Many years ago, I played the classical guitar. At the time I was even half-decent at it, and it brought me great pleasure. I stopped playing about 26 years ago, but about a year ago I picked it up again and I have been playing ever since.
To be honest, it took a while between the time that I decided to start and the actual time that I started. I kept procrastinating the starting point because every time I intended to start playing negative thoughts came up about the challenge of starting again from scratch. Starting again as a beginner felt daunting, so I convinced myself to start another day, and this happened a few times.
I was coaching a highly committed and passionate professional on his wellbeing. He was struggling with his commitment to lose weight and get in shape. He lost a lot of weight, then gained it back again and he wanted to lose it again. He knew what he needed to do. In fact, he had a comprehensive plan, including exercise and a meal plan from a nutritionist. However, he couldn’t get himself to restart the program.
Have you ever experienced this type of situation in which you wanted to start something new or restart something you had done in the past, but you found yourself delaying starting because of overwhelming feelings of invalidation, fear and/or doubt?
Well, the good news for me is that I did start playing about a year ago and in the process, I learned something simple, but profound about the ‘Power of Starting’:
Starting is critical for success. Being able to start is powerful. I know I am stating the obvious. However, even though everyone knows this, so many people get stuck in starting. Another proof point that knowing and doing are two different things.
If you want to be someone who can start effectively here are a few of my thoughts:
To be a powerful starter you need to untangle the act of starting from all your thoughts and internal conversations about it. You will have thoughts and feelings. They will try and delay and stop you. It is a natural human reaction to any uncomfortable situation which ‘starting’ is always one of. You need to expect the thoughts and feelings and act anyways.
To help you focus while you have all the noise in your head, I recommend you clearly state to someone you trust what you are going to do and then do it. In simple terms: “Say what you will do and then do what you say!” Make it very explicit. Something like: “I will go to the gym 4 times a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday for an hour” or “I will practice 4 times a week for an hour”.
When you start you may feel that your initial actions are not ‘natural’, ‘easy’; they are mechanical, contrived and artificial. That is completely natural and alright! Even if you feel that what you are doing and the way you are doing it is counter-intuitive still go ahead and do it. In simple terms: “Fake it till you make it” Put one foot in front of the other until it becomes walking motion.
It takes tremendous courage to start. Don’t underestimate that. It is a big deal.
When you are about to start it may feel like you are jumping off a cliff and you will learn how to fly in the process of falling. It is not a comfortable feeling. It takes a leap of faith and trust in yourself. That takes courage!
If you have missteps in the starting process, don’t over think it, make it mean anything or agonize about it. Just start over! Say what you will do next and do what you said. Keep it short-term – what you will do today, not this month. Keep it very practical, not aspirational or visionary. Box yourself in day by day, say what you will do and do what you say. Follow this routine until you start to see that you are back in a routine.
The more you do what I told you here, the more you will begin to regain your power and self-confidence. This will quickly lead to higher energy and motivation and enable you to promise bigger things and deliver them.
Motivation and action are like the chicken and the egg. They feed, fuel and inspire each other. When you are at the top of your game, your motivation inspires your action. That is the time to declare your vision, commitments and what you stand for, set goals and act spontaneously.
But, when you are stuck, promising what you will do and doing it will get you unstuck and back on track with your motivation and commitment. You will regain your integrity and recover your motivation and power.
It may sound too simple, but it really works.