I just signed up for 3 months of French study at Babbel.com, and I have to tell you, I'm pretty damn excited.
I have always wanted to learn French, but there were several things that kept me from diving in.
The first was the belief that I couldn't do it. I would never really understand it, I would never be fluent, so why bother? The second was fear of embarassment. I used to feel really stupid and helpless when I would try to speak in another language, but a few years ago I ended up learning Dutch through an unexpected twist in my life path. This broke through the barrier that told me I couldn't do this. And that's all you might need too - to just believe you can do it.
Trying to speak and think in French makes me uncomfortable. And this, in essence, is why it's important. When I think of the things I really want, the big dreams, they involve some uncomfortable steps. It involves talking to people who might be a little intimidating. It involves putting my work out to a lot of people, people who will comment, support, reject and interact with my work, and that can feel uncomfortable too.
I only know of one way through this - which is to embrace the art of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
That probably sounds like a huge misnomer. How can you be comfortable being uncomfortable? What I mean by this is, when something sweeps in and you feel off center and out of your element, you maintain a certain level of inner connection to your true self - the Self that is bigger than fear and connected to a higher feeling of strength and calm. Instead of retreating into yourself, wanting to disappear from the world as you feel your body succumb to anxiety, you find the place within you that navigates this like a masterful captain at sea.
So let's say you sit down to discuss a business idea with a potential new client or partner. You have dreamed of this moment! You're about to take the next big step in your goals! How exciting!
But this person has a lot of questions for you, and they're grilling you like they're the FBI. You can't read them, they look displeased, but maybe they're just trying to understand what you're presenting, and it's all pretty intense, which makes your voice get shaky. The words are coming out like marbles are in your mouth. A sweat is breaking out on your forehead. Ugh! Discomfort! You want to bail, to run for the bathroom and crawl out the window and never go back.
But... wait. You know this feeling. You've felt it before. And it passed. It actually wasn't a big deal at all.
So you take some deep breaths. You put your shoulders back - this is no time to shrink. You remember you're here for a reason. You're here because you did something that impressed this person enough to open this door. You're struggling - but that's okay. You're not afraid of these feelings. You're not overwhelmed by discomfort. You tune into that place within you that feels centered. You take another breath, tune in deeper, and relax your body, which relaxes your mind, and you can think again, and ahhhh, there's the words you couldn't find a moment ago.
And now you're okay. You can do this. It's not exactly a home run, but it doesn't need to be. All it needs to be is you, living your life, reaching for the big dreams, and knowing the fear of failure and discomfort does not hold you back. Instead, it's a challenge, like a boulder to be climbed, that does not block your path, but instead, strengthens you and prepares you for the mountain you will one day ascend.
Learning a new language isn't the only way to open this feeling that you welcome in new and unknown things.
You could also try a sport you've never done before. One of the reasons we continue with things as adults is because we've become good at them, and that feels good! But if you go out and try something totally new, such as playing golf for the first time, you're going to be a novice. There isn't that feeling of mastery and achievement there. But that's exactly what you want!
Don't worry about the people who have already mastered what you want to try. The whole point of this is that you don't know what you're doing! And I know - that's awkward and you feel unsteady and unsure. But just remember, you are the person brave enough to put yourself out there.
That courage is going to ripple out and touch all parts of your life, including the ones you want to illuminate but don't yet know how.
For me, learning French is not about one day being fluent. It's not about mastering this - and whew, that already takes a lot of pressure off. It's about trying something new, and saying to the Universe, I welcome in new things. It's also about creating new channels of thought in my brain, about allowing my brain to stay plastic and flexible and open to change, which in itself has so many benefits. And most of all, it's about having fun, about feeling playful with the unknown, like it's an old friend, rather than a stranger I dread and fear.