How to Start (Fill in the Blank)?

Updated: 17 hours ago

The 3-word answer is, start by starting.

I know, it is infinitely easier said than done hence this article. 😊

The most difficult part of any project, task, chore, etc. can be simply getting yourself to start.

Think for a second. What is one important thing you have been meaning to start but keep putting off?

Let’s quickly look at the reasons why this happens.

  • You may think of the project or task as a big one with no end in sight and just the thought of doing it is painful.

  • It could be very time consuming and the result might not be what you expect.

  • You think there is a chance you may fail miserably and be a laughingstock.

  • You may not think you have it in you to get it done.

  • You don’t want to be embarrassed or rejected.

  • You just don’t know what it is and feel a very strong resistance to start (this can be felt physically as a lump in your throat and/or other sensations.)

You know what all these things have in common? They are governed by feelings of uncertainty which trigger the emotion of FEAR. AKA the crappiest emotion of them all.

This is in big part, a subconscious affair. Especially with the last point above where you just can’t seem to put your finger on the problem.

Past traumas (especially during the vulnerable period of childhood) program our brains into creating negative feelings to protect and push us away from things that will cause us to feel pain again. It is a survival mechanism. In essence, this mechanism generates a fear response to make you avoid pain, whether it’s from touching red-hot coal or starting that darn project.

What do you do instead of starting that important thing?

You procrastinate.

Yep, this is probably the most hated word in the dictionary. It’s a creativity killer, a depression bringer, a dream killer, a possibility burner, a self-hate creator, an inner demon summoner. You catch the drift.

You fill in the gap the actual work is supposed to take by engaging in trivialities and fool yourself into thinking you have been productive somehow.

  • You suddenly remember you must clean and organize your whole house and maybe the neighbor’s.

  • You waste half a day by driving across town to buy that very comfortable mouse your friend was telling you about the other day. (hey, it’s going to make you work better, right?)

  • You’ll research the crap out of the thing you have to do and watch every single YouTube video about it instead of doing it.

  • You’ll go around to gather things that are “needed” to start like books, equipment, etc. (What’s better than being 100% prepared? You’ll never be by the way.)

How do you get yourself to start then?

Here’s the magic word: awareness.

Bring awareness to the fact that a mental resistance is happening. Be aware of how it happens in your mind (thoughts) and where exactly it manifests in your body. Are you afraid of making a fool of yourself and being judged? Are you feeling that lump in your throat? are your jaws or shoulders tense?

After bringing awareness to it, ask yourself, why is this thing I’m supposed to do so important? Does it potentially add value to your life or the lives of others? By the way, feel free to scrap things off your list if you feel they aren’t that important. You should only work on things that bear importance to you. Visualize what the desired result is and let that excite you.

Set the true intention to start NOW. Do the smallest steps required to get going. Walk towards your laptop, open up that word processor and START by typing bullet points for the topic you want to write about for example even if you feel that resistance, do it anyway. (That’s what I did to write this article 😁 and yes, I feel that resistance too, I’m human aren’t I?) If you keep doing that, you re-program the brain and it gets easier every time you do it. It’s like a muscle. When you start training initially, it is painful and hard and you feel a lot of resistance, but it gets easier with time and repetition. Build resilience, get yourself used to it, let it be “second nature” to you.

I got myself to a stage where I am comfortable with the discomfort. I know it won’t linger forever and I work on the important things because they will hopefully affect my life in a positive manner.

Break large projects into milestones and milestones into bit sized tasks by creating a plan. Remember that failing to plan is planning to fail. Make it manageable for yourself, carrying small rocks over time is easier that carrying boulders.

Get an accountability partner, it helps a great deal. People are more likely to finish their tasks if they are working in a group or if there is someone checking on them often.

In the words of Leo Babauta "Decide to do it, and then don’t waver. Don’t let yourself argue about it. When you decide to do it, just commit and do it… Get into the action habit. The habit of recognizing what you’re avoiding, turning towards it (instead of away from it), and then just starting".

Put the wallowing and self ass kicking aside and just start now. Because there is no other time than now that exists, the past and future both exist in your head 🙂. If you keep kicking your own ass for past time wasted, you’ll never get out of the perpetual vicious cycle of doom.

The funny thing is, you’re in control, you always have been. Choose to just start and don't worry about screwing up. That's part of the learning in the process. That’s how the best in the world became the best in the world. Do you think they were born this way? They were just obsessive about repeating and practicing until they became the very best. Just ask Michael Phelps.

Instead of procrastinating and asking endless questions, start looking for answers. Do you know how to do that? By DOING and gaining experience in the process. That’s how you get answers.

Still haven’t started? GO!

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©2020 Ahmed Shaikhon.