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Lean Into a Radical Life

I was working out the other day to a fitness video called Les Mills Combat and the instructor kept yelling at the audience to "lean in" during peak moments of the workout. He just kept saying "lean into it!" "Keep going!" "Just lean in!" and I have to say, it was so motivating. I started pushing myself harder and I even heard myself start to let out a little yell as I was punching the air as hard as I could until the music stopped, and the workout was done.

This got me thinking about life and the natural response most of us have when things get a little challenging or uncomfortable. I think it's an instinct to sort of withdrawal or shut down with things get shitty or if something seems scary. I can recall so many moments in my life when I felt so awkward, uncomfortable, or just completely freaked out and my automatic response was complete shutdown. I would get quiet, shrink my body down into a little ball, and stare at my feet thinking to myself, "oh my god, when will this be over". So, when my "fight or flight" kicks in, I tend to slip into flight mode.

However, other times in my life I can recall being awkward, uncomfortable, or just completely freaked out and my response was completely different. I just let those feelings wash over me and I kept going. The first time I lived on my own I was a little uncomfortable because I wasn't used to having no one around to talk to. I can even remember going a whole weekend without speaking a word because it just so happened that I didn't have anywhere to be, and I didn't get any phone calls. I remember being completely freaked out the first time I travelled to a new country by myself or feeling awkward the first time I went to a movie or a restaurant by myself, but I didn't shut down. In those moments, looking back, the difference was I leaned in.

I'm recognsing that the difference between living life "safely" and living life "radically" is the decision to back off, or lean in. When things get a little hairy in life, we have a choice in that moment, it's a split-second decision, and it will determine the experiences you will have next. If in those moments, we decide to back off or retreat then we might miss some extraordinary experiences. If we decide to lean in, I can almost guarantee you, that the initial feelings of fear, awkwardness, or discomfort might intensify a bit at first, but what follows is just exhilaration and joy. I remember hearing Will Smith say once that the BEST things in our life live on the other side of fear and he is absolutely right!

When I reflect on some of the decisions I've made over the last 8 years, the ones that felt the scariest or the most uncomfortable are the ones that gave me the greatest joy and most exciting experiences I've ever had. I quit my respectable job with the health benefits and retirement plan to go teach exercise classes in a gym for $10 an hour. THEN I took a customer service job (which at the time felt like a step backwards) for a little more money, but with the option to work remotely. THAT led me to selling off most of my belongings to go be a digital nomad traveling around from place-to-place living in Air BnBs or on friends' and family's couches. So much of that time was hard, it was incredibly uncomfortable, and it was scary as hell, but oh man, was it also exciting and some of the most incredible experiences I've ever had.

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned in my life, is that I have the choice to be who I want and to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I have no obligation to anyone but myself and I can live my life on MY terms and define success MY way. All it takes is the courage to lean in when it feels scary or uncomfortable. I think that might be my new mantra now. "Just Lean In"