Undertaking any new task is a daunting process—be it a new job, relationship, or hobby. The fear of the unknown is a strong motivator to rest on our laurels and revel in past successes. Challenge was fun and exciting when we were young. We didn’t have enough life experience to tell us that failure was going to hurt. You were brave enough to reach out and make new friends without the fear of being judged and rejected. Swing by your ankles from the monkey bars-sure why not! Experience hadn’t taught us we could slip and fall and that bruises hurt. Life was so much simpler then—before experience taught us about failure and fear crept into our lives.
What if we could channel the energy of fear into something more productive? After all, reliving the glory days of the past might be safe but it’s also boring. Evidence suggests trying new things helps to build denser neural pathways, thus resulting in greater cognitive resilience. So at the end of the day, it doesn’t do us any good to sit on our couches basking in the glow of our past success. Our brains need a challenge!
How do we overcome the strong urge to resist change and harness that energy for more productive endeavours? Practice! Start small and work up to the really big things like sky diving or wearing a bathing suit in February. Set yourself up for success by choosing one small challenge. It has to be something that triggers a neurochemical reaction in the brain (with the corresponding physical responses of sweaty palms and elevated heart rate) but not so overwhelming that you become paralyzed by inaction. Ask yourself, what is it about this situation that makes you want to run and hide. Take a deep breath, and think about what’s the worst thing that could happen—is it really that bad? Then think about the best possible outcome and the small steps you’ll take to reach your goal. Gradually with each subsequent success, you’ll become more comfortable with change and be able to embrace life’s opportunities.
By changing our perspective we gain control over our fears. Turn the scary unknown into a challenge to be conquered. Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose—I either win or I learn.” Let’s embrace our inner Nelson Mandela and maximize our potential.