I've recently started fostering Daisy.
Born in an animal shelter here in China, she was just a seven-week-old puppy when I came and took her home with me. She's adjusted well to her new surroundings - it's a privilege to look after her.
Let me backtrack for context. I moved to Shenyang on Friday 20th September 2019. Since that day, I have always had the plan to look after a dog. I've not had one before now, for a number of reasons: the family pet is a 15-year-old cat called Tilly; Dad would never entertain the idea (and still doesn't); and I didn't even like dogs until I was 19.
So now that I'm young, wild and free living abroad as an expat, it was time for only one thing: time to get a dog!
Aaaaand yet, it's still taken me a year and a half to actually get one. I could have fostered or adopted much, much earlier, but I didn't.
Why not? What was it that stopped me for so long?
It was this: I was terrified! Not of the dog, but of the new challenge.
My fear was being completely out of my depth. I wouldn't know what to do with a DOG! Other than put food in a bowl and throw one of her toys around for a bit, what do you DO? No, no, no, it's not for me. I'll keep focusing on me...
The fact remained for so long that I 'wanted' a dog - I just didn't want to fail in looking after her. I was horrified at the thought of messing up, meaning I couldn't enjoy the pleasure of living with a puppy - something I genuinely wanted to do.
So after 16 months, what's changed?
It's through understanding the following statement: In everything you do, you will never lose. You will either win, or you will learn.
This was huge for me. Everyone - no matter how talented or skilled or trained - has room for improvement somewhere. And it's in our human nature to slip up and get things wrong sometimes. By reacting positively to something not going the way it had been intended to go, you're able to wrap your head around your mistakes with a much clearer perspective - and have a better chance of bouncing back.
For a long time, self-belief and the fear of failure have tried to beat me out of doing what I really want to do. But thanks to this mindset change, I'm in the best frame of mind possible to do the things I really want to do.
Instead of running away from a challenge, or being put off in favour of an easier option, GIVE THE NEW A GO! By adopting this mindset, the worst thing that can happen is you learn what to do differently next time. No feelings of despair, shame or fear. Only understanding and personal development. That's pretty great!!
Of course, this can be daunting at first - for long-term mindset change, it's not going to happen overnight. Here are four ways I was able to be actively reassured in taking on my new challenges, that you can use to overcome your own fears:
1) Find an expert/mentor
I'm regularly updating a volunteer at the animal shelter with Daisy's behaviour, to make sure I can give her the best care possible. I don't have a clue - but she does.
2) Get support from friends
Many of my friends in Shenyang are dog-owners. If I can't reach my mentor, I can ask them about any experiences they've had in raising their pup. I know I'm never alone in any journey I'm on, because they support me when I need them.
3) Be resourceful
Hello - GOOGLE! The gift of the internet means that I can search for tips and tricks for anything I'm struggling with.
4) Just give things a go!
Coldplay said it best: "If you never try, you'll never know". Take the dive - you win or you learn. I'm already taking strides to becoming a responsible dog owner; and I absolutely LOVE having Daisy around.
These four things take the pressure and strain away from overthinking. With someone there to break down how you're doing; a supportive safety net; a proactive approach and a willingness to have a go, you will empower yourself to overcome those negative thoughts and see if you truly can live your best life.
Think about the ambitions you have in your life, and your current goals. The first month of 2021 is almost over. The New Year's Resolutions are slowly starting to fade away, and the reality of the year ahead starts to take shape.
Don't be like I was for so long and shun the opportunities in front of you. If you want something new and exciting, accept that it won't be a straightforward process - but your heart will be so fulfilled once you feel the fear and do it anyway!
Until next time, I'm off to play with my pup.