Now is the time for resolutions, to dare to do something new. How far out of your comfort zone will you be willing to go?
It’s obvious why most of us stick to familiar ground – it’s safe, reassuring and you know your way around. Why leave the lair of your cosy cocoon when it looks cold and dangerous out there?
Because, as we know, that way lies a world of possibility, opportunity and adventure. If a worthwhile life is one strung together by a series of remarkable moments, then surely the more you do, the more eventful your life will be.
Unless you can claim to never feel like you’re in a rut, or ever tire of the same old choices open to you, you owe it to yourself to do something completely different this year. Scared of change? All the more reason to go for it! After all, the sense of achievement is at its strongest when you succeed where you were convinced you’d fail.
So what’s it going to be? Let this daunting but achievable list of feats inspire you...
Overcome a phobia
Fear Factor: Irrational
Even though you’re intelligent enough to see that with the help of an expert, parachuting out of a plane or handling a tarantula will free you of those fears, there’s the little voice reminding you that, actually, if you fall from a great height you can hurt yourself, and spiders do bite.
Irrational fears, by definition, don’t respond to reasoning. Whether it’s a condition that gains the sympathy of others such as agoraphobia, or something that sounds utterly ridiculous like pulsophobia (fear of peas), you’re well aware you don’t suffer it to appear quirky, and that the condition is genuinely debilitating. It’s just that you’ve learned to work with it.
This would be a pointless article if our advice here were to be: ‘ah, go on, throw yourself into a tub of peas – you’ll be fine’. What you need to do is recondition the mind, in much the same way ex-smokers retrain the brain to see cigarettes for the crippling crutch they are.
Try this: Exposure therapy. A form of cognitive behaviour therapy that exposes sufferers to a controlled dose of the very thing they’re scared of, to help slowly beat it – antibiotics for the mind, if you will. In 2018, virtual reality is expected to play a big role in exposure therapy, meaning you can turn facing your fears into a game to beat! To find out more, log onto AnxietyUK
Get on stage
Fear Factor: Nervous
One of the biggest things we fear is failing, particularly in front of other people. You’re the one who put yourself out there, so you have no one to blame if you get judged for it. Best leave this one to the professionals.
The fact is, a lot of performers started out cripplingly shy and took to the stage precisely to overcome their diffidence, using the script or instrument as crutches to trick strangers into thinking they’re supremely confident.
The good news, the nature of dealing with a fear is, once you’ve tackled it, you do actually beat it, and those same performers who started out as pretenders are now naturally self-assured.
Strangers are easy to picture as unfriendly, so don’t imagine you’ll be facing a drunken crowd demanding you be funny (unless doing stand-up at an open mike night is what you really want to do). People are mostly nice and appreciative of the fact that someone has made the effort to go up there to entertain them.
Try this: If there’s an opportunity to speak at a work or private function, sign up for it. If you can play an instrument, go busking then donate your earnings to charity. If you have the time, audition with a local amateur dramatics society. And spoken word crowds are the sweetest audience on earth. To find one near you, go here.
Write a letter to your dad
Fear Factor: Awkward
Or to the person in your life you respect and love but don’t go deeper than sharing pleasantries. When small talk is established as the norm, and silences between each other accepted as comfortable, it becomes habit to never open up.
Writing down how much someone means to you might not seem as daunting as, say, bungee jumping, but the reason most of us avoid it is because it is actually terrifying. First there’s the awkwardness. The fear the intent will be misunderstood: will he think you’re writing to share some terrible secret? That you’re about to blame him for something? Mostly, it’s finding the words themselves – when you’ve never vocalised your gratitude to someone who doesn’t crave the validation, what do you say?
Try this: Start sentences with ‘I want to thank you for’, ‘do you remember when’, ‘you taught me how to...’ Strike out anything that sounds passive aggressive or negative. If there are unresolved issues, this isn’t the place. The letter might open up a dialogue, or he may not make a fuss over it. But we guarantee you he’ll read it over and over again with happy tears.
Let things be done differently
Fear Factor: Anxious
Not everyone can be described as a control freak, but we all know how we like things done and hate it when someone else’s involvement makes the result unsatisfactory.
Whether that’s preparing a dish, compiling a report, or getting the kids ready for school, we all have our ‘way’, and the cornerstone of conflict is when someone gets in that way. The worry that you have when leaving duties in the hands of others is actually a fear. And like all rigid routines, once you let go of the belief that this is something only you can do and that you must do it, it’s incredibly freeing.
Being a creature of habit is all well and good until you realise you’re trapped by it.
Try this: Don’t be afraid to relinquish responsibility. Shake up one of your daily routines: change your morning drink, take a different route to work, switch to a different social media channel for time wasting. Remember, in that saying about being different, the emphasis is on ‘dare’.
Leave it all behind
Fear Factor: Unknown
You can’t very well check out of your life then drop back in when you feel like it... or can you?
How about instead of taking a holiday in 2018, see if you can extend your days off to turn it into a sabbatical? Arrange unpaid leave in conjunction with working remotely, with the plan to do the job from somewhere far, far away.
With Airbnb and house swaps ensuring the rent or mortgage is covered, it’s now a valid option to spend three or so months in a country where the cost of living is much less than where you are now. Whether you sign up to a working break like pulling pints in Australia, or book into a hut in a village to live off your savings somewhere in Africa, the objective is to switch off completely from your life and live a different one for a short while. You’re guaranteed to return to it with a fresh outlook.
Try this: Plan to spend the winter of 2018 at a ski resort, where you can do any number of jobs at the same time as having a buzzing social life and getting fit on the slopes. Find one that’s right for you here.