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Why a Safe Lifestyle is Terrifying… and a Detour

Embracing discomfort and redefining what a safe path is

Most people, myself included, are typically wired to take the safest option when making a lifestyle decision. We’ll follow the career path that we’ve worked toward, maintain our social circles (the healthy ones!), and stay within our realm of understanding. What results is usually a pretty good life, not everyone can be Elon Musk, deciding they want to go to space… and doing it. But is pretty good enough? The research says probably not. Why is mental health and depression an ever rising issue1? Why is the U.S. market for wellness products and services #1 in the world2? I think part of the answer may lie in how we define safe, free from harm or risk (per Merriam Webster). A researcher at heart, this is my way of testing this theory and experimenting with a new definition of safe.

Allow me to explain…

In the winter of 2016 I dropped out of a PhD program at Johns Hopkins after getting my Master’s. It wasn’t because of money (my company was paying for it), grades, or workload. The reason I stopped was because I didn’t like the long term view of where I was heading. While Dr. Dooley had an amazing ring to it, I knew that my passions were too broad to go a mile deep in that particular area. This was one of the riskiest moves that I had ever made. I had no idea what would follow, and yet I felt at peace.

Finishing my PhD would’ve been the safe lifestyle decision; there was a clear path to a successful career. But I also knew it was not the successful career I wanted, and it was terrifying. What keeps us on the safe path is the fear of the unknown. It is hard wired into us. Humans have survived throughout history by being wary of the unknown. When being curious could often lead to death, there was little downside to being fearful. Nowadays though, I often find myself confusing discomfort and fear. Thankfully, death is an unlikely outcome for most decisions. So maybe it’s time to try out a new definition for safe.

We all fear what we do not understand. – Dr. Robert Langdon, The Lost Symbol

A New Safe

As a natural introvert, I’ve never been the first person to embrace putting my own ideas and thoughts out there for others to judge. But the most energized I feel is when I get to take part in open, passionate conversation on engaging topics. In the past I’ve always allowed those conversations to come to me, which happened infrequently. This blog is my attempt to embrace the discomfort and foster the community that I’ve always wanted to be a part of. There are no guarantees that it works, but if it does then we’ll make it something invaluable, and if it doesn’t… nothing happens. The fear, like many, is ungrounded and we still walk away knowing more than we did yesterday. I’d call that a win-win, or a new safe! A lot of our anxieties can be alleviated when we truthfully take time to answer one simple question. What’s the worst that could happen? Usually the answer isn’t nearly as bad as we’ve built it up to be.

New Safe: free from irreparable harm and rewardless risk

Where do we go now?

When I decided to start this endeavor I reached out to a lot of friends and family for feedback. I was extremely nervous to even send those messages and to let my ideas see the light of day. But the response was incredibly encouraging, and not because everyone’s feedback was positive. Friends that I haven’t talked to in a few years got back to me with messages of support and some ideas of topics to cover. I learned that others are not fans of blogs (which honestly I haven’t been either), but we were able to catch up and reconnect. I found myself having daily conversations with others that I would’ve talked to infrequently otherwise. Needless to say, it made those initial nerves seem ridiculous! So here is what I want you to do:

  1. Reach out to 3 people this week that you don’t normally talk to. If you admire and respect something an old friend or acquaintance is doing, drop them a message! While you expect that those people are getting messages of encouragement and admiration all the time, it’s more likely that they’re receiving them at the same rate you are. Let’s pick people up that are doing big (or little) things! We’re all trying to navigate in the dark, no matter what Facebook says. I’d love to hear from you.
  1. Take 2 minutes of your day today and leave a comment or send me a message with a topic or idea that has been bouncing around in your head for a while. We all have those things that keep popping up that we’d love to know more about or talk through. I’d be happy to do some research and write up a post, or even just talk with you about it!

Thanks for reading! You’re the best!

Here are some things I’ve come across that I’ve really enjoyed and think you might too:

  • Reading: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

    • I’d say this book is what really got me started down this path. Oddly enough, the easier it is to make digital connections the more care we need to take in fostering deep, meaningful ones. Who wants to do dinner?!
  • Listening: Tim Ferriss Show

    • Amazing content for anyone looking to start a business, amp up your workouts, or generally increase your productivity.
  • Thinking: Calling all teachers! Please drop me a message, I’m a huge advocate for education and would love to talk to you. I’m always working on ideas for making education more effective and getting help to where it’s needed! But I need your help to make sure I’m asking the right questions.

Originally published at dooleynoted.org

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