Is this article the nudge you need to take a leap? Is it the sign you were asking for that now is the time? Yes it probably is, so take a deep breath and go for it - you're in good company!
Stepping out of our comfort zones is difficult for anyone regardless of gender, background or life circumstances. The older we get the harder it is and that's because we've spent years decorating our comfort zones exactly to our own limiting personal specs but if we're going to accomplish our dreams then we have to bust out.
Coming up with reasons not to leave our comfort zone is easy. We've all said things like, 'I don't have time' or 'I'm too old' and the most common unspoken reason: 'What will other people think of me?'
The reality is there is no such thing as the perfect time and putting our dreams first usually makes those around us happier. And as far as what other people may think? Who cares! Sadly age is the most common padlock used to keep us safely locked within our comfort zones. But ask yourself this: in five years from now will you look back on your decision not to chase your dream with pride or regret? We both know the answer to that question.
Age is not a liability; age is an asset that one can only earn through years of life experiences that total up to the golden nugget of wisdom. Wisdom must not be confused with reservations born from failures and fears.
We are supposed to have failures and setbacks; they teach us gratitude and appreciation.
So back to that comfort zone and how to bust through the barricade keeping you in there. There are a few things I would like you to keep in mind as you go through the process. Once you take that step outside of your comfort zone you're going to experience stress, anxiety and setbacks, that's what scientists call the performance zone. And it's during these times that some of us shrink back into our comfort zones but if we can soldier on and stay in that performance zone despite this eventually we're going to end up in this place called the magic zone - where anything and everything is possible i.e. where your dreams become reality.
And that is why it's imperative to step out of our comfort zone because a life of trying is better than a life of regrets.
So how do we do this?
1. Identify your comfort zone so you know when you are slipping back into it.
2. Embrace the unknown and accept that anxiety, self-doubt and fear accompany movement from the comfort-zone, it's OK to feel those things so don't beat yourself up, instead rejoice because you are in the performance zone!
3. Visualize the END result of your dream: a published book, a role in a film, flying an airplane, a new career, a diploma, re-entering the dating world. The important thing is to feel the end result because that will keep you going in times of doubt. If you can feel it then you can do it.
4. Take small steps because they lead to big things. If you want to write a book then start by taking a writing course or write an article and submit it to local newspapers.
5. Do your research but don't let it fuel your fears. Sometimes our fears will use our research to justify all the reasons not to do something - silence them by...
6. Confronting your fears. When I was writing my first book I had a whole lot of doubts and fears - especially when those rejection letters started pouring in! But I knew I had to keep sending out book proposals so in order to silence my fears I listed them on a big piece of paper then took it outside and burned it thus releasing them so they were no longer paralyzing my creativity.
7. Make your bucket list a to-do list. Seriously. This is the only shot we have at life because there is no such thing as the 'perfect time' and tomorrow is not a guarantee for any of us.
And if you're still thinking you may be too old to try something new or if you think you've had too many failures to keep trying then think about how different these people's lives would be if they allowed something so trivial as age or failure hold them back:
1. Martha Stewart went through a major career change in her 30s that resulted in her multi-billion dollar empire Martha Stewart Living.
2. Julia Child didn't learn to cook until she was 40 and launched her cooking show when she was 50.
3. Stan Lee was 43 when he brought Spider-Man to life in comic books around the world.
4. Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken when he was 66 - after he went bankrupt.
5. Laura Ingills WIlder began writing as a columnist in her 40s - she wrote the Little House books in her 60s.
6. Mr. Peter Roget wrote and published the first ever Thesaurus at the age of 73.
7. I made my own major career change at 37 years old. I turned down a great job offer to sit at the head of a company and signed up to volunteer in Africa instead. The average age of a volunteer was 21. I was so far out of my comfort zone it was nowhere in sight. This experience led to me writing my first book at 38 years old - it would be published one year later at the ripe old age of 39. Had I let something as inconsequential as age hold me back I'd have never met my life long dream of being an author.
So saddle up, knock down the barricades and go catch your dreams, at the very least you're in for one heck of an adventure!
Melissa Haynes is the author of Learning to Play with a Lion's Testicles: A South African expression that means learning to take chances.