Happy New Year to all the readers of this blog I am confident we will find that 2016, like all years before it, will contain elements Dickens described in Tale of Two Cities, that will reflect the best of times and the worst of times. Unfortunately, with a global media that tends to focus on the bad news, many people approach life today with a sense of fear and anxiety. For some, the start of a new year is the time to recommit and like Hamlet “take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.”
For many of you starting new diets or exercise regimes or, like Lisa, starting a new venture, there may be understandable anxieties and fears. The trouble with fear is that it closes off learning. It leaves us less open to find new and creative ways forward. At its worst, it can spread panic and produce a tsunami of negative emotion that destroys all in front of it.
Fear also paralyses us. It stops us from trying new things, from finding new solutions to tackle both existing problems and the new ones to come. This is why, for example, in the middle of the Great Depression, US President Franklin Roosevelt, argued effectively that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Yet, most of the things we fear never happen. Moreover, it is during times of adversity that we also achieve our greatest growth. Thus, rather than be discouraged by today’s problems, the reality is that there was never a more exciting time to be alive. The key is to make a start, to stare our fears, our challenges, and our difficulties in the face and take some small action today, right now, to confront them. That is the power of New Year’s resolutions. However, we shouldn’t wait to the New Year to do this. Every new day, every moment is charged with possibilities.
As a teacher and father of two beautiful daughters, I especially worry that many of our young people are unduly fearful, anxious and negative. Some of the well-established ways of promoting positivity in our lives include:
- Avoid negative people who zap you of your energy
- Eat nutritious food and get regular exercise and sufficient sleep
- Keep learning, no matter what your age or state in life. Especially find mentors in your life to with whom you can express your fears and be comforted by the optimism and joy
- Laugh often and develop a sense of humour
- Get music into your life—dance and sing
- Focus on your breathing and being conscious in the moment
- Turn off your mobile phones and disconnect periodically and take time to reflect and communicate at a deeper level with friends and loved ones
- Remember the paradoxes of life: eg to find yourself you must lose yourself; to lead you must serve; the more you fail the more likely you are to succeed; the more you learn the
- more you realise how little you know; the more you fear death, the less you enjoy life.
All this does not mean we should ignore difficulties and challenges. It does mean that we should spend our energy focusing on those actions and engaged in activities that promote our well-being and enhance the chances of making progress in addressing our problems.
In the end, optimism/positivity is a choice. Given that one’s thoughts, words and dreams shape our reality and guide our future, it is the right and best choice to make. No matter what life throws at you in 2016, keep the sun shining in your life and take heart from the words of Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”