So we’re a few weeks into 2019. Life is getting back to its normal routine, and if you’re like me, you’re finding that some of the changes that you wanted to make were easier imagined when you were in the dream-like state that comes around the holidays. There’s something about the brightness of December coupled with the mixture of uncertainty and optimism from the New Year that makes us feel a little unstoppable. Our hearts are warmed by the December holidays, and we see ourselves looking over this edge into a landscape of possibilities.
But even an exciting edge is still an edge. There’s fear there, when you’re standing at a precipice. When you visit the Grand Canyon, you’re in awe of what lies before you, but you’re also a little afraid. That’s kind of what I think happens to us when we make New Year’s resolutions.
Fear as Fuel
All of our resolutions are tinged with a bit of fear, whether it’s positive or negative. You could be fearful of making the same mistakes this year that you made in the last. You could be fearful of problems that you know will unfold in 2019 that you want to avoid. You could fear feeling stagnant.
How can fear be positive? Fear is fuel. Fear is motivation. It’s instinctual; fear gets you moving. It gets your heart rate up, and it makes you fight or flee. Fear can be a good thing.
It’s when fear gets out of control that it no longer works to your advantage. Then you go from the powerful stage of wanting to fight to the not-so-certain stage of wanting to flee to the crippling stage of paralysis. You’re frozen with fear and you can’t move, you can’t grow, you can’t make a change because you’re so overwhelmed with fear.
How We Become Paralyzed
The positive and instinctual effects of fear get transformed into paralysis when we process too much. As a major overthinker, I know that most of my fear-fuel (the good kind of fear that motivates you to fight) gets snuffed out by analysis paralysis. Over these two weeks, I’ve stopped feeling the heart-pumping optimism for the New Year and I’ve started to cycle into familiar thought patterns. I’m truly getting in my own way.
But maybe that’s ok.
Yes, that’s ok. It’s wonderful to be fueled up and motivated, but that other side of fear—hesitation—is also instinctual. We’re programmed to know both types of fear, and our lives present us with situations that require both action and lack thereof. What we need to find is balance. And I think that’s what can help us all make improvements in 2019, finding that sweet spot between disinhibition and paralysis.
Which Way Do You Lean?
If you’re having trouble with your resolutions, consider if fear is hindering your progress (let’s be real, laziness could be the problem, and that’s a whole other ball game). If you are dealing with fear, which side of the spectrum are you on? Are you fueled and needing to change at all costs, or are you too overwhelmed with changes to even step out of your stasis? Below, I have some ideas for how to get yourself from either side of the spectrum to that balanced spot in the middle.
If You’re Afraid of Going Back to How You Were:
- Make a list of the things you’re afraid of returning to and try to break them down into common themes, if possible. Focus on a mindset that will help you to grow out of that pattern, but try to let some of the details fall into place by themselves.
- Reflect on why it is that you’re so motivated to change. What can’t you tolerate anymore? How much did it impact your daily life? Is there a plan you can make to slowly transition out of these patterns to form sustainable habits that you’re happy with?
- If you’re feeling pressured by other people, talk to them about it. If they’re worried about you, they’ll want to help you. Ask for support.
If You’re Too Afraid to Change:
- Make a list of what you’d like to change, but start small. Be reasonable. Don’t hesitate to set the bar low, because you can make each goal more and more challenging. Give yourself a set of stairs to walk up, not a cliffside to scale.
- Look more closely at the fear you’re experiencing. Where is it coming from? Is it an outside factor? Is it internal? Take time to get to know your fear so that you can decide how you’d like to overcome it.
- Write down accomplishments that you’re proud of. Reflecting on things you’ve overcome in the past is great fuel for tackling new tasks.
Remember that Most Newness Comes with Challenges
No matter what kind of obstacles you’re facing in implementing your resolutions, don’t forget the simple fact that change is pretty much never easy. Honestly. Put things in perspective, and be proud of yourself for even having the interest in improving your life in some way. Even if there are some things that you dislike about yourself, caring enough to change is a great quality. Don’t discount it, and you’ll find yourself centering towards that balance soon enough.