All of my life I've been a good doobie.
I was a rule follower.
I was the compliant child.
I grew up in a household with more than its fair share of turmoil. Everyone around me was breaking the rules and creating havoc. So it became my job to keep the peace. That was my role, reinforced by the comments and expectations of those around me, and I played it well.
As I became an adult, that role clung to me like a bad rash. Stepping out of line or doing anything controversial made me highly uncomfortable or downright anxious. When faced with a decision or choice, I generally picked the safest and most conventional route (with the notable exception of moving to New York in my 20's).
This learned behavior, reinforced by bad feelings and bad reactions from others any time I tried to step out of it, did exactly what it was supposed to do.
It kept me safe and secure.
It kept people happy with me.
It provided a sense of normalcy that I didn't have growing up.
But it also did something else. It kept me confined. It limited my potential and tethered me to a world that was perfectly fine, but not all it could be. Not all I wanted it to be.
What unlocked the cage for me was reaching midlife. I began to have regrets about opportunities missed and fears about what the future held for me. I counted the number of days I likely have left and realized that it's now or never. I started, in small ways, to buck the status quo. That gave me the courage to buck it in some bigger ways.
For so long, I had let fear set the limits on my life. Now I am actively creating my life and doing things in spite of fear. Once I do them a few times, I no longer have fear around them. I realize how big the fear had become and how simple the reality really is. It's almost laughable. Even the most painfully scary things are survivable, especially if there's a reward at the end.
Right now I'm reading the book by Chris Guillebeau called The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World. (Don't you love the title?) If you haven't read this book, you must, must, must read it. Chris has done incredibly adventurous things with his life, and in the book he shares his insights and practical strategies for bold and fearless living.
One of the amazing things he wrote that jumped off the page for me was the inspiration for this post:
“When faced with uncertainty about taking a leap of faith, take the leap. You'll regret the things you didn't do much more than anything you did, so you might as well try new things.”
His words made me cringe, because for too many years, I didn't take that leap of faith. I didn't have faith that I'd be “safe” — in fact, I didn't know that leaping was even legal!
Now I want to shout from the rooftop to anyone who will listen:
Leap! Leap! Leap!
- If you want to reach your fullest potential, leap!
- If you want to feel really alive, leap!
- If you want to conquer fear, leap!
- If you want a life of adventure and unabashed joy, leap!
What does leaping mean?
It manifests in different ways for different people, but in general, it means bucking the status quo. Challenging old ideas and authority. Defining life on your terms rather than another persons. Doing something out of the ordinary. Trying something new. Taking a risk.
So why would you want to buck the status quo?
If you stop and think for a minute, you can likely come up with a list of a dozen things you wish you had done or could do.
Here's why you should try them:
1. Personal empowerment. When you take matters into your own hands and decide to do the thing you've been wavering about, you feel powerful and in control of your own destiny. Win or lose, succeed or fail, YOU are making the decisions here. And that's empowering.
2. Vanquishing fear. Hand-in-hand with personal empowerment comes the grace of vanquishing fear. I say grace because it is almost a religious experience when you can overcome fear to do the thing that frightens you. The realization that you can do it in spite of fear is amazing. And the icing on the cake is that fear generally dissipates once you face it.
3. Wild enthusiasm. When you start living life on your terms, you will be filled with an enthusiasm and excitement that you may never have felt. Suddenly the world is your oyster. You are making choices from a pupu platter of all of your favorite things instead of waiting for someone to serve you scraps.
4. Focus and clarity. When you make the decision to buck the status quo, so many choices open up to you. This forces you to prioritize and focus on what is most important at any given time. You can do anything you want, but you can't do them all at the same time.
5. Relationship refinement. Bucking the status quo may mean upsetting the apple cart with people in your life. They will either adapt and stick with you or move in a different direction. This narrows your field of relationships to those who love, support, and respect you for who you are and what you choose for your own life. I'd rather have a small group of amazing relationships than a large group of naysayers, gatekeepers, and control freaks.
6. Adventure. Part of bucking the status quo should include some wild adventures. Allow your new freedom to touch all areas of your life. Travel to unexpected places. Reach out to different types of people. Learn something totally out of character. It will make you more interesting to yourself and others.
7. Self-respect. When you start living life on your own terms rather than adhering to the status quo, you begin to view yourself in a different light. This is part of the empowerment mentioned above. You stand up straighter. You speak out more often. You like who you are.
8. Opportunity. As you become more confident and enthusiastic about life, more and more opportunities will come your way. You will be more attractive to others, your enthusiasm and positive attitude will foster creativity, you will notice things around you that you once ignored.
9. Meaning and fulfillment. As you open yourself to the world, you will discover that a good chunk of enjoying this new life comes from serving others rather than just doing things for yourself. You will find meaningful ways to spend your time in service beyond being neighborly or serving in the soup kitchen.
10. Passion. When you give yourself room and freedom to explore all that life has to offer, you may just bump into something you feel really passionate about. You may discover a career, business, or hobby that feels like fun. Your passion for it will give you energy and creativity you didn't know you possessed.
Where in your life could you buck the status quo?
How are you allowing other people to set the rules for you?
What assumptions are you making that you could challenge?
What material things are you clinging to that aren't serving you?
Where is fear holding you back?
Where are you faced with uncertainty about taking a leap?
If you have done your due diligence, why don't you close your eyes and take the leap. An amazing life is waiting for you at the bottom!