“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.” — William Shakespeare
The new year stretches out ahead like virgin snow. Nary a track or footprint in sight. The possibilities are as endless as the sky. The impressions you could make by venturing out on a new journey are at once infinite and unknown.
Unfortunately, you most likely won’t make the trip. You will stand at the cabin door to ponder and fret, only to decide not to go forth at all. You will remain nailed to the boards by fear and indecision, unable to commit to north, south, east or west. The door will stay closed and you will remain inside, believing you are safe and secure as long as you can walk back and forth across that same patch of floor without making a mistake. You will convince yourself that you can’t fail, but ironically, by failing to choose, you will have chosen to fail in the same tried and true way as always before. And your life will continue to shrink.
What you fail to understand is that success and failure are inextricably intertwined. A basketball star, bound for the Hall of Fame, most likely will have made less than 50 percent of all the shots he/she ever attempted throughout his/her entire career. A baseball player of this caliber would have successfully hit less than 35 percent of all the pitches ever thrown to him. That’s a failure rate of 65 percent for an entire career. Yet, what if he had never swung? Bill Vaughan once said, “In the game of life it’s good to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season.”
In sales, it is axiomatic that failure is a stepping stone to success. The calculus of sales success recognizes the ratio of “calls” to “closes.” If it takes 10 calls to close one sale, then every failed call brings you closer to success. Those who expect nothing less than to close on every call are guaranteed an unsuccessful career in sales. This is also true in life. The expectation of a failure-free existence is a recipe for an unfulfilled one.
The advent of the new year is an arbitrary demarcation of time that provides you with a chance to take stock and look ahead. It can be a time to wipe the slate clean and write some new rules up on the board. It’s an invitation to shed some old ways and try something new. It may be a good time to risk a fall, if only to discover that you won’t break.
Perhaps the greatest resolution you can make in the new year is to diminish your fear. This will not be easily done, but it cannot be done at all by standing still. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things that he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experiences behind him.”
There are many natural and man-made disasters that remind us that there is no such thing as life without risk. But the greatest personal risk of all may be a life unlived. There isn’t a second, minute, hour, day, week, month or year that is guaranteed to any of us. The great disasters punctuate this truth on a dramatic scale, but the realization also starts to hit home as we age, losses mount and begin to see the future as borrowed time. You suspect it may be time to start taking your resolutions seriously.
Perhaps there’s an awakening to the realization that the greatest obstacle standing between you and your dreams might be you. So along with resolving to diminish fear may come a companion resolution — to accept responsibility for your life. Nobody can make you walk out that door, but only you can keep yourself locked inside. If you’ve been waiting for next year, here it is. Will this be your year?
As you gaze out of that cabin door at the freshly fallen snow stretching to the horizon, why not chart a course and get going? This can be the year to make some tracks. Now can be your time to leave footprints in the drifts. The possibilities are limitless — don’t limit yourself. Your life is waiting, and it won’t wait forever.
— Stuart Light, M.A., LMFT, is a local writer and licensed marriage and family therapist. He serves as affiliate faculty in the Master’s in Clinical Psychology Program and also in the BA program at Antioch University Santa Barbara, as well as at Santa Barbara City College in the Alcohol and Drug Certification Program. He is the author of numerous articles, columns and essays on political, social and psychological issues.