Nothing is more traditional as the year draws to a close than to begin working on a list of goals for the coming year – your New Year’s resolutions. They may be personal or professional, but they are usually things you know you ought to do but for some reason have never found the motivation to see through.
The new year is a clean slate, a new beginning. We summon up all the good intentions in the world and psyche ourselves up to get a running start. Right?
I’d like to suggest a very different approach, inspired by the way 2013 ended for me – it’s not just about how you begin the new year; it’s also very much about how you conclude the old one. And I suggest you conclude the old year by doing something that scares you to pieces.
Let me explain.
This year my boyfriend and I decided to celebrate the holidays in southeastern Baja, along the coast of the Sea of Cortez, as usual. It’s a very popular kiteboarding destination, and we’ve traveled there often with friends.
I don’t kiteboard, but my boyfriend and our friends do. Year after year I’ve strolled the beautiful beach watching the dozens of colorful kites split the beautiful blue sky as the surfers raced this way and that along the choppy water.
I’d routinely be coaxed by our friends (as well as other boarders) to take lessons, but my response was consistent: Thanks but no thanks.
The sport scared me. And this was no abstract fear; I’ve crewed on sailboats on San Francisco Bay for many years, and I have a very healthy respect for the power and impulsiveness of marine wind. There are stories of careless kiters being dragged through parking lots and down into kelp forests. The idea of strapping myself to a 15-foot-wide kite and launching it into 20 knot winds had “Not gonna happen” written all over it for me.
But this year, after hearing “you really need to try it” for the 47th time, and with the encouragement of my boyfriend (who’s been taking lessons) I finally decided to sign up for lessons from a school I trusted.
Why? Two reasons: first, I might actually like it – if I didn’t, then I could point to my lesson and say I tried it. And second, I finally accepted that my fear of it was in fact an argument on behalf of giving it a try.
Doing something scary does not mean doing something dangerous. I knew from talking to my friends that if I tried this sport I’d get the best lessons I could find, and use the latest, safest equipment.
I signed up at a school I was familiar with, and made my reservations clear to my instructors, as well as my mediocre swimming abilities. I knew I’d have a sleepless night the night before, and I did. It goes with the territory.
But I went to my lessons with a positive attitude. I told myself, no matter what happens, I will at least have the fact that I faced my fear as a small personal victory.
The lessons were very challenging, to be sure. My first day was not so successful - fatigued, I had to abort the last water practice half way through - but my second day was completely different. I succeeded, and got enthusiastic raves from my instructor. I actually could do this, and more importantly it was wildly fun. As I reflected on my accomplishment, I realized my fear had vanished and was replaced with an indescribable serenity and a real appetite for the next challenge – like nothing I’ve ever felt before. If only every new year could be turbo charged like this!
Conquering a deep fear gives you a sense of power like no other. And the rush of good feeling that follows is akin to endorphins; you can’t wait till your next accomplishment.
What scares you? Surprise yourself by conquering it. Your list of goals for the new year will seem eminently more achievable overnight.