This episode follows Chapter 3, Section 6: Activate Courage of “Anxiety… I’m So Done with You!” It is chock full of information, so get out your notebook and pen! In this episode, we will dive deep into taking risks and having courage. You’ll learn:
- All about risks and risk-taking
- The thing that holds you back from taking risks
- What’s on the other side of risk-taking
I will debunk your comfort zone because, a lot of times, it doesn’t serve you. It’s important to understand risks to make the best conscious decisions for your highest good, so I’ll explain everything you need to know to create the life you want.
Analyzing risk requires looking at the possible negative consequences and their severity. I give many examples so you can understand precisely how to assess situations to make conscious decisions. Examples like a log over a stream, telling someone you like them, and brushing your teeth. Then, we look at courage and when and why you need the courage to take risks.
You can mitigate (make less severe) risks when you know what they are by taking actions aligned with maximizing benefits and minimizing negative possibilities. Risk can be scary, and courage can feel hard to find when anxiety is around. How do you push the boundaries of your comfort zone when you’re anxious? I share the four key steps to help you do that.
“Comfort zones don’t get established and stay the same forever. They’re constantly changing, getting bigger and smaller. A desire or a mood can change how someone weighs risks and benefits. One day we might not be up for something, and the next day we totally are.” – Dr. Jodi Aman
Listen to the episode:
Resources for Activate Courage
- How To Make Changes In Your Life – And Not Be Afraid
- Using Your Intuition for Deciding Correctly Every Time
- Feel Totally Out of Control? How to Get Control Over Your Life!
- Be bold and brave and in control of your life
Transcription of the Episode:
Hey, you’re here with Dr. Jodi, and this is Season 3 of “Anxiety… I’m so Done with You!” This podcast is a teen and young adult guide to ditching toxic stress and hardwiring your brain for happiness. If you’re new here, grab a copy of my book “Anxiety… I’m so Done with You!” because this series goes section by section through the book, going a little bit deeper, giving more examples, and telling more stories. Season 3, which goes along with Chapter 3, expands hope by looking at your skills and abilities.
You are amazing! You have many skills and abilities. However, anxiety does not want you to know that. It tries to block your view of them. But not anymore! In this season, we’ll bring them out into the open, giving you more access to them when you need them the most. As this season progresses, you’re going to envision yourself in a new way––as a person who is able, caring, confident, and determined. Thank you for listening, subscribing, and leaving me five stars on Apple Podcasts. Mental health problems are skyrocketing, especially among young people, and this series will help them cease judging, stop questioning, and start healing!
Welcome to Chapter 3, Section 6: Activate Courage.
In this episode, I:
- talk risks and risk-taking
- define your comfort zone
- learn how it’s created and changed
- reveal what holds you back from taking risks (that I haven’t even mentioned yet in this series)
- paint a picture of what’s on the other side of taking risks that I don’t think you want to live without.
Listen to Activate Courage on YouTube
Let’s get right into it. First, let’s define “risks” because you wouldn’t need courage if there were no risks. When I demystify risks for you, you’ll feel in control of your decisions (instead of fear being in control of them). A risk is the chance of something happening that will have a negative effect. It is someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard. So it’s a hazard. A hazard is a source or a situation with the potential for harm in terms of human injury, ill health, damage to property or the environment, or something like that. That means risks and hazards show potential for harm that necessitates your caution. In other words, you have to be aware of them and be conscious of how you navigate them as you move forward with your decisions.
What’s important to remember is that not all risks are created equal. There are different levels of risks that people have to consider. The level of risk is related to two things: 1) how likely the unwanted event is and 2) how bad the potential negative consequences might be. So you have to weigh all of these two things’ variables to determine the level of risk.
For example, let’s look at the risk of falling in when walking across a log suspended over a stream. What’s the level of risk here? Well, you have to consider all of the variables.
The likelihood of falling increases or decreases depending on the following:
- the thickness or flatness of the log
- your experience or agility walking across a rounded surface
The potential negative consequences depend on:
- the temperature of the air and water
- your health
- what are you wearing
- whether or not you are already wet
- how high the log is suspended, and more.
