zen habits : breathe

Removing Negative Thought: Tips To Overcome and Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

This is a guest post from Mark Hayward of the Culebra Blog.

I usually strive to be an eternal optimist; however, for some reason one of my long-term life goals has remained uncompleted and it is surrounded by my own self-doubt and negative thoughts. Unfortunately, these contemplations are holding me back from following through with potentially one of my most important aspirations.

Ever since my wife and I left the Peace Corps in 1999 I have had the ambition to create and start an online humanitarian aid agency that will help to support orphan refugees who have been displaced due to genocide, or military conflict within their country. Honestly, I have contemplated this project a lot. Through my thought processes I have created a rough agency structure, laid out some of the website, and even wrote down the names of people that I would like to have on the advisory board.

However, for some strange reason, unusual feelings of “How can I do that?” and “You must be crazy!” start to creep in whenever I try to make some headway or further progress. I always return to the same list of negative thoughts that are holding me back and keeping me from going forward. Quite honestly, they are rendering me unconstructive and unproductive.

The doubts are as follows:

  1. I need someone to help with programming the online end user functionality.
  2. There are too many humanitarian aid organizations already.
  3. To get the organization off the ground will consume a tremendous amount of energy.
  4. People will not support the organization.
  5. It will not be sustainable.
  6. I will fail.

On any given day there might be a few more added to the list but the above are the top six. For me, internal thoughts of failure and fear that occur when embarking on a new goal, experience, or venture can be debilitating and even manage to stop me from pursuing an objective.

Why do we have these thoughts? How can we break through them and move forward? While I was out walking this morning I was thinking, “Why don’t I just put the humanitarian site up to the best of my ability and see what happens?” Suddenly, I realized that in order for me to start this humanitarian organization I would be stepping well outside of my established comfort zone.

I think this is what might stop many people from pursuing their aspirations. Sometimes it seems easier to just continue on the path that we are already familiar with. As a way to help me move outside my zone of comfort I decided to create a list that I could refer to that would help me begin to manage and remove my negative thoughts. Here is what I have come up with thus far.

  1. Create a realistic and viable plan.
  2. Do something positive everyday, no matter how small, that will help you get to your end result.
  3. Craft your one-minute elevator “sales pitch” because this will require you to really focus.
  4. Accept that sometimes you are going to fail but not trying is more of a failure.
  5. If things begin to go awry maintain a sense of humor.
  6. Instead of saying “I can’t” start with “I can.” For example, change “I can’t possibly run a marathon” to “I can run six miles” now how do I get to the marathon.
  7. Believe that what you are doing (or want to do) is important and make it a priority.
  8. Exercise (always helps to get the endorphins and creative energy flowing).
  9. Help someone; this is one tip that I am going to begin to pursue more frequently because there is no better way to create positive energy than to help someone who is really in need.

For my final tip I would like to add: seek input, advice, and guidance from others. Truly, I would like to hear how the Zen Habits reader community deals with negative thoughts that can creep up when trying to achieve their goals and objectives. Specifically, how have you dealt with negative thoughts or broken through your comfort zone and what tips would you give to others?

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