Happy New Year everybody!
Just over one week on, Christmas seems like a distant memory, and, as the reality of the daily routines begin to dawn, I expect that many New Year’s resolutions are already being packed away along with the Christmas decorations. The optimism and hopes of bright new beginnings and exciting ventures, so vivid on New Year’s Eve, are prone to be dulled in the hungover haze of New Year’s Day and buried beneath a mountain of mundane daily tasks once normal service is resumed.
New Year’s Eve is great as a symbolic occasion for stating our intention to make changes for the better, to reach further and to climb higher. But, in reality, change is a decision that we can make on any day, at any time. And once that decision is taken the real work of change begins, the daily commitment to doing the things that we need to do every single day to reach our goals.
That, my friends, is hard, but things of value are usually difficult to attain. And, as most high achieving sportspeople will tell you, it is upon the achievement of lofty goals that we begin to fully realise the joys that were inherent in the journey, the process. We recognise that the real achievement was the path, it was in each individual step that we committed to making along our way.
Moments of glory aren’t made under bright lights, or in the glare of the media, or drowning in the acclaim of the crowd. They are made in getting out of bed when we can’t be arsed, in persisting when faced with doubt, in believing in ourselves when nobody else does. Dreams are made on cold dark nights, in the lonely hours when we fall prey to our fears but refuse to submit; they are made somewhere deep inside.
One of the biggest barriers to creating the changes we wish to see in our lives is, you guessed it, ourselves. Of course, there are external obstacles to be overcome in achieving anything worthwhile, but how many of us falter early on the path, deterred by a minor bump in the road, discouraged by the reality of the hundreds and thousands of steps that are needed to reach the promised land that appeared so sparkly and bright on our horizons on December 31st?
Plenty of us.
Doubts creep in, dragging us back into the comfort zone of what is known. We settle under the false promise that it is better the devil you know, and in the busyness of our day to day lives we unwittingly gather pace along the road to regret, until melancholy thoughts of what could have been are all that is left of those dreams that, many years before, offered a fleeting glimpse of how life could be.
Like in many areas of modern life, social media can be both a gift and a curse as we attempt to make the changes necessary to fulfil our dreams. We can be inspired by the examples of others, their achievements fuelling our own motivation through the belief that if our friends can do it, then maybe we can too.
However, it can also act to dampen our ambition, our own perceived weaknesses and shortcomings sharply illuminated by the golden shine of others’ glowing relationships, new houses, beautiful holidays and lofty achievements.
More than ever we risk facing the price of comparison, the stab of inferiority that can slice away at our own self-worth and expose the imperfections that we convince ourselves will deposit our ambitions in the dustbin of dreams. But we must never compare our insides – our doubts, fears and insecurities – to others’ outsides, the perfect projections of a social media world that only shows us the very tip of the iceberg of others’ lives.
(Don’t be fooled, this image may exaggerate our relationship…)
There is no such thing as perfection, and what we see every day on social media is a mere projection of what others want us to see, a snapshot of life’s best bits. There is no judgement in that statement, merely an observation, and one that has been brought into sharp focus for me since I began to write about life’s challenges. Many people have confided in me, sharing their troubles and revealing the suffering behind the smiles. And while it means a great deal to me that I am able to offer some comfort and support, it also shows to me that as a society we are a long way from being able to speak honestly and openly about the difficulties that so many of us face. It is important that we work to change that, for it is only when our shadows are brought into the light that they begin to fade.
Fear of failure – fed by our negative comparisons with others, and swollen by the public glare that shines on more and more of our lives in the social media age – is the Freddy Krueger of our dreams, slicing its way through them and leaving them in tatters.
But fear only wins when we let it. So I’m going to take this opportunity to share my dreams publicly. I want to build a new life on the platform of opportunity that publishing my book has provided. I want to spend my days writing in cafes while drinking tea and engaging with people around the world, some that will help me to achieve my goals, others that I will help to overcome their own doubts and fears on the way to living their best lives. And I want to travel to cities around the world to speak about my experiences and use them to help others.
Will I achieve my dreams? Who knows, but I know this – I definitely won’t if I don’t believe in myself enough to at least try. And try I will. I will work as hard as I can to make this happen and, however far I make it along the road to my dreams, I will never look back with the bitter taste of regret at having failed to pursue the opportunities that life has presented.
From that place, there is no such thing as failure.
Matthew’s debut book, Something Changed: Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating & Depression, is available now Click here for info
Stay Young – Oasis