All decisions involve some risk, but often the risk is so low that the answer is clear, like “Should I brush my teeth?” Yes, you have to get up, it takes time, and you might be too tired to bother, but you know it is safe, quick, good for your teeth and mouth, and will feel good. This kind of decision necessitates effort but not courage. Mostly, tasks such as brushing your teeth are integrated already. You might think of them as a pain to have to do, but you don’t think of it as risky.
Other times the risk is high, but the desire is worth it, so you do need to have some courage to get outside that comfort zone. For example, let’s consider the risk of telling someone you like them. You have to consider all of the variables. First, you’ll consider the likeliness of being rejected by trying to guess if they return your affection. Then, you’d consider how embarrassing it would be if it would make things awkward between the two of you, or worse if they’d be mean to you after you said something. You might even worry that everybody in the school would be laughing at you, or it would ruin your friendship. All of these and maybe more would go through your mind and affect your decision on whether to take the risk or not.
When you approach a decision like this, you can do nothing, which also carries a risk of losing the opportunity to date that other person or you can decide to do it then, gather the courage and mitigate the risks. Mitigating means somehow making them less severe, serious, or painful. We’ll talk about gathering courage soon, but let’s first review how to mitigate risks. You mitigate risks by manipulating “controls.” Controls are measures, actions, or things you put in place to decrease the likelihood of the negative thing happening or the negative consequences of that event.
For example, if that log over the stream had a branch from a neighboring tree that you could hold on to and balance yourself while you walk over, it would mitigate the risks of you falling in. That control, the branch, assists you in making the decision to cross there. Or, when you ask your friends if they think the person that you want to date might like you too, they might give you some information that will help you decide whether to tell them how you feel or not.
Now that we’re on the same page with levels of risk and controls, let’s talk about courage. I start this section by illustrating three circles inside each other. The center circle represents your comfort zone. The middle circle includes risks, worries, and discomforts. And the biggest circle includes, as it says, “Everything worthwhile.” Even though there are always risks, they pale when you are approaching something worthy of your time and effort. Or, the task has been so integrated (familiar and easy for you) that any risks are discarded.
It’s like having a pet. You may have had your dog forever and have integrated the work you must put into that relationship. You may not even think of the sacrifices and potential loss as risky, so it’s comfortable to have your pet. However, if you were deciding whether to get a new pet, then you would weigh the risks and the benefits. When you have integrated a new thing, you’ve overcome the worry, risk, or discomfort it took you to get there, and your circle widens. The circle’s still there, but it’s no longer an obstacle for that event or experience. You’ve become familiar with and used to it so much so that you don’t even see those activities as risky anymore.
Courage to Go Past Your Comfort Zones
Comfort zones are different for everyone, depending on how people assess and evaluate risks, what they’re accustomed to, the past experiences and current supports that they have, and what’s important to them. Comfort zones don’t get-established-and-just-stay-the-same-forever. They’re constantly changing and getting bigger and smaller. A desire or mood can change how someone weighs risks and benefits in a moment. One day we may not be up for something, and the next day we are. It happens all the time.
That may make you wonder how a comfort zone gets started in the first place. Often they start from something simple, like one day, you have that calorie-conserving resistance to something in your life, but you don’t understand why you have that resistance. So you put meaning around the task as something “uncomfortable” or “undesirable.” That meaning makes you feel trapped or oppressed if you do it. Or, if you’ve had a negative experience with that task, or something similar to it, that would make you weary of doing that again. Even mildly bad events, like when you’ve been embarrassed, can build up a strong sense of discomfort. Intense embarrassment can feel humiliating and be experienced by your body and mind as traumatic. Once those parameters are set in your comfort zone, you make more and more meaning out of them until they feel quite impassable.
In fact, some people’s comfort zones are very rigid. There are some things they have been a hard no to for a very long time, and in some cases, they may have forgotten the real reason for that. Just the fact that it is the edge of the comfort zone is all that matters, and it keeps them in there. They hear from the anxiety, “It’s scary.” Period. But never ask themselves why it is scary.
If you feel like this is you, or you’re in any position where you want to push out the boundaries of your comfort zone, try these four steps:
Find your edge.
