The start of a new year brings with it mixed feelings of renewal, hope and excitement. People are eager to talk about resolutions—ones they’ve made in the past or plan to make for the upcoming year. I went out with my closest friends for dinner right before the New Year and the predictable subject arose. One mentioned she hoped to learn how to snowboard and surf as well as cooking more. Another joked she doesn’t even bother making resolutions because she wouldn’t keep them and followed with a “life is too short” anecdote. Then it was my turn, and I had to make a surprising confession: I always make the most ridiculous resolutions anyone has ever heard of.
Now, let me describe what I mean by ridiculous. I’m so incredibly afraid of letting myself down (extreme fear of failure) that I make the easiest resolutions one could possibly keep. For example, for 2012 one of my resolutions was: “Refrain from buying any more nail polish for one year.” No, I am not kidding. Sadly even that was a struggle, but I fulfilled it because I needed to feel that pride behind accomplishing a goal and marking it off the list as complete. This year, I found myself in the same pattern with easily attainable goals such as “Wash my face before bed, even when I’m really tired,” and “Stop thinking my Toshiba laptop is an iPad and touching the screen, leaving behind millions of smudges on it.”
I sat down earlier today and added something at the very top of my 2013 resolutions: “Make crazy, gigantic and likely unreachable goals.” I’m realizing more and more that if I make a large-scale goal and accomplish a smaller one when trying to achieve it, then I’m already further than where I started. People tend to accomplish about half (or even less) of what they set out to do so if aiming to run a half marathon, try for a full marathon. I’ve always wanted to take a yoga teacher training course in India, but never bothered to look into it much because I’m pretty out of practice with yoga these days. So if I just went ahead and put that type of large resolution on my list then it’s more likely I’ll feel the need to get back into yoga and start re-introducing myself. On the other hand, if I had made the resolution just to get back into yoga, I would probably just end up buying a really expensive pair of lululemon yoga pants and ending my journey there.
Health and fitness experts usually agree that the best way to get started on a fitness plan is to set small goals that lead to a large goal. I agree with this, but think some people work better by daydreaming about the crazy big goal rather than the smaller one that doesn’t seem to be quite enough. If you’re trying to lose a few pounds to fit into your new bathing suit for your vacation to Mexico, you’re apt to spend time on that treadmill anticipating the feeling you’ll have when lying on the beach and not worrying about covering your mid-section with a towel. The underlying trick to remember is that congratulating ourselves too much along the way can lead us off track, while berating ourselves can of course give us the same result.
Fear of failure is something that everyone can relate to. Even the most successful people sometimes drown in doubt and need to throw themselves a lifebuoy. My father and I were discussing the inevitable stress that comes with the holiday season and how worked up people get every year just thinking about all that they have to do, a situation my father calls “necessary stress.” We talked about how much one tends to look at the past with rose-coloured glasses and then have difficulty living in the present and planning the future because they think nothing could compare to how “perfect” things were in the past. I believe this relates to a lot of different areas in life: past relationships, jobs, living situations, etc. Constantly comparing to the past keeps us from even attempting things in the future. What sometimes could have sparked motivation can deter us from even taking the first step towards a better future. Maybe we haven’t stuck to our resolutions or goals in the past, but that certainly doesn’t mean we won’t achieve them in the future and it shouldn’t prevent us from starting to form new habits.
Set unattainable goals this year. Choose gigantic, nearly-impossible dreams and write them down. If they seem laughable… laugh. By setting your goals higher, you force yourself to fulfill the smaller ones that set you on your way. One of the most quoted and memorable lines from the film Inception sums all of this up quite well: “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” Don’t let fear of failure be the fear that you refuse to conquer. Once you realize you can overcome your biggest fears, you realize you have the power to overcome anything that ever comes your way. It will make you mentally stronger and will certainly be a thrill-ride worth taking.