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Start strong, finish stronger

I’ve often thought about the idea of “starting” and whether it’s easier to start or finish. (I think I must’ve been a deep thinking philosopher in another life.)

It’s a little like the chicken and egg question and doesn’t seem answer-able because you can’t finish if you don’t start, but that doesn’t make it any easier to start.

And for the sake of discussion here, I’m talking about starting and finishing things you want to do for your own personal fulfillment.

Possibly to improve your life, possibly just for the joy of doing it, possibly for the satisfaction of checking off your bucket list, anything that requires you to get out of your regular routine, kind of get away from “Auto-Pilot” mode to disrupt your regular routine.

You’ll have to commit time, energy, and maybe even money.

The challenge of starting

For the purpose of simplifying the discussion, let’s pick a project. Let’s say we want to run a marathon.

A marathon is 26.2 miles. Let’s say the furthest you’ve ever run in your life is a 5k, 3.1 miles.

Here are some things people might say when you tell them you’re thinking about running a marathon:

Why would you want to do that?

Do you know anything about it?

You’re crazy.

Why the hell would you do that?

You’re not a runner.

That’ll be cool. You can cross the finish line like “Rocky”!

That’s awesome!

The only good reason to run is if something’s chasing you.

Why?

You start to doubt whether you can really do it. You consider the investment of time and money and think, “Why do I want to do this?”

You list your reasons to go ahead with it:

for the physical challenge

I’ve always wanted to

for the satisfaction of starting and finishing.

Then you think,“Wow, all this figuring and mental ping-pong is exhausting!” And you haven’t even done anything yet! But, in a way, you have.

When you undertake a marathon-like project you have to know that there’ll be obstacles. And you’re sure to encounter some you hadn’t considered.

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It won’t be easy. The road will be long. Some people will doubt you can do it.

If you’ve considered all those things and gone back and forth about whether you should or not before commiting 100% and you want to do it anyway, and you decide you’re going to do it, that’s what will get you to the start. And you can’t get to the finish unless you get to the start.

It’s impossible to finish unless you start.

In our scenario, our enthusiastic but inexperienced runner goes out on her first training run and struggles to do 3 miles. In her mind she thinks, “How in the world am I going to run 26 when I feel like I’m dying after 3?”

Doubt creeps in, but she’s ready for it. She shakes it off and tells herself, “It’s okay. At least I got out there and did it. I have to start somewhere so I might as well start at the beginning.” (For more on this, see Believe in yourself when doubt creeps in)

That’s the spirit!

You have to start somewhere. Don’t shut yourself down before you’ve even started.

You have to trust the process (See Be patient and trust the process) and believe you can do it.

It’s okay if it’s a rough start. You knew there’d be obstacles.

Have a beginner’s mindset and be open to learning all you can. You may be surprised to learn of ways to make the experience more pleasant and maybe even fun. (See Embrace the Beginner’s Mindset)

Keep moving in the direction of your goal and you’ll gain momentum toward it.

Remember why you started. You may have had more reasons not to do it than to do it, but none of that matters because you’re committed. You knew it wouldn’t be easy going in.

I don’t know if it’s harder to start or finish. But logic tells us it’s impossible to finish what you never start.

When you start, knowing there’ll be challenges ahead and that it won’t be easy, but you’re ready to do it anyway, you’re more likely to finish what you’ve started. 

So how about you?

What marathon-like goal do you have? How close are you to starting?

When you’re ready to commit, remember, you have to start somewhere. Forget about wanting to be perfect and always keep in mind why you started. That’s your why and your why will move you forward when you feel you can’t go another step.

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What are you waiting for?

Have you ever wanted to do something, but haven’t done it because it’s just never been the right time?

So that “something” becomes one of those gnawing passions that doesn’t go away, that thing you feel like you should be doing, but for some reason, you’re not; something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t.

Maybe it’s running a marathon, getting your degree, starting a charity or foundation, starting a blog, writing poetry, painting, doing yoga, learning to juggle, performing as a clown, or traveling the world.

If someone were to ask you, “Why do you want to do that?” you may have a hard time answering.

There may not be a clear or straightforward explanation for wanting to do this thing you want to do. All you know is that somewhere along the way a seed was planted in your soul that made you think, “I want to do that.”

But “Life got in the way,” as they say.

When we say “Life got in the way,” it makes it seem as if there’s a straight path to something ahead and along the way you live life, maybe get married, have kids, buy a house, etc.

