I was talking to a recently retired neighbor who was sharing a lot of his “if onlys” with me. “If only I had taken better care of myself, maybe I would not be suffering many of the limitations I am now, and maybe I would have more energy to do the things I can only dream of doing now. I always told myself I would try some new things, I promised myself that once I past this milestone or once that event was over I would try some of those things I put off. I realize now that I fear doing things outside my comfort zone. And that has been the fact of my life. My comfort zone has actually shrunk now and I am angry with myself for all the things I avoided…and probably could have done if only I would have done a little at a time. “
I am not trying to be a nice guy and tell you what you want to hear, or make the path to personal growth seem easier. The reality is, if you do not believe in yourself, or cannot see yourself making needed changes, nothing will change. You will be destined to walk in circles, making excuses or worse, sabotaging your progress by doing counter-productive things that reinforce your self-abusive thoughts.
Whether you need to face your fears that have developed as a result of your panic attacks or obsessive/intrusive thoughts, or whether you are realizing the need to explore and deal with the conflicts and issues that cause your anxiety/panic symptoms to begin with, the process requires you to take reasonable but planned and frequent steps or nothing will happen. Fear is pervasive and powerful. Only when you take steps to break down those fears by actually doing things that are contradictory to those sabotaging thoughts and avoidant behaviors will anything change. You need to develop a momentum, which helps create more energy to fight the forces of fear in your mind.
Small, repeated steps give you the courage to try just a little more. Isn’t that the way you learned to walk and talk ? When did you forget about desensitization, the process of taking steps and being able to face reasonable but not overwhelming fear, and begin your “All or Nothing” approach to life ?
I thought much about this while watching the Olympics. While admiring the achievements of the many athletes competing there, my mind wandered and wondered as to what it took for each of them to get to where they were both in their personal lives and as competitors of Olympic proportions. They did not get that way over-night or easily. Step by step, they had to train their bodies and minds to attain what they had. Their personal and professional growth in their respective areas of expertise became their priority.
What would your life be like if you took just a few steps forward in facing some of your fears instead of avoiding and making excuses ?
A crucial factor with avoidance is that life just marches on and complications and life’s little detours and crises happen. As I have mentioned in previous articles, you are able to maneuver through what life throws at you when you have some momentum behind you. When you set those goals and make them reasonable, then create steps to accomplish them day after day, you begin to create that momentum that can see you through the detours.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist / Coach