Cracking Your Comfort Zone: How to Face a Fear

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” ~Unknown

I’m about to write something that’s freaky and a bit philosophical, but true. Really take this in: You become your comfort zone.

Getting out of your comfort zone is crucial to actualizing your aspirations.

If you want something that you don’t already have, there’s a good chance you’ll have to do things that you haven’t already done.

Doing those things may not feel natural to you. You may even feel uncomfortable and awkward. But ultimately, behind the frightening facade of fear is a bigger version of who you already are. That’s where the fun is.

Cracking your comfort zone involves feeling fear and befriending it. Your fear is there for a reason. Respect and embrace it.

The best of the best feel fear. So will you. The trick is to not let it immobilize you, but instead, use it as a driving force to take you where you want to go.

When we learn how to accept and embrace our fear of the unknown, we open ourselves up to an endless opportunity for pure potentiality to emerge.

My Dancing Deficiency

I recently got my friend a gig DJ’ing at my girlfriend’s sister’s “sweet sixteen.” Great party. Good food. Gregarious company. It was a real hit, and he was spinning all of the perfect records at precisely the right times.

I was amazed at how he had total control of the dance floor from a click of the mouse and a scratch of the record.

Now may be a good time to confess to you one of my deepest, dirtiest, juiciest, untold secretes ever: I don’t dance! It’s not that I can’t; I just won’t. Weddings, clubs, bars, parties—not a chance!

It could be that I’m the stereotypical white guy with no rhythm. Or, maybe it was the years of constant clubbing where my great dancing best friend took jabs at everyone he saw letting loose on the dance floor.

No, no, I’ve got it: It’s probably some skewed, screwed-up, repressed childhood memory of me doing the Macarena on stage in the second grade. Whatever it is, dancing is not me.

The only dancing I did all night was for ten seconds when my girlfriend’s mom made a move on me. Fast forward to 12:30 AM as the cake was being cut and everyone was seated. The dance floor was empty and my girlfriend was sitting on my lap.

I glanced to the DJ booth and saw my homeboy laughing with the MC while looking at me. As I looked away, I was wondering what was so funny. Five seconds later I looked back and these dudes were still crackin’ up. I didn’t get it yet, but oh boy, was I about to.

I was mid-sentence speaking with my girlfriend, and out of the speakers came “And now we would like to welcome Jacob and Natasha to the dance floor for a very special dance.” (That’s me and my girl!)

Holy Crap! Seriously dude? Are you kidding me!?!?

Sound the alarms. Alert the authorities. Somebody press the panic button!!!

Now, I’m not anti-dancing. I don’t think there’s anything immoral or scandalous about it. I actually love dancing with my two cats to eighties Michael Jackson music. I’m just not comfortable dancing in front of crowds.

But right there, right then, there were 100 people waiting to watch me put the moves on my girl like I’m some sort of go-go dancer dude.

I looked at my girlfriend Natasha. She’s well aware of my dancing deficiency. She looked at me to lead with her “what should we do now” face. Next thing you know, I said “F&#% it. Let’s do it!” Guess what happened next?

We danced! People watched. People clapped. People shouted. People joined. No doubt about it, it was nerve-wrecking, but damn, it was fun, too.

So, has that dance changed my life? Maybe in some small way, but not significantly. What has and will continue to change my life is my willingness to embrace my fears and use them as fuel to drive me where I know I need to go.

It creeps up every time I record a video for my blog, every time I speak publicly, and every time I do something “scary” while moving toward the direction of my dreams.

Blowing Out the Candles

Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy, says that fear is excitement without the breath. When you start to feel fear, the best thing you can do is breathe into it.

Let’s practice. Take some air and bring it deep down into your belly. Hold it for two seconds. Then blow the air all of the way out, literally like it’s your birthday and you’re blowing out the cake candles. Before you read any further, stop. Really try this.

Do this a couple of times and it will slow down your heart and your mind. It’s a great start.

You’re going to be scared—sometimes terrified. But not only is that okay, it’s great. The key is this: don’t objectify that nervousness as an obstacle. Instead, use that nervous energy as fuel to overcome the real obstacle: your fear.

At that moment you’re going to feel alive. The wise will learn to love that feeling. That’s what coming closer to your dreams feels like.

Remember: fear is excitement without the breath. You’re feeling the way you feel because this is important to you and you’re excited about it. It could potentially improve your life.

Studies show that 90 percent of the things we worry about never comes true. Now is not the time to worry. Trust yourself and breathe, just like we practiced. Then stop thinking about it and just do it!

Photo by Hannah Alice

About Jacob Sokol

Jacob Sokol is committed to living an extraordinary life. Today he released “Living on Purpose – An Uncommon Guide to Finding, Living, and Rocking Your Life’s Purpose.” He also loves his mom dearly. You can save 25% off of Living On Purpose if you purchase it by this Friday and use the discount code “TinyBuddha.”

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  • Dude Jacob your a dead ringer for Kevin Bacon in Footloose- Love it!

  • hahaha… i had to seek consultation for interpretation of that comment – i too, love it!

  • Great piece! One of my favorite quotes is: “LIfe begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Walsh

    Taking risks and pushing ourselves to go beyond our status quo helps us realize so much of our untapped potential.

  • Chris

    I dont see the need to be scared shitless. Nor do I understand what that means.

  • Hi Chris,

    It’s just a saying, though a somewhat crass one. I wasn’t sure if that might offend people, but it was part of Jacob’s fun, quirky tone so I left it in. My apologies if it offended!


