Written by David H. Rosmarin
One of the great tragedies of anxiety is that it can cripple a person’s motivation and destroy one’s dreams. Therefore, it is not surprising that exerting heroic efforts to achieve one’s dreams can be an important strategy in the context of treatment – particularly when one experiences sadness/depression as well. Here are three reasons why:
1) First, exerting heroic efforts requires putting ourselves into gear and taking on stress. Counterintuitive as it may seem, psychological science suggests that human beings thrive at moderate, not low levels of stress. When people are exerting themselves enough, they tend to become more efficient and happier.
2) Second, exerting heroic efforts for God involves facing – not avoiding – challenges. As such, exerting oneself creates a unique context for bringing out the best human virtues, including dedication, courage, bravery, perseverance, leadership, humility, prudence, hope, and faith. These, in turn, are key resources to coping with emotional distress.
3) Third, at some points along the way of pursuing one’s dreams, it is natural and normal to feel stuck and lack inspiration to continue. Furthermore, pursuing our dreams can be terrifying because it tends to come with substantial risk such as financial loss, failure, and embarrassment. However, there are few things that can beat the experience of success after sustained efforts in pushing through challenges! Thus, pursuing one’s dreams with heroic efforts creates a palpable awareness that anxiety and sadness tend to play tricks on us, and a far better approach is to base our decisions on what we know (not how we feel).
For these reasons, the key element to exerting heroic efforts is commitment. One who remains steadfast to one’s dreams by pushing through stress, challenges, and lulls in inspiration, will emerge with greater emotional strength. To this end, here is a simple behavioral strategy: Once per day, identify an activity that is consistent with your dreams for yourself – regardless of how small. Then commit to complete the said activity that very day. Finally, regardless of the stress or challenges or fears you may experience, push through and complete the activity you set out to do.