HOW TO GET STARTED
Getting started. No matter what the task, dream or mission, getting started is without a doubt the toughest part.
You want to run a marathon but keep delaying going out for that first 5k?
You'd love to leave your job but can't quite bring yourself to look for another one?
Always dreamt of being a bestselling author yet won't set aside the time to actually sit down and write?
We've all got something. Think for a moment about what yours is.
This week, I spent 3 hours and 37 minutes listening to British businesswoman Sháá Wasmund's book 'How to Fix Your Sh*t.' It was, as it says on the tin, a no-nonsense guide for getting your life together and putting what is important first. Ultimately, it was about fixing your sh*t.
Excuse my language: I can't help what the book is called.
Through listening to this book, I couldn't help but think about this collective human fear: the fear of getting started. From being children, we have had a fear of beginning something. Often, it is the simple fear of getting something wrong.
No one likes to be wrong and they certainly don't like it when other people know they are wrong. That is totally fair enough, but if the fear of getting something wrong prevents you from going after what you truly want then isn't that kind of the same thing? The only difference is that in not trying, you are only the person who knows about it.
That's, like, the worst kind of secret ever. It's not even juicy. It's just sad.
How do we overcome fear? Courage. This can be really difficult to find but it is when you feel fear that you need to trick your brain into doing the thing anyway. As Sháá writes, 'We don’t lack solutions, we lack the courage to pursue them.' You know what you need to do to achieve your dreams - or if you don't, you know how to Google it and find out. You just need to get started and do it. Now. Well, maybe once you've read the rest of this post...
In her book, Sháá writes a lot about what she calls our 'monkey-brain' - the part of our brain that swings from branch to branch, overthinking every single thing that comes into our minds. It is this part of our brain that prevents us from going after our dream job, going to our first spinning class or even doing that Google search that we just mentioned. It's the monkey-brain that depletes our courage and convinces us that we can't do the thing because we will inevitably fail or - worse - embarrass ourselves.
It's preventative, it is trying to protect us, but not always with our best interests at heart.
So what steps should we take when we are struggling to get started with something?
1. Acknowledge your fear
You're scared. That is totally fine. You're about to start something amazing, something you've wanted to do for weeks/months/years: it's bound to feel a little bit intimidating. But this is only because you want it. If you want it that much, think about how great it'll be when you get it.
This is the point where you want to listen to Kelly Clarkson's Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You), Destiny Child's Survivor or maybe Brave by Sara Bareilles is more your vibe. I don't know. But it is important to know that fear can fuel us as long as we don't let it bog us down. Turn your fear into courage and you're onto a winner...
2. Commit to the project
Often, we can be scared of the lack of immediate success we are likely to achieve but this to me is hiding something far more worrying: a lack of faith in our own abilities. If you think that your project is not going to go anywhere, then it won't. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's why people remain single for years because "there's no one out there for me." Why people stay in jobs they hate because "I'm terrible in interviews: I'm lucky to even have this job." Why people end up scrimping for cash at the end of the month because "I'm rubbish with money: as soon as I get paid I end up spending it."
Commit to what you want to achieve and you're already half-way there.
As Sháá says at the beginning of her book, 'discipline dominates motivation: each and every time.' You have to be disciplined enough to carry on the graft even when you really can't be bothered. That motivation that you once had will ebb and flow: there will be days when the last thing you want to do is leave the house and go for a jog. But this is where you must rely on your discipline to pull you through it.
I guarantee you will feel better when you do.
3. Baby steps are better than none
I loved the story of the tortoise and the hare when I was a kid and I still think about it often as an adult. You do not need to be racing at 100mph all the time: often, the best work is done when it is carried out in a slow and careful manner. This is especially true when it comes to launching new projects.
Don't get me wrong, there will be times when you have so many ideas and your motivation is soaring: I have found that this is a good time to get lots of smaller, boring, difficult tasks done to allow your Can't be Bothered self to have a bit of a rest and do more of the fun aspects of your project. But always acknowledge the baby steps as it is from them that you really begin to cover the miles.
4. Hold yourself accountable
At the end of the day, the only person who can get yourself started is yourself. I am aware that this may sound harsh but it needn’t be that way. As Sháá writes, 'Some people would prefer to fail as long as it isn’t their fault.' This is so so true. If you don't try, you can't fail -right? WRONG. Not trying is failing. If you at least try then you have achieved something; everything that follows is just a learning opportunity to grow and develop from. Embrace these. They will make your project - and you in the process - stronger.
Sorry, another Kelly Clarkson reference was needed here.
There are so many tricks to holding yourself accountable. Here are some of my favourites:
Establish routines that motivate and inspire you. Love having your coffee in the garden on a sunny morning? Go for it, but make sure that you go out with your trainers on so you can get your run in straight away. Really fancy having a lazy day in bed this Sunday? Awesome, but keep your book on your bedside table to allow you to reach your goal of 1000 pages a week. Of course, these are very specific suggestions but a routine that is flexible can do wonders for your motivation and productivity. It tricks your Can't be Bothered self into getting the work done when they really... well, when they really can't be bothered.
In Erica Layne’s ‘The Minimalist Way’, she discusses the importance of having three top tasks for each day. These tasks could be anything: ironing your washing, watering the plants, doing some yoga. They can be small or large things but they should all be achievable. If you can tick three things off your to-do list every single day, you are automatically going to maintain the drive to work on the things that matter because you are being successful. Success feeds motivation. It just does.
Track your progress. There are so many ways to track progress in the digital world: you can get apps that log everything – sleep, exercise, films you’ve watched, books you’ve read, when you get your period. The list goes on and on. Seeing the amount of days you’ve maintained a habit is a great boost when you’re lacking enthusiasm in the thing you’re trying to do and it never feels great to break a streak! If digital minimalism is more your thing then this can always be done on paper: starting a bullet journal can be a great way to maintain productive and organised when you’re wanting to track a variety of habits. See an introduction to bullet journalling in the below video if you're not aware of what this is...
Now it's over to you. What is it you want to do? Read a book every week? Start your own business? Be able to lift the equivalent of your own body weight? Whatever your goal or project is, you need to start working on it today. Don't wait until tomorrow because, when it comes to getting started on something, tomorrow rarely comes. And you deserve to achieve your dreams.
So go and do it. What're you waiting for?
Books I have mentioned in this post that I thoroughly recommend to people interested in productivity, motivation and minimalist living:
How to Fix Your Sh*t by Sháá Wasmund
The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy by Erica Layne