One of my new year’s resolutions was to read books I have on my shelf that somehow remain unread. It’s part of my de-cluttering and simplifying of my life. I have just finished Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

It’s a well-known story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl in hiding from 1942 to 1944 with seven other people in a “secret annexe” – secret rooms above an office in Amsterdam. Because their survival relied on as few people as possible knowing that they were there, they had to remain silent throughout the days, not even using water, which might alert the office-workers below that people were hiding upstairs. Every day they worried they could be discovered and taken by the Nazis. To survive they relied on hoping for the war to end and the Nazis to be defeated.

What made me think was how these people were trapped in this life. Anne had been such a friendly, sociable person but was restricted to being friends with the seven others in hiding, two of whom were her parents and one her sister. I started to think about our lives and how we too are trapped – not physically but mentally. Anne was trapped because of her race and the horrible war situation, but how many of us are trapped in our own world. We’re trapped inside our comfort zone.

The limits that exist in our life are the ones we place on ourselves. In general people hold themselves back more often in life because of a lack of confidence than a lack of potential or ability.

Take a moment to think about your life and what you do regularly. How often do you push yourself to the point of being scared or uncomfortable? How often do you try new activities or attempt something that you’ve previously been unsuccessful at?

If you’re not pushing yourself and striving to do new and scary things then you’re not expanding your comfort zone. And the unfortunate part of that is that if it’s not expanding it’s contracting. As children we spend every day expanding our comfort zones and skill levels. Just watch a one-year-old learn to walk. There’s a period of instability, many falls and bumps into table corners but with every injury comes a stronger resolve to try again and become better. Eventually the children master the skill of walking and begin to run and jump. We take walking for granted but there was a point in our life when, as we lay on our stomachs licking dust off the carpet, it may have seemed like an impossible dream.

Somehow as adults we change and stop at the first failure or sign of failure. It appears that the encouraging environment that children grow up in evaporates as adults don’t seem to believe that encouragement is still relevant.

People need encouragement and they need to dream and have people support their dreams. Donald Trump sees that the difference between himself and others is that he thinks big. “I have to think anyway, so I might as well think big.”

Within a positive environment we feel safe thinking big and chasing our goals. Within a supportive environment we feel it is okay to fail along the way. Within an open and loving environment we recognize that we all face similar challenges and have similar worries and concerns and that we’re all here to help each other.

Unlike Anne Frank we are not forced to be a prisoner. Let’s not be imprisoned by self-imposed limits. Throw caution to the wind, take a risk – that leap of faith. Recognize that anything’s possible.

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