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Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Why is it so hard to get started on a new habit? Even one that we know is going to make us feel great, and enhance our lives? Whether it's going for a daily walk, getting to bed a bit earlier, drinking more water, or practicing yoga, it's a given that your mind will seem to work against you and come up with a hundred and one excuses NOT to do the thing you've sworn to start doing every day!

The good news is, you're not alone in this - it's definitely not just you! We all do it, and it has nothing to do with being lazy, or lacking willpower, so please stop beating yourself up about it. When we procrastinate, or come up with a list of other urgent tasks that all of a sudden take priority over making time for our new habit, or feel helpless as we fall back into an existing pattern that we're desperately trying to move on from, there's actually a scientific reason for it! Yes, you read that right, so breathe a sigh of relief and let go of the negative self-talk, because it's not you personally - it's SCIENCE!

You may be feeling understandably sceptical right now - why the hell would there be an evolutionary reason to NOT do something that will benefit you? It seems ridiculous, I know. But it all starts to make sense when we realise that at its essence, it's a fear response, and it's about safety - or at least our brain's PERCEPTION of safety. Have you ever heard the saying "Better the devil you know"? Well, your brain takes that saying very seriously, to the point that, in simple terms, change presents risk, while the status quo, which may not necessarily serve us well, is perceived as "safe". It's the known quantity, the expected outcome - nothing new or different or "dangerous" will arise from the current situation. You're still alive, so the brain pats itself on the back - it's doing it's job remarkably well so far, so why would it want anything to change?

Of course, that works only as long as we are happy muddling along with nothing changing. If we want to learn, grow, and evolve, inevitably there will be times in our lives when we want to do something new, or different. We'll want to step outside our comfort zone and make changes in our lives - go travelling, apply for a new job, leave an unhealthy relationship, eat more healthily, take up a daily yoga practice. All of which, as you read them, sound perfectly reasonable and seem like positive changes, the likes of which we'll probably all want to make multiple times in our lives. And some of which seem fairly simple, and like they should be easy changes to make. "I always feel great after yoga class on Tuesdays! I'm going to start doing some yoga at home too!" then it's 6 weeks later and thoughts like "I don't have time", "I don't have the proper equipment", "I'm always so tired after work", "I don't know enough to know if i'm doing it right" have crowded in every time you even consider rolling out your yoga mat. Sound familiar? All of these are ways for the brain to justify NOT making the change, and they are all ways for the fear to stay in control.

If we can understand and befriend the fear, instead of feeling negative about it, we can move past it and find the way forward, so that we don't get stuck, paralysed by all the reasons that the brain gives us to stay with the current situation. Author Elizabeth Gilbert has a beautiful and humorous way of addressing her fear, and I love to read this "Letter to My Fear" when I'm feeling stuck and unable to make progress on something new. Print it out and stick it on your fridge. Remind yourself that new things can feel scary, and that it's normal to feel resistance and fear. Then take one step towards your goal, and celebrate every success, no matter how small. With time, you'll find it gets easier to recognise the fear, acknowledge it, and move past it, to where you really want to be.

(If you want help creating a daily yoga practice that fits into your life, join my Quick Calm Yoga membership for practices, support and strategies that make it easy for you to enjoy the benefits of yoga, in less than 30 minutes a day.

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