The phrase, “what we should be doing”, gets tossed around so much that it almost has no meaning anymore. We know that we should exercise, eat healthy, meditate, spend more time doing what we love, spend time with family, watch less TV, or whatever it is that we know we “should be doing”. Why, if we know what is good or better for us, do we put it off? If we “know” these things are good for us, why don’t (or why can’t) we just get up and do them?
I don’t think I have a definitive answer to this question. There are lots of reasons: fear, excuses, laziness, to name a few. Personally, I either get lazy or I am afraid of being uncomfortable. Everyone has different reasons and excuses for not doing what they know is good or doing what they want to do. However, I believe that fear is really the root of many of our excuses. Why do we lounge around instead of exercising? Because we don’t want to be hot, sweaty and tired. We know it’s good and we know it’s healthy. We even want to do it. But we put it off because perhaps we’re afraid of discomfort or being tired or not being good enough.
I think fear plays a huge role in how we face our lives. Think about it this way: Let’s say you are unhealthy, have a poor diet and never exercise. You probably know you should eat better and exercise more. These lifestyle changes are pretty much common sense today (but not common practice!). But fear would hold you back from changing: A fear of the unknown, a fear of too much change, a fear of trying new things, fear of discomfort, of not being good enough. These fears keep you in your old habits and make the change seem difficult or impossible. Then you visit a doctor. He tells you that if you don’t change your habits and live a healthier lifestyle, you will likely die in a couple of years. Now, a new fear is introduced into your life: The fear of death. Usually this fear trumps all other fear and eventually you make the change to avoid death.
See how powerful fear is? But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can find a stronger motivation than fear inside of you. That motivation is love. If you don’t love something, you probably won’t do it. Love can counteract fear. Love yourself enough to make the change that you want or need to make.
Here are a few steps to overcome being afraid and love what we need or want to do:
First, identify your fear. What are you afraid of? Dig deep, write it down, talk about it, think about it. Figure out what is the root fear and what is causing it.
Second, let go of your fear. Easier said than done, I know. But until we let go of our fear and “take a leap”, we won’t make progress. Are you afraid of committing to exercise daily? Start with tiny commitments. Commit to only 2 or 3 times a week and only for 5 or 10 minutes to begin. Make a plan and start small. Make it just as easy as lounging around and then increase the challenge over time.
Third, find you why. Learn to love what you’re doing. Find ways to love the activity or the outcome. This is your why. Why are you eating healthy foods? Because you love life and you love how much energy you have. Why do you write daily? Because you love the process of creation and letting your thoughts flow into your writing. Find out why you want to do something and why you love it or how you can learn to love it.
Fourth, take the first leap. The first step is one of the most important. You can’t keep going unless you start going! I started turning my shower to cold water for the last 30-45 seconds. That first time I turned that faucet to cold I had an epic mental battle. Apparently my crazy side won, because I’ve been switching to cold for the past 3 weeks. Just take the first step to get some momentum going.
Fifth, make it easy to keep going. Don’t commit to climb Mount Everest if you just started walking. Challenge yourself, but don’t make it so hard that you get burnt out and give up. With my cold showers I’ve been switching to cold water for the last 30-60 seconds of every shower. This way it’s easy enough to keep going, but hard enough to be a challenge. You know your limits. If you feel like you’re getting worn out then cut back a little bit until you find the sweet spot between too easy and too hard. But don’t quit!
Sixth, just keep going! No matter what, don’t give up. If you’re worn out, tired, or uncomfortable, cut back, slow down or do a little less, but don’t quit. Analyze your pace and your progress and adjust accordingly. There will be days and weeks that are harder than others, but consistency is vital to killing your fear and forming a habit.
Yes, the easy way out is easy. But it’s also the lethargic, boring, unproductive, stagnant way that leads nowhere. You don’t have to be a superhuman. Making progress, forming habits, going somewhere is hard, but the lasting change, happiness, peace, health, or mental wellness is worth it.
Love what you want to do and that love will overcome fear. With every habit I’ve worked on I find a way to love it. I love how I feel when I eat healthy things. I love how awake I am after a quick cold shower. I love writing every day because it clears my head and brings me joy as I create something with words. All of these things are hard and sometimes I’m afraid of doing them (discomfort and difficulty of eating healthy and cold showers, difficult to write every day, fear I won’t be good enough). But when I remember these steps and why I love doing them, I learn to keep going no matter what.