Living on the Edge of Fear Reveals Your Unknown Limits

You don’t know your limits in the comfort-zone.

In any given moment, a man’s growth is optimized if he leans just beyond his edge, his capacity, his fear. He should not be too lazy, happily stagnating in the zone of security and comfort. Nor should he push far beyond his edge, stressing himself unnecessarily, unable to metabolize his experience. He should lean just slightly beyond the edge of fear and discomfort. Constantly. In everything he does.

David Deida from The Way of the Superior Man

Ahhh, the comfort zone…a place of relaxation.

Lean into it for too long and that relaxation turns into complacency and eventually breeds stagnation. A state of stagnation isn’t good for self-knowledge. You are not losing anything nor are you gaining. Self-knowledge is gained outside of comfort. The unknown reveals to you who you truly are.

The unknown reveals your limiting beliefs.

And since you can’t transcend that which you are not aware of, the comfort zone stagnates your self-knowledge.

Conversely, living life on the edge of fear gives you insight into your conditioned self. Now armed with this knowledge you can transcend those pesky limiting beliefs that are responsible for your conditioning. This is the basis of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

However, CBT never talks about being David Goggins and the importance of living life on your edge of fear.

No, mental health therapy is too soft for that.

Limiting Beliefs Rule Over You

The CBT model of our mind and body is governed by our beliefs.

Belief, both limiting and expansive, fuels associated thoughts and emotions. The premise for undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy is that our beliefs are so limiting and cause emotional distress. However, it is rare that you uncover these beliefs on a therapy chair.

You discover them in the midst of the thing you fear – the unknown.

The unknown could be a lot of things:

  • A new career path
  • New habitual ways of living
  • Changing up your environment

Basically, anything that forces you out of your comfort zone is the unknown. It isn’t a physical place, it is a place that only exists in your mind.

A therapist’s couch is too comfortable for discovering your limiting beliefs. Sure, if you already know your limits, therapy can be valuable. But if you are clueless, a good place to start would be learning to recognize that which you fear and dive in head first.

The Unknown is the Best Educator

A component of therapy has to be centred around the phrase, “Just suck it up.”

This phrase, as simple as it is, has profound wisdom. It means to ignore feelings of fear and anxiety and “Just Do It.” Nike knows the importance of getting outside your comfort zone.

The unknown births self-knowledge.

How can the comfort zone (i.e. your habitual state of stagnation) reveal your limits.

It can’t.

It can’t because your limits are not tested in your comfort zone.

This applies not only to your physical limits but more so to your limiting beliefs. However, merely stepping into the unknown is not enough. You must cultivate self-awareness to catch your thoughts and recognize the patterns. It is in these patterns you begin to discover themes that your thoughts center around.

These themes could be tropes of:

  • Abandonment
  • Embarrassment
  • Not being okay with the chaos

There are way more themes of limiting belief than this.

The list could be endless due to the infinite ways an individual could be brought up and integrated (or not) into the world.

One thing is for certain: you must be in the unknown to discover your limits.

The Steps Required to Take Advantage of the Self-Knowledge

So when those automatic thoughts arise, they often occur outside of your awareness.

Think of them as your unconscious biases, beliefs, and conditioning that you’ve picked up over the years. This type of memory is implicit rather than explicit. CBT challenges our automaticity, casting a negative light on these unconscious tendencies. However, they can be our friends because they make up our quirky, unique personalities. Friends like these become enemies when they limit us.

Covert enemies must be identified as double-agent spies – keeping you both safe and stagnating.

How do we identify automatic thoughts and transcend limiting beliefs underneath them?

  1. Meditation – to gain an awareness of your thoughts. This affords you the space to be an impartial observer of thoughts without becoming your thoughts. Automatic thoughts lead to a state of automaticity. Meditation places YOU in control, not your thoughts.
  2. Live life on the edge of fear EVERYDAY – We cannot know our unconscious thoughts and their associated limiting beliefs if we do not challenge ourselves enough to reveal them.
  3. Note the thoughts that surface while on the edge – Meditation definitely helps with this. A notebook might too.
  4. Reflect when the day is done and you’re in the dreaded, yet deserved, comfort zone.
  5. Revelation – reveal to yourself through contemplation what your automatic thoughts and beliefs are.
  6. Rewire – seek to challenge them by acting in spite of the automaticity. Eventually, your belief will be changed when you realize that all your self-imposed limits were bull#$@%

The 6th step of acting is done with effortlessness when you learn to let go of all of that which doesn’t serve you. To me, this looks like remaining in the present while avoiding rumination and forcing an outcome. Meditation practice is the foundation for doing this.

Forcing a change in your automaticity is futile.

Spontaneity and welcoming synchronicity have no formula, but these moments inevitably shake you out of automaticity better than following these steps ever would.

Living life transcends how-to prescriptions but I hope this inspires you to lean into your edge of fear.

Whatever that may look like…


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