Patty Chang Anker is one of our resident experts in the Babble Reinvention series. This month, she talks about the importance of “leaping” into a better life.
Until my mid-thirties, I was more comfortable leaping up than out. That is, I could take steps toward goals — a degree, a promotion, a family — boldly. Taking on new responsibilities or making reasonable life changes fit into the plan. Leaping out of my comfort zone to try new and different things, though? Who had time for that?
Friends of mine were the opposite: they had no problem leaping out and trying new things or starting new relationships, but then struggled to focus their energy or commit to a next step and a next. What if that cut off their options? What if they made a bad choice?
For many of us, midlife and motherhood shake up our old patterns, calling us to commit and to expand what we can do. It can be daunting, but also an opportunity to leap up, out, and into a bigger life. For me, a leap off a diving board set off a chain of events that brought me out of my narrow and lonely life all the way to being here at Babble with you. (See my TEDx Talk: Warning Leaving Comfort Zone. Things Could Get Exciting.)
For February, let’s try leaping up and out — and see how our lives expand as a result. Here are some strategies to try right now:
*Choose a pet
I don’t mean a cat or dog, but one interest — one area of your life, job, or relationship — that could lead somewhere good if it were fed and cared for every day. Make this your priority for the month. What could you do to leap up in this area? How could you focus your energy and attention to seeing it grow?
*Find a hand
Find a mentor or coach who has leaped in the same area. How did they overcome obstacles? What did they find on the other side?
*Leap with confidence
Half-hearted leaps almost always end in a fall. Find small leaps (take classes, do research) to build confidence. Understand that you’re strong enough to withstand the outcome even if you do fall. Then point yourself in the direction of where you want to go and leap whole-heartedly.
*Avoid no more
At age 47, Robin decided to try putting her face underwater at the swimming pool, something she always thought she would hate. She ended up loving it and is now an avid swimmer. “The thing that’s not even on your radar, that thing could become your next passion,” she marvels in Some Nerve. What have you always avoided that you could try?
*Ask yourself, “Why not?”
The question “Why?” used to guide my every move — if there wasn’t a good reason to do something (or I didn’t think I’d be good at it), I didn’t bother. But once my sister dragged me to a series of pottery classes (to get me out of my office) and although I wasn’t a good potter, the experience of working by feel rather than thought was entirely new. Doing things for no particular reason opens you up in unexpected ways. What could you say “Why not?” to and take a leap to try?
*Join the fun
Start listening to friends who are different from you. Ask to join them in doing something uncharacteristic, something that makes your heart skip a beat, like karaoke, a 5K run, or an outing to a place you’ve never been. Say, “Ordinarily, I would never do that. But it’s February and Leap month at Babble, so let’s do this thing!”
When you tell the story of your life, the leaps you took will be the best parts.
Leaping can be scary. It takes effort to propel into the unknown. But the only way to a bigger life is to go through the fear — the fear doesn’t go away until you’re on other side. What’s on the other side? Let’s go find out. It’ll be a heck of a good story, for sure.