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“The times of struggle are just life’s way of giving you much-needed perspective, forcing you to dig deep to find the courage and the strength to create your own solutions”
At the start of every new year, when the world resolves to ‘change’ – losing weight, saving money, paying off debt, getting organized, journal daily, we temporarily see this as a cleansing breath…a new beginning, as we bid farewell to all that was wrong with the past year. How many of us start off the year motivated, inspired, committed, believing that this will be ‘my year’? Hhhhmmm…can the simple stroke of midnight, recognized with party hats, champagne toasts and the peels of Auld Lang Syne, have the power to transform our lives? If the fireworks heralding in a new year can truly sprinkle us with the magic fairy dust of change, why then is January 19th largely regarded as “Quitter’s Day” – the day when most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions? We do not need the calendar to tell us that we can change. What we need is courage, desire, and accountability – three attributes that can’t be found at the stroke of midnight because they are found deep inside ourselves, although sometimes we just need a little direction to find them.
Not all of us cruise into the new year, guided by a North Star of excitement and motivation. For many, the new year only serves as a reminder that we are facing yet another year with no direction or purpose. These individuals are not making resolutions to run a marathon, they are simply trying to get through each day. Whether we are upbeat and motivated or whether we are feeling low, scared, or disappointed in ourselves, it all comes down to mindset, and THAT is something we can change at any time throughout the year. This, I know firsthand.
Like anyone else, sometimes my mind says, “Larisa, you can do this” sometimes those mental demons say, “why bother…you’ll never succeed.” I’ve learned a long time ago that it’s up to me to decide whether to give power to those negative thoughts. When the flames of negativity start to spark in my mind, rather than giving that small fire the oxygen to turn it into an inferno, I’ve learned that I can tell those negative thoughts to “back off”. The times in my life when I’ve felt the lowest, the most confused or uncertain were the times when life was pushing me in a brave new direction towards an exciting new destination. If I would have allowed those negative thoughts to cripple my momentum, I would’ve sank in the quicksand of despair and self-pity, and for me, well, I have no intention of sinking.
“It is scary when our mindset is a jumble of short-circuiting wire, and we can’t figure out which way to go, what to do, or who to turn to. But if we sit back and take time to look at our immediate world, these can be our moments of greatest clarity”
“You may not continue following your initial plan, you may have to go back to the drawing board a time or two (or even a hundred times), and the benchmarks for the undertaking may change, but if you quit, you’ll never succeed”
It is scary when our mindset is a jumble of short-circuiting wire, and we can’t figure out which way to go, what to do, or who to turn to. But if we sit back and take time to look at our immediate world, these can be our moments of greatest clarity. If we recognize that we have the power to tell that little voice of doubt, hurt and confusion in our minds to ‘back off’, we begin to see the world as one of opportunity, rather than challenge. We see hope instead of despair, and we feel motivation rather than depletion. It has been the times in my life when I’ve been the most ‘lost’ that I’ve truly found my greatest sense of purpose and direction. Sometimes, the only way to climb the ladder is to start from the very bottom, and when you reach that first rung, you’ll be motivated to go one rung higher…. before you know it, you’re climbing the ladder. While these rough patches in life are unsettling, they are necessary. How can we truly appreciate our potential, recognize how far we’ve come or the magnitude of our accomplishments if we didn’t have the low and lost times to compare them to? The times of struggle are just life’s way of giving you much-needed perspective, forcing you to dig deep to find the courage and the strength to create your own solutions.
Changing our pathway in life can be scary, and it’s easy to give into fear. Remember, fear is a reaction, but courage is a decision, and on the other side of fear, we find the most extraordinary destinations. Too often, we let the fear of failure stop us from pursuing our goals – starting a new career, going back to school, becoming an entrepreneur. Failure is one of the necessary steppingstones of life, teaching us the largest, most important lessons. I’ve failed more time than I can count. I’ve been frustrated, discouraged and even afraid, but each time I reach than a less-than-ideal conclusion, I force myself to regroup and go at it again. I won’t allow myself to quit. Once you quit, you subconsciously give yourself permission to quit again. Quitting can very easily become a habit. You may not continue following your initial plan, you may have to go back to the drawing board a time or two (or even a hundred times), and the benchmarks for the undertaking may change, but if you quit, you’ll never succeed. For me, success is the result of my making the decision to act with courage – even in times of uncertainty and fear, and the willingness to keep going in the wake of setbacks and disappointments.
“The only way for us to find the pathways which have the power to transform our lives is by expanding our horizons of knowledge, for only then will the vision for our future take shape”
“We don’t need a New Year to give us the power to transform ourselves. We don’t need resolutions which only last until January 19th. Everything we need to live our lives with purpose and conviction already lives inside us”
Life never stops teaching, so you should never stop learning. One of the easiest New Year’s resolutions to keep is to commit to learning one new thing every day. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “If you aren’t willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” The only way for us to find the pathways which have the power to transform our lives is by expanding our horizons of knowledge, for only then will the vision for our future take shape. If we fail to learn about one another, familiarizing ourselves with cultures, values, and innovations around the world, then we limit the perspective and resources that will help us achieve our full potential. If we fail to make self-enlightenment and education a priority in our lives, then we are limiting our potential, condemning ourselves to a short-sighted vision of the world, which limits our scope of opportunity. Failure to learn is akin to an artist trying to paint a masterpiece with only one or two colors. The more you learn, the more color you contribute to the portrait of your life.
It is important that we take time to focus on ourselves, knowing that self-care is not selfish or narcissistic. Easier said than done, and relative to this point, I am still a work-in-progress. Let go of toxic friendships, situations, and past decisions. It’s okay to unfollow people in real life, just as we do on social media. If we make a mess of today, we can forgive ourselves and start fresh with the sunrise. We are all charged with making an impact – however great or small that impact is, and it’s up to us to determine what our impact will be. Sometimes we just must take a break and use that time to rejuvenate, showing ourselves patience, kindness, and grace; and in those moments is when we find the greatest sense of clarity and direction. I remind myself daily that, no matter how ‘down in the dumps’ I feel, it is important to move forward each day, knowing that sometimes even the smallest step requires the greatest courage, but courage is the antivenom to regret. We don’t need a New Year to give us the power to transform ourselves. We don’t need resolutions which only last until January 19th. Everything we need to live our lives with purpose and conviction already lives inside us. You sell yourself short by assuming that you can only start anew on the threshold of a new year. Wherever you are, whatever day you are on, make this your starting point. Start to write your book…take a walk around the block…volunteer in your community or take the first steps to start your own business. That step you take today, will put you one step closer tomorrow – and 365 steps closer this time next year.