Adventures In Expanding Your Comfort Zone

by Jason Kotecki on · 10 comments

I often won­der why I care so much about what other peo­ple think.

I shouldn’t, and I like to think I don’t, but I do. Not always, but more often than I should.

The irony is that the worst-case sce­nario is always the most ter­ri­fy­ing when it stays in our head. If we were to actu­ally speak our fears out loud — to shine light upon them — we would real­ize how ridicu­lous it is that we allow them to enslave us.

When my wife Kim and I wrote The Escape Plan, we iden­ti­fied this unfor­tu­nate but all-too-common trait that keeps us tied down and has­tens the spread of Adul­ti­tis. And so we wanted to include a chal­lenge to address it. We called it, “G’Day Mate,” and it was sim­ple: Talk in a phony voice or accent to a com­plete stranger.

Sim­ple, but not easy.

This is a chal­lenge sure to mea­sure exactly how much you care about what other peo­ple think. For some of us, the idea alone scares the snot out of us. (It did for me.) And yet it is a per­fect exam­ple of how the fear in our heads is more ter­ri­fy­ing than the real­ity. Because what are we afraid of? That the per­son might think we’re weird? Rec­og­nize our accent as a fake? Laugh at us? At the risk of stat­ing the obvi­ous: WHO CARES?! It’s a stranger! One we’ll likely never see again.

I’ll admit, when I did this the first time, I tried tak­ing the easy way out. I went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and ordered a few cheese­burg­ers in my best Eng­lish accent, which was still very, very bad. I thought I’d avoid a face-to-face inter­ac­tion, com­pletely for­get­ting that the order­ing part of the process leads to the order receiv­ing part of the process, which of course, is done face-to-face.

Do you want any ketchup or extra nap­kins, sir?”

I stum­bled through the rest of our inter­change while won­der­ing if the McDonald’s employee called me sir because she assumed I was a knight. Mean­while, Kim tried des­per­ately to muf­fle her bois­ter­ous laughter.

After­wards, Kim and I both erupted like school girls. An enor­mous weight was lifted off my shoul­ders. I had done some­thing I was afraid to do and came out unscathed!

Which is, of course, usu­ally what hap­pens when we do some­thing we are afraid of. When we allow our­selves to be vul­ner­a­ble. When we are able to let go of wor­ry­ing about what oth­ers think of us. Not only do we come out unscathed, but we come out stronger. Braver. Freer.

One such action does not always cure us for­ever. But con­sis­tent prac­tice can grow our com­fort zones larger and larger, until we come to a place in which we give no thought to attempt­ing some­thing that would have par­a­lyzed us with fear just a year or two ear­lier. Chil­dren could care less what other peo­ple think of them — have you seen the way they dance or dress them­selves? — but we adults need to prac­tice in order to return to those care­free days, before Adul­ti­tis took over.

I can speak from expe­ri­ence; “G’Day Mate” is a great place to start. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

by Jason Kotecki

Jason Kotecki is an artist, author, and pro­fes­sional speaker. Jason and his wife Kim (a for­mer kinder­garten teacher) make it their mis­sion in life to fight Adul­ti­tis and help peo­ple use strate­gies from child­hood to design lives with less stress and more fun. Stop by for more tips for escap­ing adulthood.
Jason Kotecki
View all posts by Jason Kotecki

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