Where the magic is — why it’s all around us of course!
You’ll have to indulge me a bit today. I’m about to tell you a story about a key turning point in my life.
You’ve heard it said, I’m sure, that when you step out of your comfort zone that’s where the magic is.
And that has proved to be true for me. When I was in my 30’s and living in New York City, my roommate coaxed me into taking acting lessons. The first class was one on improvisation. Talk about discomfort!
After completing two more acting courses, my roommate, another friend and I decided we were ready to take the next logical (and exciting) step — auditioning for a musical that was going to be presented at a well-known non-profit community theater in the city.
Fear quickly set in.
One voice in my head said, who are you kidding? You’ll make a fool of yourself. And another voice said, you can sing on key and carry a tune, you’ll be fine.
Boldly, I chose to step outside of my comfort zone.
But I wasn’t going to take the chance of embarrassing myself in the process.
What did I do?
I hired a voice coach. We did scales, breathing exercises, and ran through the audition song I’d chosen by Lerner and Loewe (Almost Like Being in Love) a number of times. My coach told me I needed to make the song “my own.” He wanted me to study Etta James and other female vocalists. He wanted me to take note of their phrasing.
It all seemed way out of reach.
The evening of the audition I was terrified. When I arrived, I asked the assistant producer if I could audition first, and she agreed. Meanwhile, I went to sit with my friends secure in the knowledge that in my pocket, was half a Valium.
Whew! I was going first. Nothing beats getting something you dread over with fast. But a moment or so later, I was informed that I was going to be first of the “new” (those who had never auditioned before) people to try out.
The first person to audition was a guy who sang with the New York Metropolitan Opera. I almost fainted when I heard him. I ran to the bathroom and took the Valium.
The last person to sing before the “new” people began was a woman who was performing at the Waldorf Hotel.
And guess what her audition piece was?
Almost Like Being in Love. Wow – what a voice! She danced all around the audition stage. Everyone was enthralled with her performance.
My name was called.
At the same time, my two friends leaned over to me and whispered, “You can’t do this.”
But I had to.
Somewhere inside of me I’d made a commitment to myself that I was going to perform. I had already stepped outside my comfort zone once with the improv class. I could do it again.
Like a robot, I walked to the piano. I didn’t see the audience at all. The sheet music covered my face except for my eyes. And standing rock still, I sang.
It was over in a few moments. I returned to my seat. No one said a word. My friends gave me the “it will be alright” look.
As for me, I was beaming.
It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. To do something I was terrified to do was amazing. So amazing in fact that I ran up on stage for the dance audition (which was even worse, by the way). No problem.
My experience auditioning led to doing other things that required courage. Why? Because I had done it not once but twice successfully before.
Although I never got to be in the musical or even the drama that I auditioned for later, I had faced a huge fear. (You may also want to read one of my earlier blog posts: The Energy Boost From Fear.)
And what I carry around with me as a result is the inner strength to meet challenges. Facing my challenges doesn’t always presume fearlessness, but more often than not, I push myself out of my comfort zone.
So many times, we allow our fears to get the better of us. Big things, small things, insignificant things. Fear gets in the way. And when it does, we never get to experience the magic.
While I urge you to step out of your comfort zone when the opportunity arises, the following is the real reason why I’m telling you this story today.
Where the magic is.
We all have our unique positive experiences that have allowed us to grow and develop specific strengths.
Experience-dependent neuroplasticity tells us that the mind (the brain) takes its shape from what it focuses on. Retelling (and reliving) my auditioning experience ingrains it in my mind and helps me build my courage for the future. When I seek courage the next time, I won’t need a medal like the Cowardly Lion, my brain will have a prior courage success to build on.
Give some thought to where you’ve been placing your attention. What opportunities and situations will present themselves for you to build your strengths? Hopefully, you’ll be focusing more on joy, positive friendships or something nice you did for someone as opposed to thinking about your worries, sadness and mistakes.
When you keep your mind on the good and take the time to savor it by repeating your stories and remembering the positive moments, your brain will take note and strengthen that connection.
Even lingering a few minutes extra to enjoy your pleasure, while smack in the middle of something good happening, will help to change your brain’s shape for the better.
That’s where the magic truly is.
What about you? Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and experienced the magic? What did you do, and how did it feel? And of course, what about the next time you fear doing something? Any tips or insights you’d like to share? Please comment below. We always love to hear from you.