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Embrace a growth mindset and don't let fear win!

“Dream coffee shop” — Raj Hayer, Hastings 2019

Even the best-laid plans can go astray, nothing is certain, and things can change on a dime.

Last year decided to teach me that again with a broken ankle being couch-ridden for months, and now a second surgery to remove the metal was the start of 2024!

The question is, have I learned anything from it? Am I stepping back to comfort? Retreating into fear? Or stepping forward and growing from this experience?

“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” — Abraham Maslow

Safety can be a good thing. It motivates us to earn money so we can have a home, food, and security. It cautions us so we do not put ourselves in harmful situations.

Conversely however, it can also hold us back from exploring outside of our comfort zone, learning something new, or living a life more fulfilled.

Safety can become the antithesis of growth

I was a passenger in a car accident and I was hurt so severely that I required reconstructive facial surgery and was in physical rehab for two years. It was difficult for me to feel safe in a car again.

Adopting a safety mindset meant I wouldn’t get into a car for months. Of course, I soon realised this was not sustainable; I could not live my life avoiding being in cars! So, I stepped forward into a growth mindset, i.e. I learned to drive. The only way I could feel safe in a car from that point was by getting behind the wheel and being in control of the car.

Ironic, I know, since we are never fully in control on the road. We can be the safest drivers on the road and all it takes is one drunk driver to run a red light, to create risk and make the roads unsafe.We don’t have control over that.

Still, I admit I stayed in that “safety” mindset for a long time in other ways, too: staying in roles that weren’t challenging, in relationships that weren’t healthy, and practising habits that were not good for me.

Safety can help us try to protect ourselves from risk and harm (car accidents), but it can also prevent us from striving to be healthier or happier. The couch becomes safer than a run in the rain, the TV becomes safer than challenging ourselves to learn a new topic, and the cubicle becomes safer than challenging the status quo and asking for a role we really love.

A safety mindset takes over, and if we stay there, it prevents growth; it prevents us from striving for and building a life we love.

Safety can be a convenient guise for our actual fears

Fear of failure, not being good enough, or looking like an idiot in the growth process can stop us from adopting the growth mindset. It can make us want to retreat to the couch, watch the latest episode of our favourite show, and stay put!

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a little downtime is necessary to regenerate, but I also recognise that none of these choices will lead to my growth as a human being.

I live in Munich, and a desire to stay in comfort has stopped me from learning how to speak German fluently.

First of all, most Germans speak English better than English people!

Second, I understand German quite well. I can follow a conversation if I know the context and speak basic German when ordering in a restaurant. Still, my vocabulary for spoken German is abysmal.

Is it because I can’t learn it?

No. Of course not.

Anyone can learn a new language if adequately motivated. It is my comfort zone that stops me. However, by not stepping out of safety and comfort and taking the risk of sounding like an idiot periodically, I have stunted my growth and any improvements I could otherwise achieve.

“Every person is, in part, ‘his own project’ and makes himself.” — Abraham Maslow

Stepping forward into growth

In January 2020, I set up a Babbel account, I set up a language exchange date with a friend, and I started to speak more German. It was going well until pandemic hit and then after sitting at home for six weeks, it was really easy to fall back into comfort and stop learning and growing. I mean I didn’t need to speak German to sit at home alone, right?

It is so easy to stay comfortable.

Now three years on, I still don't speak German fluently. Down days and lazy days are allowed and necessary. But I'm still in my comfort zone.

Hey, German is tough to learn, but I am not giving up! ;-)

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