. But after a few weeks of this, I started to notice a growing sense of low-grade anxiety bubbling up inside, and before I knew it, I was spending most evenings in a complete state of utter agitation, wondering why my life wasn’t progressing and why nothing was happening.
            I was stagnating; trapped in the cage I had set up for myself. What had first seemed such a safe and comforting way to live was making me sick, and crazy and highly irritable. I realized that there really is no comfort in the comfort zone.  What happens when we cocoon and not allow ourselves to break free from our self-imposed boxes, bars and chains and spread our glorious wings is this: little things start to look big and intimidating; trivial events take on gigantic and stressful proportions. New ideas seem too frightening to even consider. Even having lunch with a friend becomes something to stress out about.
            We start to lose faith in our abilities and talents. We stop saying “ I can” and start thinking “I can’t.” We don’t try anything new, we don’t dare. We avoid new people and experiences at all costs. Basically, we start believing our own bad press.
            Yet we don’t really feel good, or happy, and we sure don’t feel productive. Half of us wants to continue to stay inside and play it safe. The other half wants to get out there and take a leap off a cliff and dive into life head on. It feels like there’s a Civil War going on inside our bodies; or like two teams of picnickers are playing tug-of-war with our innards.
            As Anthony Robbins, the great motivational speaker, always says, we finally get to the point where the pain of what we are doing is greater than the pleasure.  That’s when we need to do the following three things to help us break out of our boxes, bars and chains.
1)    Become aware of each moment. Living in the present gets us off autopilot and back into the driver’s seat of our own lives. We spend way too much time regretting the past and dreading the future. No wonder life intimidates us into hibernation.

2)    Take a small risk every day. Do this to rebuild confidence. It can be something as small as inviting a friend out to a new restaurant, driving a different route to work, or saying hello to a total stranger. Just do something, every day.

3)    Be authentic. Be yourself. We sometimes cocoon ourselves out of fear that others will see us and not like whom we are, so we hide our glory, our beauty. We are all unique and we deprive others of our specialness by hiding our light under a bushel. Remember the butterfly and the snowflake; no two are exactly alike. Take back your power!

            The next time you feel like you’re cocooning, isolating and backing away from your own life, try these three things. Get quiet, right where you are, and become aware of the moment. Think up a small and fun risk you can take every day to prove to yourself that you really are capable. Be who you are, not who anyone else wants you to be. And then vow to live from that Truth.  Try them for a week and see if you don’t feel your inner confidence and energy growing stronger and stronger. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to step out into even bigger challenges and greater accomplishments.
Before you know it, you are once again an active force in your world, out there doing the things that bring you joy, success and a feeling of fulfillment. More important, you’ve learned to expand your comfort zone to anywhere you are. That’s the ultimate freedom, and the great lesson, that comes when you learn to break through those self-made boxes, bars and chains and feel comfortable in the skin you’re in.