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Climbing Out of Your Comfort Zone

Leigh Goldberg is a Career & Life Coach helping young professionals break into self-employment across the United States and beyond. Visit Vast Lane Coaching on the web at or 303.444.5812.

I started rock climbing over four years ago. What I love about the sport is that it reminds me what happens when I let fear stop me. On top rope, the risk of falling is taken out of the equation. If I can not make a move, the most I will fall is a few feet due to the stretch in the rope. Put me on lead, where the potential fall is increased to 10 to 20 feet and even possibly hitting the ground, and suddenly I am climbing an entire grade or two lower. My hands sweat more. My legs shake like Elvis. My arms get "pumped" prematurely in the climb because I am over-gripping. My heart rate increases, and my breathing runs so rapidly sometimes that my throat hurts from the dryness.

Bottom line is this: when I feel fear on the rock, it is really easy to allow it to erode my confidence which in turn weakens my performance (not to mention my fun).

This got me thinking, "I wonder what other times in life I let fear stop me from taking risks and performing at my best, especially when the fear might not trigger such obvious physical symptoms. In my relationships? In my work? In my finances?

What I learned is that fear is a subtle beast. It lurks quietly inside of me every day of my life. In fact, ours brains, I later discovered, are hard wired to be in protect mode. Self-defense is the brain’s job. So if the mind’s main objective is to ensure we are safe and secure, it is no wonder that it naturally triggers such strong physical symptoms in the midst of blatant threats – the kind of fear induced by climbing rocks.

But what happens when the threat is not quite as immediate or life endangering? Like asking your boss for a promotion you really want? Or making a decision to relocate to a new city or switching professions or starting your own business? Or even asking someone out on a date? The brain tells you "no, just stay put! You are comfortable where you are. There is no need to rock the boat. You might make a mistake and look stupid, and you don’t want to do that now, do you?" (Yes, it’s okay to admit that we talk to ourselves more than we talk to other people.)

Guess what? This internal chatter is just another physical symptom caused by FEAR, just like when my hands sweat and my legs shake like Elvis.

Four Steps to Not Allowing Fear to Stop You

Fear is always present. It is a biological necessity. BUT, it can subtly hold you back from taking risks in your every day life IF YOU ALLOW IT. Here are four steps you can be mindful of and employ to help you take the big risks necessary to live a big life.

  1. Acknowledge and accept that FEAR is not going anywhere. It is in us for good. Partners for life.

  1. Once we accept that fear is innate and permanent, we no longer get to use it as an excuse for not doing something. (Yes, I understand. Of course you are uncomfortable with the idea of speaking in public. Maybe even terrified. That makes perfect sense! Now let’s move on to writing the speech.)

  1. Acknowledge that fear is actually a POSITIVE THING. Why? Because feelings of fear are a real indication that you are considering what it would be like to step out of your comfort zone. Unknown territory is always scary but you would never get to experience the rewards if you did not take the risks. If you want a big life, you must take big risks. There is no way around it.

  1. Next time you get that gnawing sensation of FEAR, see what happens when you let go a bit, stop over-gripping what you already have a hold of and maybe, just maybe, you will reach out to something even better than you imagined.

Copyright 2005 Vast Lane Coaching LLC.


This Personal Development article was written by Leigh Goldberg on 3/22/2005

Leigh is a Career and Life Coach with eight years experience consulting, training, and coaching clients ranging from top executives on Wall Street to full-time homemakers. After working in the corporate world as a consultant, marketing strategist, sales manager and trainer, Leigh launched a company dedicated to helping young professionals drive in the fast lane of life.