“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Courage – to face our fears and conquer them

Courage is one of the five core values that we, as mentors, teach our boys at The Character Company. If we want to be successful at achieving our personal goals, especially the stretch goals that make us slightly nervous, then we need to be courageous. On top of this, we need to have faith in our abilities, as well as the self-confidence to go for it.

As a little boy, I used to watch cowboy movies. John Wayne defined courage as being scared to death but saddling up anyway. Still, we mustn’t confuse courage with recklessness. In my mind, courage means that we acknowledge that very few things are guaranteed in life, but we are not scared to take calculated risks that make us feel slightly uncomfortable. We do this because we believe they will add value to our lives. If we don’t have courage, then we won’t be willing to step out of our comfort zones, especially when it comes to the big steps of making our life dreams a reality.

“Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone.” – Billy Cox

Many years ago, while preparing for a conference presentation, I came across two meanings of F-E-A-R, which typically describe our fight-or-flight response to the feeling:

Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise!

I once read that the fear through which we move when we go to the edge of our limits causes our limits to expand.

When you are too scared to do something that you suspect you would learn from, and you know would add value to your life, ask yourself two questions:

“What is the worst that could happen?”

☐ “Am I the first person ever to attempt this?”

Are you facing a “one-small-step-for-man-but-one-giant-leap-for-mankind” moment, like Neil Armstrong did when he became the first man to ever set foot on the moon? Or are you simply one of many others who have successfully attempted what you are too scared to try?

If you are attempting something that has never been done before, then obviously, before you take the giant leap, consider all of the risks and how they can be mitigated. Chances are though, 99% of the things that you are too scared to try have been done many times before, so you can ditch your fears and go for it.

“Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… That is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” – Dale Carnegie

The extreme alternative to conquering our fears, which allows us to escape our comfort zones, is depriving ourselves of the wonderful opportunity to dare. In that case, we only exist – we do not truly live. Or, we can go out into this world and really live, which will make us smile at the end of our journey and leave us with a feeling of: “What a ride this has been!”

Give yourself permission to experience discomfort

I realised early enough in my life that when it comes to achieving my personal goals, I should see discomfort as my friend. Once we view discomfort in this context, as part of personal growth and gain, then we can allow ourselves to go places where we have never been able, or willing, to go before. The results in our lives can be quite surprising.

If the thought or the fear of discomfort is too daunting, then ask yourself the following question:

“If I am old one day, would I tell myself I should have taken less chances in life?”

In my case, I would not even consider such a question. I would always wonder how those chances could have worked out, had I been willing to take them. The saying goes: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Give yourself permission to step out of your comfort zone and explore the good things in life. You owe it to yourself, and you’ll be amazed at what the results can be.

“Discomfort is the sign you are on the right track.” – Jeff Goins

I believe that one of the differences between successful and unsuccessful people is that the people in the former category are willing to endure the discomfort for long enough and to push through to eventually benefit from it in some form of success.

Where the learning and growing take place

The above illustration very simply shows that the magic and the learning happen outside of our comfort zones.

 “If we are growing, we are always going to be outside our comfort zone.” – John Maxwell

This growth is going to happen both professionally and privately. However, you cannot force yourself out of your comfort zone because you won’t allow yourself to go far away from what is familiar to you. You first need to learn to visualise and practise in your mind’s eye what it will be like to be in the new situation.

This alone is not enough, though. You then need to combine visualisation with affirmations of already being in the future environment – albeit in the present tense. If you visualise and affirm enough times to already place yourself in the new situation that represents your personal goal, then you will find ways of getting there, and you will be drawn towards this goal, which is typically out of your current comfort zone…

A life-long commitment to self-development and growth 

“Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” – Jim Rohn

True leaders possess a passion for personal development. We must never become so busy with sawing that we don’t take time to sharpen our saw. What will carry us through to a good finish in life, is our desire and determination to keep growing. A life-long commitment to learning and self-development, as part of continuous growth, to me represents the essence of self-leadership.

Self-leaders focus on improving themselves continuously. They also keep in check with what is current and ensure that they don’t fall behind others. Growth and self-development have a positive psychological effect, as every time we learn something new, we feel like we have achieved something. 

“Great leaders encourage leadership development. By openly developing themselves.” – Marshall Goldsmith 

Embracing change and new ideas 

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein

By the standard set out by Einstein, I had a relatively low intellect for many decades. My ability and willingness to change were poor. As in many things in life, I am a late bloomer in this regard. Part of stepping out of our comfort zone(s) is embracing change and new ideas.

Over the past couple of years, I have learned to embrace change and how important this can be. My biggest fear, but a dream, was to start a business in something in which I really have an interest. Why would I fear this, you might ask? The answer is quite simple: I have been raised to follow the path with the lowest financial risk. However, this can only be an excuse up to a point.

Despite all the great things that my dad taught me, and the positive influence he had on my life, he constantly reminded me that starting one’s own business is a bad idea: Chances are it will fail, and I will go bankrupt… However, I realised at some point that I needed to break out of that mould… which is exactly what I did. 

“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done”. – Thomas Jefferson 


Author Dr. Hekkie van der Westhuizen shares practical self-leadership tips, tools and interventions in the form of stepping stones that will assist you along the journey to becoming the best possible version of yourself.


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