Starting is the Hardest Part
We all know that starting is the hardest part of doing anything: a new exercise regimen, learning to meditate or a work-related project. I am writing my second book and I have set some goals so that I can deliver it this year.
Motivation: Fear, Embarrassment or Desire?
One of the most important aspects of starting something new is around motivation. What motivates you? Why do you want to accomplish this goal? Without motivation, it’s really difficult to make progress and to achieve the goal. Sometimes we do things because we think it will impress someone else, or sometimes goals or targets are imposed on us by others.
Research shows that we are far likelier to succeed in our endeavours, if our motivation is sound. I used to be an ultramarathon runner and I know that I was motivated by fear. If I didn’t feel like going out on my 5:15am training run, I thought about standing at the start line of the Comrades Marathon or the Two Oceans 56km, feeling unprepared. I thought about the hills, the tough parts of the race and how much harder it would be if I wasn’t ready. Within seconds, I was out of bed and lacing my shoes. I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad to be motivated by fear, but it worked.
But pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone can feel scary. In Susan Jeffers’ book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, she offers some truths that guide us to stretch beyond the fear. My favourite one is this “The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.” I got a coach to help me to deliver my book this year. Every time we meet, she sets me some stretch activities. These things make me feel a bit uncomfortable just before I do them, but I feel a great sense of achievement when it’s done.
I know that I can be motivated by the embarrassment of not doing what I said I was going to do. This is why I got a coach because I know how I operate. I have a tendency to let myself down and watch the deadlines I set for myself fly past. But I would never dream of letting anyone else down. When I have to account to another person, I’m much more motivated to deliver.
These days, I work on aligning what I do with what I really want. I have an intrinsic desire to write this book – it comes from the inside. Intrinsic goals are things like ‘I want to visit Paris’ or ‘I want to launch my own business.’ Extrinsic goals are much harder to achieve than intrinsic ones. Your parents thought you should study accounting, or your boss wants you to reach a sales target. Dan Pink writes in his book, Drive, “Intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity.” This is a good reminder when we set objectives for our staff. In short, motivation and creativity suffer when someone else tells you to do something.
In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he encourages us to connect our work with the real underlying reason we started. Why did I start this business? Why do I want to write books or articles? My WHY is about guiding people towards their best life possible. I love sharing ideas and tips with people on how to make their lives better, how to change their mindsets around stress and how to have more joy in their lives. That impact is what I work for. Connecting with things that we’re excited about, with a meaningful why makes us unstoppable.
Flow is also important to me. I’ve learnt that there are certain things that take me to a place where I completely lose track of time. I get so immersed in writing that I just don’t want to stop. I can hear my kids fighting and I know they’re hungry, but I just want to keep going. It has been shown by scientific studies that flow improves our happiness levels. Anything I produce in a state of flow is bound to be good and to make me happy. I fill my days with more flow and everyone around me benefits because I’m much nicer to be around.
It’s that time of year when we set intentions, goals or resolutions, whatever you want to call them. I think it’s a good thing because it shows us what we are reaching for. Even if we don’t accomplish our goals, the process of setting them helps us to define what we are really looking for in life. And that’s a healthy practice. We most certainly wont reach anything without identifying it in the first place. And sometimes big scary goals take us into uncomfortable places. It’s difficult to deliver something meaningful without feeling stretched.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past with goal-setting. I used to set a lot of goals that were not really centred on what I want. I set goals because I thought I should be doing something, like gaining a certain type of knowledge in a field that didn’t really interest me. I thought I should be reading financial news but in truth, I have no interest in it. Now, I focus my attention on what I am passionate about. I make sure my goals are intrinsic, connected to my WHY, they bring me flow and they are a little scary.
I’ve done a lot of new things in the past few years. I’ve started a new career, I’ve written a book, I’ve polished public speaking skills, I’ve tackled a range of new tools for social media optimisation and attracting clients. I get the same resistance feeling in my gut each time I try something new. I have the same feelings of doubt whether I’ll be able to do it.
I know I’m not alone when I say that once I’ve started, I wonder what all that fuss was about. Some things literally take a few hours to figure out, and I’ve been putting it off for weeks. In knowing that the hardest part is just starting, what are you waiting for?
Kathy Mann is a writer and speaker, based in Johannesburg South Africa. She’s passionate about building a happy life, on purpose using the tools of positive psychology. Kathy guides people towards living their best life possible through what she has learned in becoming very sick from stress. Women often feel so stretched, trying to be everything to everyone. Kathy’s here to remind you that being true to yourself, connecting with your strengths and talents, is the best way to serve the world.