How To (Finally) Get Started

December 19, 2013
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It’s a looming weight faced by writers and just about anyone else. Whether it’s starting an article or project, a diet or exercise routine, or simply initiating contact with someone or something you’ve been putting off, getting started is hard.

It sometimes begins with “I want to”, but is unfortunately more likely to begin with, “I should”, which from the outset is a most unhelpful statement to be making. In any case, there’s a course of action to undertake; a habit to create, a goal to achieve, and all you have to do is begin. Press Play. Dive in. Do it. Now. Go.

how to finally get started
Shoot for the stars… but calmly

For me, there is usually some kind of paralysis involved, and when I finally psyche myself up enough to make the first move, it’s with so much anxiety and adrenaline that I race out of the gates with more speed than I know how to maintain, and inevitably trip and bruise, or get tired pretty quickly. Quick out the gates but a little bit green.

Have you even been hit, for example, with a burning desire to be fit and disciplined and get into that 5am moving meditation we’ve seen other enlightened-looking types enjoying? The first day you run 4kms without stopping and really enjoy it; you set the bar high and are feeling good. But in the days that follow you enjoy the route less, feel obliged, not inspired, and when you finally missed a day, you beat yourself up about it. The next day your knees hurt, or it’s raining outside and with all the obligation, you’re only too happy to allow the excuse to fly.

The habit dies off before it’s even begun; it isn’t the first time you’ve ‘taken up running.’

Big goals, big expectations, big pressure, big disappointment. It’s never worked for running and it’s never worked for anything else, at least not in any lasting, permanent way. Navigating this goal-setting business requires taking stock of the habits we’ve managed to successfully create. It’s usually the case that they came about without any self-discipline at all; they were easy, enjoyable changes to make because they required almost no effort.

So with enough of those short-run races behind me, I’ve decided on a gentler and more sustainable way of starting, effortlessly, and it’s this:

Start small. No, smaller.

If you want to run, meditate, eat better, study more, or build any other practice, and have consistently failed to implement the habit using the old paradigm, try starting small. By resisting the temptation to start where you want to end and instead start small, you make it almost impossible to fail, sparking a chain of positive association and hunger for more. Keep yourself reigned in and you’ll always want more. Keep the goals achievable and you’ll be achieving them daily. Want to run? Promise to put on your shoes and close the door behind you, nothing more.

Whatever it is that you want to start, start small. No, smaller.

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