Why you can’t seem to get started (and what to do about it)

Why you can’t seem to get started (and what to do about it)

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.

Not convinced?

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.

The magic of gratitude

The magic of gratitude

Gratitude can change your life. It’s like magic. And even though I truly believe this, it still catches me off-guard when I experience how amazing it is.

Willie Nelson said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

Wow. Can it really do all that?

Gratitude. It’s a simple thing: being thankful for what you have.

Plug in to your gratitude funnel

So what’s so special about gratitude and if it’s so great why isn’t everyone doing it? It’s free, doesn’t require any special training or certifications.

The truth is it takes practice to be in a constant state of gratitude, especially if you’re the type of person who tends to notice what’s wrong before noticing what’s right.

Sometimes we’re just not all that thrilled about the way things are, sometimes we just want to complain about about any number of things we let get under our skin: mundane tasks, people who don’t do/say/think what we think they should, unexpected setbacks, an uncertain future. Some of these things are big, life-changing events, some are small, regular, petty things.

Yes, it takes practice to have a mindset of gratitude. For some of us (ahem), lots of practice.

Take this example: I was doing laundry the other day and I really didn’t feel like doing laundry. I was just about to say out loud, “Oh my gosh, I hate doing laundry,” when I remembered my goal to practice gratitude, especially when I want to complain about something.

So I said, “I’m grateful that I can do laundry, that I have clothes to wash, that I’m physically able to do it, that I have machines that do most of the work.”

All of a sudden, I felt pretty good about doing laundry.

I realized that gratitude doesn’t actually change anything (I was still doing laundry) except percecption (having the ability to do my laundry is a good thing), thereby changing the experience (instead of feeling cranky about it, I was genuinely happy that I had the good fortune to be doing my laundry).

Where’s the magic?

The magic is real and it’s all internal, not external. Gratitude transforms the way we experience our circumstances.

I recently read Jen Sencero’s book, “You Are a Badass” (which is awesome, by the way) and she said that when something happens that sets you back, try being grateful for that thing instead of being frustrated and angry.

I thought it was a crazy idea, but I thought I’d try it when I got the chance.

And my chance came soon enough. It was a silly, petty thing (aren’t those the things that can be most upsetting at times?) I was trying to leave the house for an appointment and was running late. I remembered I’d filled a glass of water to drink before I headed out the door and when I reached for it I knocked over the glass, spilling water all over the counter and on myself. Great! I thought, If I take the time to change I’ll be even later than I already am!

But then I remembered Jen Sencero’s advise. Okay. Stop and think about this. No, this is good. I’m glad this happened, I thought to myself.

I had to laugh because by me saying I was glad about it meant that I had to come up with a reason this was a good thing. It forced me to think about what was happening and allowed me to stop before spouting off a few choice words and, instead, I decided to take a deep breath, slow down, and relax.

There is no need to rush. Everything will be okay. It’s water. My shirt will dry. I’m grateful to have clean water to drink every day.

Practice, practice, practice

Practicing an attitude of gratitude takes concious and continuous focus, but I’m discovering that it’s well worth the effort.

Try it and see if you agree that gratitude is like magic.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on rubymontalvo.com

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.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on rubymontalvo.com

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.

Let negativity roll off your back

Let negativity roll off your back


Negative and insensitive comments that can be hurtful and leave you doubting yourself and feeling stupid.

Little jabs like:

“Are you wearing that?”Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“You can’t/won’t be able to do ________ .”

“Can you try to pay attention, for once?”

Off-handed remarks can float around in our heads for a long time. We analyze them to death and think, “What’s that supposed to mean?” If you’re already self-conscious or lacking confidence, negative comments can have an even bigger impact. 

Positive vs. Negative

Negativity stings. Psychologists say it takes at least 10 positive comments to cancel out 1 negative comment.

Downloaded from Pixabay published on strong-woman.com

How can we get past it and not let it shake our self-confidence?

Is the negative comment worth my time and consideration?

If not, consider the matter closed. Visualize yourself walking away from it. Don’t let it get to you. If it starts to re-surface, remind yourself that you’ve put it behind you.

Understand that often people are negative because it’s easier to knock things down than build them up.

Don’t worry about it. Let negativity roll off your back like water off a duck.

Blow it off like bubbles in the wind.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay published on strong-woman.com
Words have power.

Do you trust the person who said it?

People speak without thinking. Feelings get hurt.

Consider giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of thinking they intend to shake your confidence.

I’d want that consideration. As much as I try to be encouraging, sometimes I speak before I think and wind up sounding negative or insensitive.

Words have power. We must choose wisely. And this applies to how we speak to ourselves too. Encourage yourself with positivity instead of speaking negativity towards yourself.

Stay focused on your goals. Be patient. Ignore negative comments. Don’t let them shake your confidence. Let them roll off your back like so you can’t remember them even if you tried.