My heart’s racing, my breath becomes faster, and my palms begin sweating. I become super-conscious of myself and feel like everyone’s watching me. Every second that goes by I feel more anxious to get up and leave without looking back. And yet, as I lie there on the street I suddenly notice that the sky hasn’t actually fallen down on me. Finally my clock ticks 20 seconds and I get up and hurry back home – smiling inside.
Lying down on the street might not sound difficult, but if you’re like most people, it will feel very uncomfortable at first. It’s uncomfortable because no one ever does so. You just don’t see people on their backs on the sidewalk, and it’s very unusual when someone does decide to experience the pavement this way. Furthermore, lying on the street might carry a social stigma for many people, as the ones who are in a lateral position tend to be either drunk or homeless.
But why the heck would you spend time on the street, you ask? Well, the fact that you might ask that is exactly the reason I’m doing it. See, many people go through their lives in a state of dream or trance, without ever questioning the mental models or mind sets that they hold (of course you don’t, but most other people do). In many ways it’s because of our education and the way we were brought up. Both our parents and our teachers usually teach us to behave and do things in a certain way that conforms to social norms and rules. Put shortly – we are conditioned to act nicely.
Knowing what’s accepted behavior in society is important, because it helps us function in our world and prevents us from getting into unnecessary trouble. However, few people are ever taught about when or why the rules and norms should be broken. Instead, we are further conditioned to conform when we enter work life, which has its own set of rules and norms. We then proceed to go up the corporate ladder or stay on the same job for years without ever questioning whether what we’re doing makes any sense. We are stuck in the rat race, waiting for retirement and often feeling miserable without fully knowing why.
This is what I want to avoid. And that’s why I’m lying down on the street for 30 days.
I believe that by breaking the norm, by going outside my comfort zone and doing something out of the ordinary I can plant the seed for personal transformation. By taking a massive leap out of my comfort zone and by choosing not to conform to social rules I hope to escape the rat race – and live my life the way I see fit. By sharing my experience in my blog I make myself accountable to a larger audience – and hopefully inspire others to uncomform as well.
Why choose the pavement?
So why exactly did I choose lying down on the street? To be honest, it’s mainly just because I have pumped into this idea from time to time in different contexts and different books. Most recently I heard about the idea in Tim Ferris’s 4-hour workweek, but I also had previously seen this TEDx talk discussing the idea.
But what really made me choose lying on the street as my challenge was the fact that whenever someone told me about doing so, I would immediately feel fear and anxiety rise within me. I regard fear as a sort of beacon or a sign post that shows the next step in personal growth. It’s usually what we fear most that we need to do, because by going toward what we’re afraid of we liberate ourselves from that fear. Furthermore, lying down on the street is very simple and doesn’t require any skills – just the ability to face my fears.
So, the pavement it is. The next thirty days I will be lying down on the street every day. I will begin with 15 seconds and gradually increase the time to 30, 45, 60 seconds, and finally to 2 minutes or so. My aim is that by the end of this challenge I will have decreased my fear of social rejection – and that I will not be afraid of fear.
You can follow my challenge on Twitter, where I share updates and pictures each time I complete the challenge.
Wish me luck!