We wait to:

  • have kids grow up
  • have more money
  • pay off the car
  • lose weight
  • get a better job
  • get a promotion
  • have more time
  • get more training
  • be more mentally prepared
  • have better conditions

But “Life” goes on. And all those moving parts and people in your life sometimes move and act in ways you don’t expect, further delaying your chance to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Even in the unlikely scenario that “Life” goes exactly as you’d expected and the day finally comes when you can finally do what you’ve always wanted to do, will you be ready? Will you be okay with starting at the beginning? Or will you feel like it’s too late for you now?

What are you waiting for?

Don’t wait for condiitons to be perfect and don’t expect it all to go smoothly. When you take on your dream you will encounter struggles, some external, many internal.

As I’ve been out promoting my book I’ve met people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

My response to them: Do it. Now. You absolutely can. Start writing.

Obstacles in your path

I used to get cranky because something always came up that stopped me from what I wanted to do, but I hadn’t realized that my biggest obstacles were the ones that came from me: fear, Resistance, lack of confidence (to name a few).

There will always be obstacles in your path.

The question is: will you step over them, go around them, ask for help in getting past them, or will you let them block your way? Will you continue to use those “reasons” for keeping you from doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do?

Stop waiting. You can figure it out. It’s okay if it’s not perfect (in fact, it almost certainly won’t be!) but you have to start somewhere. (Read my blogpost Strive for progress not perfection for more on this point.)

Some tips to get you started:

  • Set small, incremental goals. Little by little adds up to a lot.
  • Have a cheerleader. You’ll need someone who can give you a pep talk when you’re doubting you can or should be doing what you’re doing. Even online groups or social media groups can help you through the rough patches.
  • Ignore the people who say you can’t. Or that you’re crazy or stupid or irresponsible for doing what you’re doing. You may actually agree with them on some level, but don’t let that stop you.
  • Life is a composite of what you do and how you spend your time. Keep your priorties in order even when you’re working toward fulfilling your dreams.
  • Fill as many “time leaks” as possible. It’s like when you’re trying to reduce your water or electricity usage, some sound advice is to repair all leaks. What are your “time leaks”? A little occasional mindless down-time isn’t a big deal, but pay attention and don’t let yourself get sucked into a “time waister vortex” so what you intended to last 10 minutes turns out to be two hours you’ll never get back. No bueno.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Stop waiting to do whatever it is you’ve “always wanted to do”. Get started now to make your dreams a reality. The world is waiting.

Think it’s too late for you? Check out this awesome woman who got around the obstacles in her way to finally do what she’s always wanted to do:

Why One Woman Decided To Become A Doctor At Age 59

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Kick off 2018 with a goal and a plan

Happy New Year!

It’s time again for Mindset Monday (on a Tuesday this week in observance of New Year’s Day holiday) .

For a few years now I’ve practiced focused reflection on the past year and looked forward to the new year by laying out goals in all areas of life, like personal, fitness, professional, etc.

Sometimes I’m pretty ambitious without realizing it. Like a couple of years ago, I wrote down a fitness goal to get to 100 unbroken double-unders (turning a jump rope twice around with every jump). I think at the time my record was like 10 in a row. Well, at the end of the year when I looked over my goals that year I realized I hadn’t even come close to my “goal”. In fact, I’d forgotten all about it.

Does that tell you anything?

Either I didn’t have a plan, didn’t work the plan, or was so half-hearted about doing double-unders I’d forgotten about it by February.

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I didn’t care enough about it to work at it.

Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, the start of a new year is a good time to think about what you want to do over the next 12 months.

What do you want to do this year?

Scratch of one of your bucket list items perhaps?

Travel to another country? Read War and Peace? Join a hiking group? Skydive? Make volunteering your time part of your routine?

Maybe it’s something you’ve been putting off for someday.

Do it. 

First – Whatever you say you want to do has to matter enough to you. Make it something that gets you excited or sentimental (finishing a triathlon) instead of filled with a sense of dread (doing double-unders).

Then, make a plan. Write it down or put it on your calendar. Visualize when and how you’ll do it. Break down the steps to make it happen if necessary.

Next, get started and do a little at a time until it’s done.

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Make someday happen in the next 364 days.

The thing about time is that it keeps going. Set yourself up now to look back on 2018 feeling accomplished, knowing that you set out to do something that mattered to you, you had a plan, and you stuck with it. That thing you meant for someday? Check.

You can do it.

I wish you a healthy and happy new year full of taking care of and doing things that matter to you.

Share what you’ll be doing this year. Post in the comments : )