If you’re constantly doing the same things and sticking to the same routine, your dreams…won’t come true.
Yes, your comfort zone is cosy. But no, you shouldn’t wallow in it. Dealing with unfamiliar situations helps us develop self-awareness and new skills, and fuels our confidence. Want to live your best life? You have to venture into the unknown. Here’s how.
1. Focus on how your body is reacting
As soon as you feel nervous, rate the intensity from one to 10, says Singapore based Energising Goals psychologist and life coach Beata Justkowiak (www.energisinggoals.com). If your voice is changing, rate it a three; if your heart is racing, give it a five; if your hands are shaking, that’s a seven. You’ll realise it’s different each time you experience discomfort. This normalises the discomfort and cultivates a lower emotional attachment to that panicky feeling.
2. Mentally repeat words of affirmation
It’s okay to feel stressed. Give yourself a pep talk by telling yourself that yes, you can do it, says Beata. “Then close your eyes and take two deep, slow breaths. After two seconds, open your eyes and smile.” This breaks the reaction pattern as you learn that the anxiety is temporary.
3. Prepare for daunting tasks
Think about the upside: Can it help your career? Find a compelling reason to do it, then prep for it. Ahead of leading a presentation to a client in a second language, interior designer Aria*, 27, asked if she could run through her lines with her supervisor. Practising made the task familiar, and once the real deal was over, Aria realised she was no longer afraid.
4. Embrace awkward conversations
In the book Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness by Melissa Dahl, the health and psychology journalist says that awkwardness tends to stem from how we think someone else perceives us, and that we can learn from awkward exchanges. So either bite the bullet and have a chat, or the feeling that’s bothering you keeps eating at you.
5. Try something new regularly
Matt Cutts, a technologist in the United States, found that a month is just enough to add or subtract a habit – always start small with sustainable changes.
Freelance writer Davelle Lee, 25, gave herself a year to experiment with a podcast. “I have social anxiety, and I’d always been enamoured with the idea of starting a podcast relating to the topic. But I was terrified of putting myself out there,” she says. “Finally, I realised the one thing that would help me overcome my social anxiety was to just do it, regardless of what people might think. I did, and it was the most liberating feeling.”
You’re reading this and thinking, “no I don’t know if I can do it.”
It sounds great but what happens if you fail at these new things and your nervousness takes over?
Well, here’s a “but” we can answer:
We’re so accustomed to the aftereffects of failure (e.g. crying, wallowing in self pity, self-hate, etc.) we don’t realise that we don’t have to have a smile plastered across our face.
All things considered, I’d say that happiness, like Marvel movies, is rather overrated. People are often obsessed with this ineluctable concept of happiness, but the pursuit of happiness is an elusive ideal, like a carrot on a rod dangled in front of a horse – go on, you’ll just keep clopping and end up cross-eyed.
Just what is happiness exactly? Bliss? Ecstasy? Delirium? Euphoria? Euphoric delirium? No one knows. In the 2018 World Happiness Report, Singapore ranked 34th, one above Malaysia, but behind Taiwan at 26th, the highest-rated Asian country out of 156 countries.
Did we rank badly because, unlike the substantive 5Cs we pursue, happiness is more abstract and we flail and fail at it? When I see friends on socials posting corny happiness quotes, I worry for their wellbeing. I think: “Get a grip.” Who, after all, are they trying to convert?
ALSO READ: HERE’S HOW SCIENCE SAYS YOU CAN GET HAPPY
People are somehow convinced that happiness is necessary (it isn’t) or good for your wellbeing (it’s arguable), or that it’s healthy (so is a functioning liver). So are those happiness quotes just an act to mask some kind of shortcoming? And if we’re not good at chasing it, then maybe we shouldn’t place a premium on it – don’t upsize your happiness order. And if that’s the case, then maybe tell yourself it’s okay to just be okay.
To settle for melancholy, gratitude or contentment, the gamut of human emotions – instead of happiness. We can then change that song title to “Don’t Worry, (It’s Okay to Not) Be Happy.” And you’ll be okay.
This article first appeared in the Jan 2019 Issue of our magazine.