THE BLOG

The Secret to Being More Outgoing and Living Fully

04/02/2015 06:48 pm ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015
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The original version of article "Flexing the Bravery Muscle" and more on life after cancer can be found on HerAfter.com

It is often said that the only constant is change. So it's funny that we should applaud those who embrace it, calling them brave; peculiar how we differentiate those who prepare for it, calling them courageous; strange that we should set apart those who seek it out, or enjoy it, even as we all realize we must endure it again and again and again.

Courage, bravery, and the ability to put ourselves 'out there' for new things, new challenges, and new responsibilities is not an ingrained skill. It's as if the idea of 'out there' is somehow a different reality or truth than the majority's view of a moment. True, the introvert versus the extrovert is certainly a natural and apparent quality, but neither determines a person's willingness to seek out and accept change or challenge.

The truth is closer to the contrary. The yogic principles of such traits would suit modernity much better:
That courage, like balance in standing poses and in life, and bravery, in warrior 1 and through life's hardships, are skills to learn and build rather than inherited traits. They are muscles we must strength-train just like any other muscle with regular practice added weight and pressure, and scheduled benchmarks.

These yogic poses prove that you don't need to be born brave or courageous or outgoing enough to try new things. You must develop the muscles and skills to be so. So if you've been wanting and wishing to be any of these things, this is your answer.

The creature of comfort in us tells us to fear change, seeing it as a polar opposite of our own safety. But that's simply not the case: comfort and change are not antonyms of each other. Comfort, the cozy chair in the corner with a book, or the Sunday afternoon naps under a sunlit window, can be all the more rejuvenating when we've gone out to evolve in this crazy, chaotic world. Without the steps out our front door to brave the unknown, the afternoon nap becomes numbing, and the cozy chair becomes a cage. The more we shy away from growing and evolving and being brave, the scarier it becomes to do so.

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photo: High Flyer by Bridget H (modified) (source) (license)

Like a child on a swing, the more we avoid swinging high into the sky, the more we distrust our ability to fly. But if we just push a bit more, pump our legs a bit higher, raise our gaze upward, we can feel the wind of wild new heights, new experiences, new possibilities.

But how can we put these words into action? How can we practice being brave without simply resting on the cliches of 'doing something that scares you'? After all, that phrase in itself is a bit scary. How can break down the bravery-muscle-building process into measurable steps?

  • Stop worrying about looking stupid, and start hoping for more
Too much of our time and thinking is spent on worry, especially the worry of looking stupid. We worry about floundering as a beginner and so we avoid taking steps in new directions. We don't want to learn new skills because we might be 'bad at them'. In reality, when we say we're worried about 'being bad' at anything, what we mean is 'looking bad'. Being bad is something that can be improved; looking bad, according to our culture, is a lifelong sentence of negative publicity. But, really, even that standard isn't true. Stop worrying and start hoping. Stop biting your fingernails and start working with your hands on that book, a sculpture, a new trick. Worrying is a monumental waste of time and does nothing to prepare us for upcoming disasters. It is only the ego doing it's best to halt or delay our liberation. Don't let it. Stop worrying. It could turn into a mess, a mess you know you can clean up. But it could also turn out so much better than you ever imagined. And isn't that just as worth the chance?

  • Feel the fear, do it anyway
Do you recall that feeling right before you jump into a pool, when the skin fears the cold before it even hits? It tingles and gives the heart a happy race. But once you take the plunge, it feels like rebirth.Remember that feeling next time a new task, a new meeting, a new opportunity scares you. Remember how amazing it will feel when you've taken the plunge. Feel the fear, know it's there, admit to it, and even hold it's hand while you jump together. This types of exciting fear proof that we are expanding our boundaries as individuals. Comfort may feel safe and warm, but it will never feel exhilarating. And a life well lived requires the gamut of emotion. Know there will be times later to feel safe, but now is not one of them. Now is a time to feel afraid but determined, followed directly by the time to feel proud and celebratory.

  • Enjoy the learning process
Each time you put yourself 'out there', it will be easier than the last time. Each time you flex your bravery muscle, it will be more muscle-memory than it was last time. You will slowly but surely acquire the skill of using that muscle, and being able to lift bigger, weighter and more pressured situations. Just like every time you hit the gym, every time you flex that muscle gets you closer to reaching your goal social-weight, whether that be the weight of a stage performance, a public speaking event, a published book, or conquering your inner demons. Enjoy the steps along the way. Each one will have a beautiful hidden gem of wisdom to strengthen you for your next task.

  • Trust. Trust. Trust.
"The Universe is conspiring to give you everything you want" says Paulo Coelho.

"Inspiration exists," says Picasso, "but it has to find you working."

The world and it's muses, the stars and their beams, the universe and it's depths, the Gods and their gifts, they are all working with you, but you must pull your own weight. The universe will provide all that you need, all that you desire, all that you have the potential for, but you must prove you deserve it. All of these are on your sides, but you must take responsibility for your part in the process of your own exultation. They are standing by you, working through your hands, pumping through your blood, and doing all they can for you. Thus, you must do all you can for them.

Trust that the process, in every misstep and every success, is divinely created to teach to you. That each obstacle along the way is designed to strengthen you. That every gift and lesson and opportunity and break of dawn are all offered to help you. That every challenge is a gift. That you are meant for this, and it is meant for you. That you are exactly where you need to be. That you are balancing exactly on the stepping stone to which you should be, according to the legend of your life. That life is unfolding in and around you, like a wildly blossoming flower with the rays of the flying sun. That it is all blissfully, divinely, perfectly flowing along the currents of your fate.

Trust the universe. It is on your side.

Rachael Yahne (@RachaelYahne) is a writer, blogger, and 10 year cancer survivor. You can read more of her articles about healing from life's big struggles on her website, HerAfter.com. Articles cover topics like beauty, well-being, purpose, and pretending to be 'normal' after treatment and recovery.