How To Start Anything, When You’re Unsure How

Starting can be hard, especially when the path is unclear. We lose motivation quickly when we don’t know where to start.

Whether you want to change your habits, clean out your basement, write a book or develop a revolutionary new product, learning techniques for starting can help.

Start With Awareness…Not Change

Become aware of your current state before changing it.

Write a word, a sentence, a paragraph. Think about where you are and where you’d like to be. The process of definition often leads to discovery.

Create a way of measuring what you want to change, then practice measuring it before you try to change it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The more effort you put into measuring, the less effort you have to make the change.

Measuring can make a task feel manageable, and give you a way to track your progress–a critical element to maintaining motivation when you’re walking an unknown path.

This month I started the long process of cleaning out my basement. I have dozens of boxes with stacks of papers in them.

Before sorting, scanning, filing or shredding them, I’m measuring them with a ruler. I have 133″ of paper in 16 boxes and 1 filing cabinet to go through.

That’s a mountain of paperwork. But suddenly that mountain seems manageable. I can start focusing on chipping away at it slowly, one inch at a time.

Start Subjectively…Not Objectively

Don’t aim for a perfect, objective metric to track your progress. In the beginning, subjective measures work fine and require far less work to implement and track. After you gain momentum, you can work to make it more consistent and objective.

Writing 750 words a day may help you write a novel, but it can be daunting to start with. When objective measures seem daunting, start with subjective measures. Did you write a little, a decent amount or a lot?

This month I’m working on tracking my sleep so I can sleep better. I wear my FitBit to bed which tells me how often I was restless or woke up.

But the numbers haven’t helped me. I now rate my sleep on a scale from 1-5. It’s purely subjective, but gives me much better feedback on how I’m sleeping.

Start Coarsely…Not Granularly

Focus on big chunks first before breaking them down. Don’t spend too much time refining early; it’s often wasted effort. Learn first what makes sense to refine.

Aim for less accuracy and precision in the beginning. Start big. Don’t get caught up too early in the details, which may change.

This month to improve my dancing I’ve been taking balboa lessons. In the beginning, I started with large steps, aiming to get the steps however I could. As I’ve taught my body how to move within the dance, my steps have gotten smaller & more refined.

Start with Process…Not Results

Focus your early efforts on doing something, anything. Schedule blocks of time and commit to making an effort the entire time. Don’t worry if you’re doing it right or making progress. Gain momentum first.

Tracking where you are relative to your goal can be useful…later. In the beginning, track how much work you’ve put in. Deliberate effort will lead to results. Focusing too early on results can kill your motivation if you don’t progress fast enough.

This month I’ve been doing an Abs 40 Challenge, where I do a series of pilates exercises to strengthen my core. It takes 5 minutes to do.

In the beginning, I was horrible at the exercises. But slowly, day after day of doing the exercises for 5 minutes, I gained strength and could do the exercises right.

I’ve now moved on to the intermediate exercises and am back at the start again, learning how to do the exercises while gaining the strength to do them.

Start with Being Wrong…Not Right

In the end, to start you must let go of the desire to be right. You must do what you know is wrong, because you haven’t developed the skills or aptitude to do it right yet.

That’s okay.

After all, everyone sucks in the beginning. Everyone hits a wall at some point.

By focusing on your effort first, your progress second and your goal third, you build momentum, push through plateaus and get energized when you see the finish line.

Today I started writing blog posts again. Even though I’ve done it before, I’m using these same techniques to restart.This isn’t my best piece of writing, but all that matters is that I started. I hope you found it useful.

What are your strategies for starting when you’re unsure how?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>