  • I LOVE it Harriet! Cracking my comfort zone is what really prompts that “vividly alive” feeling in me. Your comment also brought me to think about Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization… “What one can be, one must be” Thanx so much for sharing!! -=)

  • Hey Chris… To me, it just means fulling feeling fear.

    When writing this article, I could have used more generic terminology, but, this article was SUPER personal to me and it wouldn’t have had the same feeling if i didn’t write it “how i actually speak.”

    I hope that the underlying message didn’t pass you by because you were somewhat turned off by my loose lingo. Wondering if you had any positive take-aways… -=)

  • Appreciate the support Lori… Thanx for helping to clarify the message too!

  • You got it Jacob! I love that you write how you speak. I tend to write a little differently than I talk as a consequence of having been edited in my past writing work. But your writing really connected with me. You’ve inspired me to be a little less formal and more personal. =)

  • WOO-HOO!! Virtual tea toasts to celebrate your break through! Mmm, mmm, good!

    I feel that a lot of the “real impact” that has touched people on Sensophy has been directly related to me being willing to invite people into my life in a personal way. I don’t think everyone has to take that approach but i do feel people certainly connect with other people, not watered-downed versions of them. I know i do!

    I dig that you’re so consciously evolving… Looks like you’re stepping a bit outta’ that comfort zone as well -=)

  • Thank you, Jacob!
    An excellent posting! Loved it!

    ***I think I cracked a rib while recognizing “myself” and laughing – at “it”…***

    Keep up the good work!


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  • Tee Fimmano

    Great article, Jacob! I don’t know who said it but one of my favorite quotes is: Don’t be afraid to go where you’ve never gone, and do what you’ve never done, because both are necessary to get what you’ve never had, and be who you’ve never been. 😀

  • Hahaha!! That is great Hans. Thanx so much for sharing your experience of the article. I got a good chuckle from it. Looking fwd to linking dude -=)

  • Tee – that is SO cool -=) I can picture that quote being a foundational one that you can carry with you at all times. I have a few of those “affirmations” that go off at key moments throughout my day. Thanx for the share!!

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  • Daniel Bodo

    Very nice text…don’t let it paralise you.

  • Glad you enjoyed it! -=)

  • Kathy

    great to see you bust through another fear factor, Jacob! Wish I could have seen you bustin’ those moves on the dance floor, too! I’ll bet you are better than you imagined…and I’ll bet you had fun,too! If we spend too much energy worrying about what other people think, we short change ourselves on the energy we need to ensure our own dreams come true…way to push through! Good job and another good post

  • Erin Lanahan

    Hey Jacob…thanks for sharing…great story LOL. Love it! I love the saying “fear is excitement without the breath.” I will definitely use this as a tool to help me breath and lean into it. I have a lot of upleveling to do this year, and I feel it all through my body. Yes, it’s a very exciting time, but the fears are loud and clear saying “am good enough?,” “can i do it?,” “who am i?,” do i really have what it takes?,” “how am i offering anything new or special?” You know, the usual 🙂 So like you, and everyone else here…I will be breathing deeply, and often. Thanks again, here’s to a very happy, feel the fear and do it anyway 2011 to us all!

  • Erin Lanahan

    YESSSS…I LOVE the authenticity! It’s refreshing, honest, and simply wonderful. Thanks to you both:-)

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  • Hey Erin!! Glad you dug the story! -=) It sounds like you’re in a very exciting place in your life. Congratz!

    I love that you’re asking yourself such big questions – i find it personally to be a super empowering exercise. One suggestion i might offer is changing one or two words in those questions to help get better answers.

    Instead of asking “am good enough?”, how about saying “what can i do to become better?” I find that those subtle tweaks to our language go a long way. Another example would be instead of “how am i offering anything new or special?”, you could play with “how CAN i offering anything new and special?” Get the gist…

    If those questions are coming up automatically, it would be super empowering if you could rephrase and repeat them right after. Just some food for thought if you’re up for it. I found this to work really well for myself.

    Thanx so much for engaging… chat soon!

  • Hahaha… thanx Kathy! It was a good time and great experience 4sho! Mos def agree with what you shared – thanx for doing so! -=)

  • Lynne

    Great post Jacob, really hit home to me, when I’m in that fear place I need to bring this to the surface & breathe through it. It’s easy to know & acknowledge this when everything’s in an ‘A’ OK place but it’s being able to turn it on when in the difficult places & times that counts, then it will help makes those changes we all crave. Thanks for the share. all good things to you. x

  • Hehehe…Mos Def Lynne. Having the ability to consciously choose our most empowering response to stimuli, in the heat of the moment, is such goodness ;P Thanx for swinging thru and sharing!

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  • Aysha

    Great post! Very nice to think about on the last day of the year!
    I’m trying to crack my confort zone… I quit my job this month and moved to a bigger city, which was a dream I’d never had the courage to go for before. It’s frightening but I do believe we need to face our fears and live our lives the best we can.
    I hope you all have a great 2011!

    Love from Brazil!

  • WOW Aysha! Congratz on the major move!! Way to start the new year… -=)

  • WOW Aysha! Congratz on the major move!! Way to start the new year… -=)

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  • Lv2terp

    What a GREAT article!!!! I smiled the whole way through, thank you!! Great perspective and life story to portray it perfectly! 🙂

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  • Lavette Dunston

    great article…i have to dance at this wedding tonight and do some type of wedding dance b/c I’m a bridesmaid…im scared shitless….b/c i hate dancing..especially in front of a crowd of people… I’m going to take this fear & try to turn it into excitement…