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Facing the Daunting Task of "Starting"

For those who are challenged by the task ahead, starting may be the hardest part.

I've been thinking about this post for WEEKS. It's the notion of starting. Whether that's starting a workout, starting a new routine, starting to write that blog post (*ahem*), starting on a project, or anything else, it's definitely been on my mind recently. And here's what I've concluded: Starting is the hardest part!

My depiction of the up-hill struggle when it's hard to start.

This idea first popped into my head a few weeks ago when I was having a particularly lethargic day. Low energy, not wanting to do much, and I definitely hadn't moved my body all day. I told myself, "Just go for a walk. You'll feel better." Then I proceeded to debate with myself and find reasons to not go. "Do I really want to walk? I should workout... but I need a day off every now and then. Now it's getting dark and the day is slipping away. I REALLY don't feel like doing anything." And on and on it went. Despite not wanting to do anything I could feel that downward spiral of "lazy breeds lazy" that I experience for myself. Knowing I don't like how the laziness feels in my body, I finally mustered up the energy to put my shoes and a coat on and forced myself out the door.

Yes, it was hard. Yes, I started slow. Yes, it felt like a chore. But then something happened. I gained momentum. Before I knew it, my thoughts were no longer focused on how hard it was. I was just walking and my mind started to drift to other places as it so often does when I walk.

The moment I really had the lightbulb shine was when I turned around to head back to the house about 20 minutes into the walk. I realized that not only did I appreciate the fact I forced myself outside, but I actually felt good and was energized! My pace had quickened, the air was refreshing, and I had shaken that lethargic cloud that had engulfed me earlier. The effort was so worth it.

The stick-figure story in my head of what can actually happen once you get going.

So zoom out for a moment. This example is just that: an example of the process that I imagine we all experience at one time or another. (Geesh, I sure hope it's not just me!) No matter what the task is, I do believe that starting can sometimes be the most challenging part. So how can we get over that? That's really the question I've been chewing on.

Here's the best two-part solution I can come up with...

To initiate starting a task when motivation is lacking:

A. Keep the end in mind. (Another way I like to think of it is to keep the Future You in mind.) If you know that you want to move more/finish your project/complete that workout/stick to your goal/etc. then my best advice is to keep that at the very forefront of your mind and let that be your motivating factor to begin. Now, I recognize that it does still require discipline to then get your feet out of the proverbial mud initially, but I'm a firm believer that once you do that you'll thank yourself. I'd bet that rarely, if ever, has someone said, "man, I sure regret doing that workout" once it was complete.

If it's still hard to get started, there's a plan B...

B. When there is a task at hand that you don't want to do, set a timer and do it for ten minutes. Just ten minutes! My mom taught me this trick years ago and it still works. Tell yourself to do that task for ten minutes, and once the timer goes off you can be done. Most of the time, once you get into it you'll want to continue until the task is complete. If you do stop, then that's 10 minutes accomplished that would not have been otherwise!

There's one more thing I want to add regarding this topic. Times are weird right now. I think we all can use a little grace and kindness amid the collective stress that is occurring. While it may be an opportune time to dabble in that new hobby or clean out your basement due to having more free time on your hands, if you choose to not begin today it's 100% okay! Own that. Don't beat yourself up, make yourself feel guilty, or say negative things to yourself like you "should" be doing xyz. Accept full responsibility for feeling like you don't want to do it and be kind to yourself, trusting that you're giving yourself what you need in that moment. You can always try again tomorrow.

So I hope these ideas help and offer a different perspective for you to think about the next time you have difficulty starting something, whatever that may be. I'm here to say we all have been there and it's ok. If you can get yourself over that initial hump, you just may be surprised at how much you can ride momentum's coat tails to the finish line for the rest of it!

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