Make 2014 the Year of Living Fearlessly

Rebekah Hoffmann - Contributing WriterJanuary 3, 2014 

Do you feel stuck in a rut? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but never tried? Do you have unfinished business you wish to resolve or suffer pangs of regret for a path not taken? If the answer to any of these is “yes,” what’s holding you back? Fear of the unknown? Fear of failure? Fear of others’ opinions? Whatever your reasons, the common denominator is most likely fear.

Making changes does require sticking your neck out, taking a risk, and that’s scary. But living fearlessly is going forward, despite your fear, in the belief that the potential rewards are worth the risks -- that you are worth the effort.

And right now - today -- is a great time to start going after what you want.

Start small

“Living fearlessly doesn’t have to mean you skydive,” explained Diana Appleton, a licensed clinical social worker in Shiloh. “It can just mean doing things differently, trying out new things, opening yourself up to the possible.”

In fact, Appleton regularly advises clients -- regardless of their long-term goals -- to start off small, with something readily doable, “something that they can do right now.”

If improving your health is your long-term goal, exercising to “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” or cutting soda out of your diet might be what’s possible right now, she said.

Know thyself

Before you set a goal for yourself, though, make sure it is your goal, not someone else’s for you.

“It’s really about getting in touch with your core self,” said Appleton.

She explained that there are many ways to go about doing that - from meditating to journaling.

“You’ll want to figure out where you are in your life in relation to where you would like to be. Ask yourself questions like ‘Am I doing what I want? Is this what I had expected or hoped for, and, if not, what can I change?’”

Celebrate your successes

Once you are clear on your goals, focus on the positive, not the negative.

When you make progress, you need to give yourself a pat on the back before tackling another step instead of beating yourself up for any slip-ups along the way, she said.

Celebrating your successes, even the small ones, will help you gain confidence and will empower you to have more success. It’s quite possible you’ll gain momentum on your goal path as you feel better about yourself in a snowball-effect.

“You can love yourself (to achieving your goals),” she declared.

Seek cheerleaders, avoid naysayers

It helps to have others encouraging you along the way and celebrating those achievements with you.

Appleton said, “The key to women believing in themselves is finding someone else that believes in and appreciates them.”

Sometimes it can be more helpful to have relative strangers as cheerleaders rather than those closest to us. Close friends and family can inadvertently discourage your efforts to change.

She explained that those closest to us are as likely to say, “You’ve always been like that, that’s just you” as they are to say, “You can do it!”

People not as accustomed to your normal behavior patterns won’t have all those preconceived notions about who you are and, therefore, may find it easier to be supportive.

If you are concerned that certain friends or family might be naysayers, “you may not want to tell them you are making changes because their response may be to tell you it won’t work or try to convince you to stay the same,” Appleton noted.

Concerned you don’t have enough supportive cheerleaders in your life? Seek out a support group. There are many available, some related to specific issues, others more general in nature. Appleton leads one such support group specifically geared toward those seeking to make life changes.

You could also organize your own informal support network with other like-minded women.

“(Nurturing) women are wonderful for each other as support in bringing about change.”

The enemy within

Do you sabotage your own efforts? You may be your own worst naysayer. Beware of your internal dialogue; it can be very destructive.

“Too often we have repetitive, negative, self-talk,” Appleton stressed.

Getting unstuck

There are times when taking even a small step toward change can seem impossible. Oftentimes, it’s when people are overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, according to Appleton.

“When we’re stuck, truly stuck, we feel really hopeless, and everything is a chore,” she explained. “When you feel better about yourself, you can feel more hopeful. When you are more hopeful, you can make changes.

That’s a time when it may be essential to focus first on improving your outlook.

“Think ‘What is one thing I can look forward to today?’ to try to find some joy,” she advised. “Things don’t have to be perfect to be good.”

In relationships, it takes two

If your goals involve changing a relationship, be aware that “the only person we can change is ourselves,” Appleton stressed. “And you shouldn’t change yourself just for someone else.

“If you want to makes changes, ask yourself, ‘What am I doing that may be bringing problems to the situation?’ And, remember, no one person is at fault.

“By changing ourselves, it does open up the opportunity for people to respond differently,” she said but cautioned that others may be initially suspicious of these changes.

Know when to seek professional help

Some issues, like phobias and those rooted in traumatic past experience, may be too overwhelming to tackle without the help of a trained professional. In those cases, the most fearless move of all can be to reach out to an appropriate resource to begin the process.

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