One, two, three…smile! One, two, three…go! One, two, three… jump! From a young age, we are conditioned to prepare ourselves on the count of three. Counting to three before racing your friend down the block ensures that you start at the same time. Counting to three before taking a group photo alerts the subjects to the exact moment they must be prepared to look picture-perfect. Counting to three before jumping off the high-dive board plays off of the comfort of three seconds to prepare to do something that might make one nervous.
I find myself counting to three before doing anything that makes me nervous. To walk into a job interview, to introduce myself to a fellow photographer at a concert, to start a conversation with someone I am intimidated by. No matter what it is, I count to three. Here is the issue, the more nervous I am, the less likely I am to act on three. I get nervous, take a deep breath, and start the count again. And again. And again. It is debilitating. I end up missing my window of opportunity or shying away instead of acting.
This was a weakness of mine that I set out to tackle at some point in my college career. I assumed one day I would just wake up with complete confidence and no longer need to hide.
This past summer, I finally found my solution when I least expected it. A friend invited a group of us to visit his home in Rockport, Massachusetts. He took us to this little hidden quarry to go jump off some small cliffs into the water. The first cliff was no higher than the diving board at my local community pool, it was within my comfort zone. With no hesitation, I leaped off of the edge of the rock into the water. We swam to the next cliff. It was much higher, I stood at the edge and found my knees shaking a bit. I counted to three. My feet stayed planted. My friends below called up to me, assured me that I would be fine and to just jump. I counted to three again. Nothing. Once more, “One… I can do this. I jumped out of a plane with only a parachute attached to my back; this is nothing! Two…I CAN DO THIS… Three… Just kidding, I’ll just live out the rest of my life up here.” Then an idea crossed my mind…. “What if I jumped on two, before the nerves leave me frozen?” I tried it. “One… here I go… Two—” and I lunged forward into the air. Screaming a bit as I plunged into the water, swallowing a bit. I floated back up to the surface. It worked. One, two, jump. I cheated my own system.
Later that night while I was staring at my ceiling in bed trying to fall asleep it dawned on me: this experience can be a metaphor for a way to overcome every fear of stepping outside of my comfort zone that comes my way. Afraid to send an e-mail to someone who intimidates me? One…two…send! Afraid to introduce myself to someone? One…two…speak! Afraid to raise my hand in class and contribute to the discussion? One…two…hand in the air! This can be applied to so many situations in my life.
There is so much growth outside your comfort zone. The best things in my life have come from stepping, or even leaping, outside of my comfort zone. This is the formula I use to get there and I highly recommend everyone tries jumping on two instead of three. The possibilities of what you can accomplish are endless.