Happy 2022 everyone! How are those New Years resolutions working out for you? If they have already fallen by the wayside, don’t be despondent- research suggests that you are in the 80% majority. We tend to underestimate how difficult changing long established patterns of behaviour can be. Unfortunately when we fail to deliver the shiny new, improved versions of ourselves we aspired to create, we feel like losers. For this reason many of us choose not to even try…..
Why not dream big?
It’s the same with our dreams; most go unrealised not because they are impossible to achieve but because we don’t want to risk failure. Children dream big; ask a 5 year old what they would like to be when they grow up and they will confidently tell you something aspirational, like an astronaut or an Olympic athlete. We teach our children that anything is possible and yet we talk ourselves out of pursuing our dreams and certainly wouldn’t dare articulate them to others for fear of ridicule. In other words, we sabotage ourselves. What a ridiculous waste of potential.
Why do we self-sabotage?
It’s estimated that the average adult brain thinks up to 70,000 thoughts per day and many are repeated on a daily basis. The more often a thought is reiterated, the more established it becomes. This also applies to behaviours, which is why it’s so difficult to break a habit. Automatic Negative Thoughts (or ANTs) a term coined by psychologists, are more prevalent than neutral or positive ones and are also reinforced by repetition. Their purpose is to keep us safe by identifying potential dangers. Social exclusion was a danger for our ancestors; we are a species whose survival has depended on “fitting in”, so our ANTs talk us out of doing anything which might provoke ridicule; ANTs therefore discourage us from following our dreams and trying new things, sapping our confidence and keeping our lives small and “safe”.
One of the advantages of reaching a “certain age” is caring a lot less about what others think. In truth, we all have so much going on in our own lives, few of us have time to register, let alone judge, what others outside our social sphere get up to. Losing the self-consciousness of youth is extremely liberating, as is the ability to embrace failure. No great discovery or invention was a one-off, beginners luck kind of event. It took time and multiple failed attempts to achieve anything truly great.
What’s the worst that can happen?
With aspiration also comes fear; of asking for something we want and being told “no”. How many times have you not asked for something you desperately wanted because of the possibility of rejection? Inviting someone you’ve fancied for ages out on a date or approaching your boss for a pay rise, for example. It’s not getting a negative response that’s the problem; you’re already not dating that person or enjoying the extra salary; the fear is that most of us feel unworthy of the things we dream about (thanks to our ANTs) and a negative response from our boss or potential date would support this subconscious belief. So we talk ourselves out of asking the very question which might transform our lives. If we put our psychological baggage aside and just did it anyway, hearing a “no’ is really not the end of the world. And guess what? The answer might even be “yes”…. imagine that!
Try something new this New Year..
So instead of repeating the traditional New Years resolution-failure-beating-yourself-up cycle this year, why not try something different by literally trying something different?
The phrase “stepping out of your comfort zone” has become a cliche but trying new things, especially if they are a little bit scary, gives us an opportunity to grow and to feel more alive. Not only that, challenging limiting beliefs about ourselves will show those ANTs who’s boss!
Taking the plunge..
My friend Magnus impressed me enormously by jumping into a local park lake on Christmas morning 2020. Having never tried open water swimming before and with my mind open to a challenge (augmented by a glass of Malbec) I announced that I would join him next year and duly committed it to print, .
Having endured twelve months of his teasing about how my cold showers were going, guess what – I did it! In a local park, sans wetsuit and away from the children’s play area (the kids have suffered enough trauma in recent months) we both took the plunge and waded in up to our necks. Yes, it was freezing and I didn’t hang around long enough to let hypothermia set in but when I got out, I didn’t even feel cold- my body was pumping with adrenaline. It was exhilarating and empowering. I literally felt like I could take on the world. I’m definitely doing that again!
The thing with new, scary experiences is that you never know what you’re made of until you try…..so now it’s your turn!
Love, Julia x