“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” ~Mark Twain

After realizing that we are not where we want to be in our lives, doing something about it tends to become an idea that is rarely followed up with action. Once we get caught up in a routine – whether we view it as a safety net or a rut – it is easy to keep going through the motions. Sure, we may daydream about what more we can do, or we end up moping about how we allowed our lives to become so monotonous. Either way, we stagnate. We remain still. We throw pity party after pity party for ourselves that no one would show up to even if we bothered to send out invitations. We do nothing and accept that this is our life now.

That alone is why starting is the biggest step we could take. The idea of doing something – anything – to improve our lives is better than sitting back, doing nothing, and being bitter about it. Even if it is as simple as altering the routine to incorporate more vegetables or as drastic as deciding on a new career, it is a new beginning.

So, if all we have to do to improve our lives is to start working towards our goals or making changes, why don’t we? The answer, unfortunately, has been with us for millions of years. We are humans, and we are afraid.

Fear is the underlying creature that prevents us from going forward. We are afraid of failure, having difficult discussions, rejection, getting our hearts broken, not being able to compete with our peers, becoming resentful of others, and the list goes on. The worries of negative outcomes are so overpowering that we do not consider the positives. Success, resolution, acceptance, finding happily-ever-after with the partner of our dreams, thriving, or finding a new love of humanity. Now, isn’t taking a chance of finding happiness or achieving all we dreamed worth the risk? The answer should be “yes, absolutely!”

But when fear makes a nice little home for itself in our heads, we reexamine our situation. We start defending our lifestyle, or else start convincing ourselves that it is not that bad.

Yeah, we may not have our dream job and we dread going to work every day, but it pays the bills.

Never mind the fact that the spark from a relationship is gone. We still like our partners enough, so why rock the boat?

Oh, an amazing opportunity to attend a distinguished university is knocking at the door . . . but it is too far from home. That’s okay, there are other schools.

You know, we always wanted to chase that one dream, but it is unrealistic that we will ever achieve it, so why try?

It is easier to put up with current circumstances than to make changes. We make excuses. We talk ourselves out of it. We can tell ourselves that we are being rational, realistic, or that we are overreacting about how bad things really are. The truth is that we are scared. Not to insinuate that being cautious is a bad thing. On the contrary, when we make drastic changes it is good to have a stable head on our shoulders. It is normal to doubt and second guess, but it should not be our kryptonite. We can weigh the pros and cons (in fact, we should), and explore all the options. One can say they want to be an actor/actress but should not necessarily go on the first thought of uplifting their family to Hollywood. Alternatively, they could enroll themselves in local theatre, learn about the industry, educate themselves on casting agents, and investigate any independent talent in the area. In short, there are numerous approaches to accomplishing goals. Look through them all, see which one seems to be the best fit, and go for it. Just do not be scared away because it seems daunting or impossible.

The reality is that very rarely does anything happen when we just sit and wait for something to happen. Okay, it is possible the we will fail . . . but it is equally possible that we will not. Amazingly, a lot of how our story ends will depend on us. The brilliant thing about failing is that it is not always the be-all, end-all of our lives. Rather, failure is a setback. We will have the opportunity to try again. Circumstances may vary, but the only time we completely fail is when we stop trying to reverse our setbacks. If we keep being resilient, keep working, keeping trying, and continue pushing ourselves forward, we will eventually get to where we want to be. The only time that stops becoming a possibility is when we stop trying.

Our future – the one of our dreams – is out there, but it will not get here with us sitting idly by. Our dream jobs are not going to fall into our laps, so we should start taking the steps to get it. We are not going to get an education by dreaming about it, so it’s time to take a trip to our local community college to explore the options. The attractive person we always see at the coffee shop may just be the person of our soulmate, but they are too shy to ask us out, so it is up to us to take the chance. Nothing is going to be accomplished with us wondering about what could happen. That will come with us doing. The procrastination, fears, and excuses stop here.

Challenge: Start the change. Let’s weigh the options and talk ourselves out of being afraid. If we do not take action and if we are discontent with our lives because of it, we have no one to blame but ourselves. On our marks . . . get set . . . START.