Two Words That Can Motivate You to Keep Going: What If?

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

Carefully, I wrote my New Year’s Resolutions neatly in my purple leather bound journal, which chronicled the ups and downs of the past year of my life.

Resolutions, whether they’re made on the first of January or any day of the year, are refreshing. It’s a chance to start again—the closest you can get to a “redo” of the past.

In prior years, I made resolutions that were destined to fail. Read one book per week. Write a book. Learn yoga.

It wasn’t that the previous resolutions were bad. Rather, I had failed to put any sort of plan in place to help me succeed. I only had a lofty goal, not steps laid out to get me from where I was standing to where I wanted to be. 

But this year, I needed change. I needed a fresh start. I didn’t need the seemingly constant stress and the disappointment that plagued me last year to carry over into 2014.

So my resolution was a succinct two words: Be happy.

And unlike prior years, I made a plan for how to transform my resolution into my life. It felt weird trying to develop a way to be happy. But this year had to be different, and if planning was required, then plan I would.

The plan? Take steps. And keep taking steps—don’t freeze in place.

I took steps. I enrolled in a course in a subject I had long been interested in but too afraid to try. I decided that I would spend the Fall 2014 semester in London. I went to Chicago’s new Nutella Bar—because not every source of happiness requires a big change; sometimes the little things add up.

And then only days into January, I panicked. Say this whole “Be happy” thing didn’t work out?

What if I made all these changes and I wasn’t happy?

What if the decisions I was making were actually wrong?

What if life was still really stressful and exhausting?

It took me a while to realize what all the what-ifs were really disguising. Superficially, the panic appeared to be the fear of not achieving the resolution.

In reality, though, the fear of not achieving the resolution was a cover-up for the fear of failing as a person. What if I took all the steps to create the life I wanted and it didn’t work out? Would I be left with an unfilled life on top of an unfilled resolution? 

Everyone talks about how going after what you truly want takes hard work and perseverance. Few people mention the courage required. It takes courage to forge your own path in a forest overgrown with what-ifs and brimming with the beast of society’s potential judgment.

Being honest with yourself about what you want, whether it’s happiness, a new job, or significant other, is scary. When carving your own path, you don’t know what’s in store for you ahead.

I came close to letting the fear of what-ifs consume me and abandoning my goals along with the little progress I had made in the first few weeks of January.

Fittingly, however, the one thing that overpowered all the what-ifs swirling in my thoughts was one single what-if: What if it all worked out?

What if you succeeded in creating the life you envisioned? It doesn’t need to be a perfect life; every life has a few rough spots or bruises.

And for me that hope, that possibility, that single gnawing question was enough to take the leap of faith and go forward with my goals.

That isn’t to say that I now believe unequivocally that my resolution will work out and every moment of my life will be Kodak-worthy. Rather, it’s to say that I now counter each doubt that creeps into my mind with the single rebuke: What if this all works out? 

Focusing on the positives of your goal or resolution is a much more powerful motivator than concentrating on the negatives.

Acknowledge the negatives as potential pitfalls to be aware of, but then counter them with positives. Truly immerse yourself in the positive potential of success.

If your thoughts of doubt are enough to stop you, then your positive thoughts are enough to help you succeed.

About Danielle Dalton

Danielle Dalton is the creator of Chequidear, an online anthology of reflections from members of the millennial generation from around the world.  She’s a blogger, amateur photographer, and self-proclaimed professional Nutella-banana sandwich artisan.

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