When you know you want to do something and you’re not sure exactly what that something is, how you would do it, or if it would work, it can be really easy to think it to death.
This amazing thing you want to do might be the best idea ever. You may be talking about it, and even planning it out in your head, but you’re never quite ready to take action, never ready to do like Nike says and “just do it.”
I get it. It’s hard to take action when one minute you think it’s the best idea ever and the next minute you’re thinking: Maybe it won’t work; people will think it’s stupid; Yeah, right. Me?.
That’s resistance holding you back.
And at the heart of resistance is fear … fear of rejection, ridicule, failure. (“Resistance” is wonderfully addressed in Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. Click here for book review.)
Fear plays a tremendous role in what we do and a huge role in what we don’t do. Instead of getting started and taking action we think about it and consider it over and think about it more and in all that time of thinking, we do nothing.
Here’s an example. I’ve had this blog for a few years. It’s changed a lot in that time, especially as I’ve shifted my focus to writing novels. In the Spring of this year I got very involved with my second book, A Song for Love and was in the revise/edit mode for a while, wrestling with the manuscript. I felt like I really needed to focus on that, which I did.
Maybe that was an excuse, but I stopped blogging and focused on the rewrite and publishing. I published the book and then, instead of getting back to the blog, I started another project.
It’s hard to admit this, but I’ve been thinking about this for months and every time I started writing a blogpost, even if it was in my head, Resistance shut me down. I’d think, I don’t have anything important to say. And besides, who cares what I say? Do my thoughts even matter?
I wanted to get back to it and I thought about it a lot, but no idea was good enough, so I did nothing.
I’ve thought about my inaction a lot (too much actually. That’s one of the pitfalls of being an analytical person.) and thought maybe what I’ve learned from this most recent experience can help someone else.
These are a few lessons that helped me and may help you, too.
Get started already!
I often wonder which is harder–starting or finishing? It depends, I suppose. But I do know that you’ll never finish if you don’t start. And you have to start from where you are. It’s okay if you have to start small. Little by little adds up to a lot.
Aim for progress over perfection.
Most first attempts are awkward and far from perfect, but don’t let that stop you from working to improve. Celebrate your victories and all you’re learning along the way.
Nothing says commitment like action.
Thinking about and planning your way toward your huge, audacious goal is important and necessary, of course. But at some point, you have to stop talking about it and DO IT!
Give yourself a chance.
This idea is a little harder to communicate, so please bear with me, but it relates to the notion that whatever it is that you feel like you want to do was put in your heart for some other purpose. In other words it’s not really about you. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about resistance and how something flashes in your head, you get an idea, and then you get a surge of resistance that just makes you think, Oh that’s a stupid idea and you kill it before it has a chance to come alive. He gives the example of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, those first four notes, Duh, duh, duh, dah. Three of those notes were the same. That must have seemed silly on some level. He could’ve said, That doesn’t even make sense. But he didn’t do that.
I was watching a story about the creation of the soundtrack to the movie, Jaws. When John Williams first presented his idea to for the soundtrack, Steven Spielberg thought he must have been joking. It was only two notes … Duunn, nuh, Duuun, nuh. It wasn’t until they matched those same two notes with the film of the circling, man-eating shark, that they were like, Holy cow! It’s perfect!
The Jaws soundtrack became iconic. It still is. You hear those two notes in that sequence, Duunn, nuh. Duunn, nuh, and you know that means something bad’s about to go down.
So the point here is that even though you may not think you could create something as amazing as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or the soundtrack to Jaws, no doubt, neither did they.
So what are you waiting for?
Stop waiting for the perfect moment. Identify what is holding you up and keeping you from taking action. Then please put those reasons, excuses, and obstacles aside and start were ever you are. Take the first step because that is the only way to gain momentum, to move forward. You never know where it will go and what you can do.
Time is relentless. It just goes and goes. Think about this: If you take action toward your goal today and do a little something every day toward your goal, how far would you get in a week? A month? A year? Crazy, right?
Now, think about not acting and what it will be like a year from now when you look back and think about today, this very moment as you’re reading this. Will you be saying, If only I would’ve started. Where could I be now?
Cue “Jaws” soundtrack and get moving.