“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety”
– Abraham Maslow
I honestly believe this quote rings true to anyone that hears it. Everyday our strength and courage is tested, be it in an obvious ‘I’m about to skydive’ kind of way or simply in the tasting of a new and unknown food. We are constantly learning and are frequently presented with fight or flight situations, each of which offer us a chance to grow, so this week’s post is about stepping forward and not looking back.
The word safety encompasses a whole number of different things. In a more general, everyday sense, it refers to what you know, what you have grown accustomed to and your typical daily routine. It can, of course, refer to the avoidance of danger and protecting yourself from high-risk situations, however the latter definition is less often tested in everyday life.
Stepping away from safety is not about doing the scariest thing you can possibly imagine, or competing against others to determine the most courageous, it’s about being brave in your own way. We all have differing levels of capability and our wonderfully varied personalities mean we’re scared or challenged by a host of different things. Consider a track athlete who has been training for 10 years and a budding runner who is just starting out. In any given moment, both the athlete and the newcomer have the option to step forward into growth or step back into safety. The athlete may embrace the challenge of adding 100 metres to their ‘safe’ running distance, or shaving a few seconds off their personal best. For the newcomer, whose ‘safety’ net is to not take that first step to begin with, running the athlete’s added 100 metres is challenge enough on its own. Both the athlete and the amateur are stepping forward into growth and both have reason to be proud of themselves, regardless of the difference in distance.
The most common circumstance in which I find myself stepping into growth and away from safety is when alone in public. As soon as I sit down in a cafe on my own, or wait for a few minutes for my train to arrive, I find myself whipping out my phone, almost as a means of protection. I don’t like my phone very much and have never been one for keeping up with social media, yet I find myself scrolling aimlessly through Instagram just to protect myself from a potentially awkward silence or to make it appear as though I am busy, which is totally crazy! For me, and potentially for many of you reading this, stepping into growth and away from safety means preventing myself from searching out my phone and instead simply sitting for a minute or two. No checking my emails, no soulless scrolling, just sitting and soaking it all in.
So, I urge you all this week to aim to do something that scares you every day, stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing the boundaries. Have a coffee on your own and resist the temptation to get your phone out. Add 100 metres to your personal best or go for the very first run of your life. Skydive. Smile at a stranger. Eat a Brussels sprout. In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety. Choose the former and be proud of your achievement.