This is about having conscious awareness of what’s inside and outside of your comfort zone. It gives you the control to dismantle what you can. Whatever the anxiety tells you, immediately ask it: why? Why does it say that will be awful? Why does it think you can’t handle it? And, why does it think something bad would happen? Do not let it be evasive. You want to know the ins and outs because that unpacks and dismantles the anxiety.
Weigh the risks and benefits.
Remember, the level of risk is related to the likelihood of the negative consequence happening and how negative the result is or can be. You want to consider all the variables to be prepared to make a conscious decision. Then, list the benefits of doing that: Why do you want to do it? How great are the benefits? Will they last long? Are they worth the risks (For example, showing off to someone who really doesn’t care about you is not worth doing something dangerous, but staying up late one night to finish a homework assignment is worth the risk of getting less than optimal sleep that night.)?
Brainstorm the controls and how to manipulate them.
This is thinking of what you can do to minimize the risks. It’s like having an exit plan when you’re nervous about going somewhere. An exit plan allows you to go to that event without feeling like you’ll be trapped there. You’re minimizing the discomfort.
Gather your courage.
You’ll need the courage to step in the direction that you want. Taking to your heart and mind all of the information you have gathered, it’s time to make a conscious decision about the way forward. Now, you need the courage to do that. Courage is trust in yourself. Being an impulsive thrill-seeker is not courageous. It’s just stupid. Real courage is trusting your skills to assess the situation, weighing the risks and benefits, brainstorming the controls, and making a conscious decision on the best way forward.
After watching people go through this process for a really long time, I noticed something that holds people back from taking risks. It’s this: thinking that being ready is tangible. That you’d feel it and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you’re ready. But that’s not how it works. Ready is hardly ever tangible like that. Either there’s something easy, and you do it because it’s integrated into your system. (You put a shirt on without thinking if you’re ready to do that.) However, so many people feel like they’re not ready, and then they think that means they are not ready.
No one feels ready. When people have to do something challenging, they can start without thinking about it too much or start before they have total confidence, trusting that they will get confidence from it. Alternatively, they can feel “not ready” and hesitate. When you do that, the brain thinks something’s wrong, and the Monkey Mind does its thing…
A good example is some teens I’ve worked with who have trouble getting to school. They assume that they’ll go when they’re ready. They think, “I’m not ready to go back,” and then stay home. But they’ll only be ready after they go and have been going regularly. They need consistently attend school to get going integrated into their system. We think ready means comfortable (it doesn’t). What makes things comfortable is familiarity. Anxiety can’t lie to you about something that you know well! It can’t hack it. So, the fastest way to overcome the fear of something, like driving a car, or speaking in public, is to do it until it’s familiar.
Courage Takes You to the Other Side of Your Comfort Zone
Let’s talk about what is on the other side of our comfort zone. That’ll be different for everyone, depending on personal tastes and preferences. To find out yours, ask yourself: What is fun and fulfilling? Who are the people in your life that you want to be close to? What would mean success to you? What lifts your spirit?
Take a moment now to think about what is important to you. Think about a time in your future, and imagine this coming true. Try to feel yourself being comfortable and happy there. What would it be like to experience that?
This episode is almost over, and when it’s done, I want you to grab a piece of paper and do the above four-step process with what you are visualizing. The first step is to find your edge. Really get clear on what’s inside and outside your comfort zone around this. The second step is to weigh the risks and benefits. Think about the level of risk and how important this thing is to you. Step three is to brainstorm your controls. How can you mitigate those risks so that you can achieve those benefits? Finally, in step four, gather your courage and take a step outside your comfort zone. Each step you take will be the building block of the next step, the next step, and the next step. It will build on your momentum and inertia and get you closer to what you truly desire.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode where I went over risks and controls and how to be ready even if you don’t feel ready and shared my four steps to expanding your comfort zone. As always, I have more resources for you on building courage and taking risks on the blog that goes with this episode. I appreciate all the shares in the comments and am indebted to you for those five-star reviews on Apple Podcasts. Remember, I go live every Monday at 11 A.M Eastern on Facebook and YouTube. On YouTube and TikTok, you’ll find me @DoctorJodi.
The next episode is the last section of this chapter and the last episode of the Season: Chapter 3, Section 7: Activate Your Unique Skills. Read or listen to that section, and I’ll meet you there.