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Step out of your comfort zone: Here Be Dragons.

*Article originally published on the Huffington Post here.

I love old maps. When I was a kid, we had a print of an old map on the wall of the upstairs landing. It was one of those ones where the globe is split into two circles, with each half containing within it the continents and landmasses on either side of the world. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations of the weird and wonderful creatures that the cartographer had drawn rising from the depths of the oceans or looming ominously across distant lands.

Hic sunt dracones. “Here be dragons.”

Although there are only two historical incidences of this phrase recorded as having been found on maps, the term has become synonymous with the idea that dangers lurk in unchartered waters. A warning for fishermen and travellers of the places to avoid in order to remain safe.

A natural alarm system

If we stray away from the ‘safe’ path in life, our subconscious will flag up that there be dragons nearby. It uses the warning to steer us away from setting a path towards something that it fears may be a threat to our survival. Sometimes, without even being aware of it, we unquestioningly listen to that warning, in the same way that fisherman and travellers would have looked at the razor-sharp toothed sea serpents depicted on their maps and sailed instead in safer waters.

That’s the job of our subconscious, you see. To keep us safe. Pretty much every action and behaviour we find ourselves undertaking has been carefully considered by the subconscious for its potential to threaten our lives. It takes the information that it has gathered about the world in the years that we’ve lived up until now, and plots the safest course to the end of our lives, with little regard for our happiness or fulfilment.

A different perspective

What it doesn’t see, is that while there may be dragons in the uncharted territory, so might there be lands filled with riches and opportunities. For the brave and the bold, those riches and opportunities are there for the taking, and with the right resources the dragons are there to be slain.

So whatever your endeavour, whatever your goal, whatever the dream that lies beyond your comfort zone, step boldly towards it. Arm yourself with the tools you need to slay the dragons. Arm yourself with self-belief, pack courage and resilience in your pockets (if those don’t seem to be available to you right now, seek the help of a good coach or therapist). And as you take your first tentative steps into the unknown, when you hear the alarm bells ringing (and ring they will), remind yourself that in the uncharted territory beyond the familiar, here be growth. In exploring the boundaries of what you once thought was possible, here be potential. And in growth and potential hic vita est. Here be life.

Victoria Ward is a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Coach. Find more from her at her London Life Coaching and Cognitive Hypnotherapy pages, and on Facebook.

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If at first you don’t succeed…

Happy New Year!

I hope that you all enjoyed the festivities of last night, or enjoyed sleeping blissfully through them. I celebrated with friends, and while I woke feeling a little groggy, a walk in the fresh air soon brightened me up.

So while the kids are quietly enjoying The Princess Bride on the TV, I wanted to share a little story with you all.

Yesterday, I was invited ice skating with my son. I wanted to decline, but knowing that my son would love it but was too young to go unaccompanied, I unenthusiastically accepted. I wanted to decline, because three weeks ago, I took him ice skating and completely failed at it. I couldn’t figure out how to move my feet in order to propel me across the ice, I was too concerned about falling over to really go for it, and after about five minutes I gave up. From the other side of the barrier, I watched my 4-year-old child fearlessly persevere on his own until he was able to skate about completely unaided.

I was too concerned about falling over to really go for it, and after about five minutes I gave up

So when I was invited to skate yesterday I wanted to say no. After all, I can’t ice skate. However, over the last few weeks, I’ve been engrossed in working on the talk I’ll be giving at our event on the 16th, “2016: Your Year, Your Way.” I’ve been thinking a lot about how the way we talk to ourselves and the stories we tell ourselves about what is and isn’t possible for us affect the results we get out of life. I realised that three weeks ago I had told myself I wouldn’t be able to ice skate, that I was going to fall over and hurt myself and make a fool of myself, that I’m no good at that sort of thing anyway. Historically, I’ve never been the most co-ordinated or gifted sportsperson, so I gave up before I’d even given myself a chance – a pattern I played out over and over in PE at school. And as Orr’s Law says, what the thinker thinks, the prover proves, and there I was, unable to even move a few inches on the ice.

What the thinker thinks, the prover proves – Orr’s Law

So yesterday as I swapped my boots for skates I decided to try a new approach. I told myself I can learn to skate. I told myself that falling over is ok. I said to myself I love ice skating no matter what my skill. I said to myself that I was choosing to ice skate. I kept myself focused on being able to skate, rather than on not being able to skate. And then, after a few circuits of the rink clinging on to the side, this happened:

Ok, so this happened first:

But… I did it!

You see the words we tell ourselves, and the things we believe about ourselves, have a very real impact on our abilities and actions. If you’d like to know more about how you can begin to harness the power of your thoughts and your mind to bring you more success in this new year, why not come along to our event on January 16th. All the details and tickets can be found here.

Victoria xx