Imagine you’re walking in a park. One of those big parks with the many winding paths. At some point, you lose your bearings, not quite sure where to go next, or how to find your way out of the park. Then you come across one of those signs, which map the whole of park, and there you find the pin of where you are. A red dot, or arrow, that simply says “You are here”. It’s immediately comforting and clarifying. You know where you are and you can see where you can go.
Life is a bit like that sometimes. You get a bit lost in it and you may find yourself at certain points stuck, or at a crossroads, waiting for a sign that’s going to allow you to make your move forward. The only difference is that in life there is no map that shows you all the paths and where they lead. You can only imagine the map. What there is in common, however, between life and the park in this analogy, is the “you are here” point.
There is always a starting point, wherever you are.
Not one day, but today
The reason for this analogy is the very common issue a lot of people face when embarking on something new, or when they want to make a change: the reluctance to begin.
From something as simple as going to the gym, to as complicated as starting a new business, making a start is usually marred with delays and excuses. There are some rare people that just get out there and jump straight into something, but I feel that I speak for most of us, including myself, when I say making a start isn’t easy. It’s mostly uncomfortable, uncertain and overwhelming. There’s always tomorrow, or Monday, or one day when we can make that start. But it’s never today. The danger with that is that “one day” may never come if you don’t make it today.
Being on hold
So many people put themselves on hold before they embark on a new project, a new habit or a new practice because they’re waiting for the perfect conditions, or for something else to happen first, or any other excuse for why they can’t quite start yet. In reality, it’s all procrastination, and although a little procrastination can be productive in the end, prolonged procrastination does nothing more than drag your whole life down. It nails you to the spot and it makes you feel powerless to begin anything.
Which brings me to the biggest culprit that keeps us on hold: fear. There’s always a little fear behind every excuse for not making a start.
Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of not coping, fear of being too old, too young, too late, too soon, too fat, too thin; you name it.
Everyone has their own fear based excuse for not taking the leap and looking at this previous sentence the fear seems to be more exhausting then whatever the actual task may be.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
My own fear is that I’m afraid I’m going to lose steam and that at some point I’m going to quietly quit. The many unfinished projects that are left in notebooks, my computer and my head can testify to that. Does that mean however that I should never start something new? Or does it just mean that the projects I left unfinished maybe weren’t right for me, or I wasn’t passionate enough about them? The answer is that if I never started on any of them, I’d never know. Looking back, for every deserted project there is one that I have actually completed. So that’s a bonus!
The point is that none of what’s holding us back really matters at the beginning, and it probably doesn’t even matter along the way either. Unlike the already laid down path in a park, in life you build the path as you go along. Keeping that in mind, at whichever point of your journey you are, you’ll know that the journey is not over yet, so you’re always at a point where you can draw a new course.
And so it begins
Remember the map in the park? Visualise your beginning as the “you are here” point in the map of your own journey. Maybe not all the paths are clear to you yet but you have a starting point. Every step you make takes you to your next point. You are here now and then you’ll be there. If it feels overwhelming, focus on the first step only: what is the next immediate thing you can do? Do it. Now you’ve moved a little. Now you are there. What’s the next step?
To keep on track put those steps in writing. The Smart Plan can help you break down those steps into weekly and daily tasks, allowing you to focus on one day at a time while keeping you motivated.
Making one step at a time, the way babies learn to walk keeps you in the present and breaks the dreaded beginning into manageable smaller steps. The first step will bring on the next, and that one the next after that, till you find yourself in your stride. By the way, have you noticed that no matter how many times a baby falls on her bum when trying to take her first step unaided, she will always try again until she’s walking across the room staggering like a drunk? Well, if that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is!
Text by Chryssanthi Kouri, a writer and filmmaker based in London. A curious introvert with an interest in self-development, she enjoys writing about life and human nature.