Bruce Lee taught us that how to embrace change requires us to be fluid like water – and you may be asking: what the hell does that mean in practical terms? It comes down to two approaches for dealing with change.
Living reactive means you hold on to your comfort zone for as long as possible. Fear of change and the unknown keeps you holding on to what you know. What’s in your comfort zone may not even be comfortable – just familiar. For instance:
- Clinging on to an unhappy relationship because it’s easier than finding someone else more suitable
- Staying in a job you hate because you’re scared of the prospect of being poor and unemployed
- Surrounding yourself with negative friends because it’s more comfortable than being alone
I have personally been in all three situations. In all the examples, we intuitively ‘know’ that something is not quite right and needs to change. However, we are scared of the uncertainty change will bring us, therefore assuming the worst possible outcome. This makes us deny our truths and stick to our comfort zone for as long as possible.
The longer we ignore parts of our life which are destructive, the more severe the repercussions. In the three situations, these are likely outcomes which I also faced:
- The relationship falls apart and you’re forced to deal with the pain and loneliness
- You’re fired or made redundant from the job because of your lack of motivation and productivity
- You’re hurt by being betrayed by someone you thought of as a friend and find it hard to trust others
In all these situations, I was forced out of my comfort zone to deal with the situation reactively. I could no longer ignore the problems and cling on to familiar patterns, therefore had to make a decision. It is far more difficult to make the right decisions and keep perspective as a reactive person, since we tend to be overwhelmed outside of our comfort zone and seek to desperately return to a place of comfort.
While over time I was able to learn, change and grow from these experiences, sometimes we do not learn the lessons. Being forced to confront truths can be intense, which leads us to seek the same behaviour patterns over and over – and the same painful lesson keeps visiting us until we learn – if we choose to learn.
If you live reactively, you may feel like a victim to the world and are constantly burdened with new problems. By failing to listen to your truth and learning your life lessons, the cycle perpetuates. It doesn’t have to be like this – and life is far more rewarding in the alternative.
Living proactive means you stay on the edge of your comfort zone and keep pushing the limits. You have an awareness that everything will eventually change, and with change it’s inevitable to experience discomfort and pain. However instead of waiting for change to catch up with you, you go out and create the change towards the life you want.
An important part of being proactive is discovering who you are and what you want out of life. When you realise your worth, what you are no longer willing to tolerate, you can start taking risks towards crafting the vision of your future. When the pain and discomfort of how you are currently living is more than the pain of change, you’ll start making changes to live life on your terms. The pain and uncertainty of your journey is worth it once you have clarity of who you are and the direction you are headed.
I choose to live proactively by staying authentic to who I am and what I want to do. It started with leaving the legal profession in London and training in psychotherapy in Toronto with a vision of helping others. I have faced more hardship during my time here emotionally, financially and spiritually than ever before – but with each passing day I grow more comfortable with growing on the edge of my comfort zone.
As we proactively grow our comfort zone and learn life lessons, we encounter new, more difficult challenges. However, we learn to be far more adept at dealing with the issues which consistently overwhelm someone who is reactive. When we live our lives proactively, we increase control of our reality and accelerate our growth process. What scared us a year ago will seem trivial once we confront it, and you’ll wonder: why did I waste so much energy to make it such a big deal in the first place?
Choose to live proactively today – and start identifying and letting go of the behaviours which no longer serve you. Stay true to who you are and seek your higher purpose in life. Start by pushing your comfort zone a little everyday – breaking the awkward silence in an elevator, paying a compliment or simply taking a new route to work. With small, consistent momentum, you feel more confident to take bigger risks and grow towards living both proactively and authentically.
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