How to start something?
I’ve been struck lately in my practice by the idea of redirecting the river, rather than thinking I need to start a flow happening in the first place. This is something that rings back to my earlier days steeped in the martial arts. And I’ve been just as struck by that idea in my daily life outside of the office, particularly regarding a few creative projects I’ve been working on that last month had so much momentum but lately had seemed to be going … nowhere.
Willpower is not my strong suit (stated often to the surprise of some people who know me as an athlete, or a small-business owner). It just doesn’t seem to take me very far despite repeated, and very well-intentioned, efforts (which happen less and less as I’m getting older and wiser, i.e. better at intelligent leverage). I’m also putting in this camp things like incentivized rewards, like I’ll buy myself that new whatever if I spend four hours writing today … I get it, and why that would work for some people, but I personally don’t like it.
Thus, in the delicate dance with a creative muse needing to finding its way, below are a few thoughts that have helped me work with these projects in a productive, minimally-forceful way. Of course, relating this back to a blog about health only requires you to put your particular project in lieu of mine.
– Scheduling a chunk of “little to do’s” time: I’ve been finding it really helpful to leave about four hours per week, right now Thursday mornings, to deal with a sometimes-massive list of tiny little to-do’s. Things like order more electrolyte mix, and pay this bill. Why so helpful? Having that list keeps me, from M – W, able to really focus on what I’m doing, and have the thought of “oh, but that one thing!” be set aside until its alloted time. And then, when I’m in the mode to just do a bunch of little things, I crank through them. Of course, some stuff needs to be taken care of right away, but … not most of it.
– Make a list: the oldest-school trick I know. Often my projects stay on hold because I feel overwhelmed. When I was in high school, I started this practice that I still use: I would write down everything I could possibly think of that I didn’t think was right with the world (“Overwhelmed with homework”, “Francesca might not like me”). From there, every item would go into one of three categories: Do This Now (like, literally, now), On the Calendar to be Dealt With, or … Out of My Control. You know what to do with everything in the third category.
– Shape the path: I often underestimate how much surrounding myself with a pro-creative-work environment makes a difference — from when I eat breakfast (sooner than later) to where my computer is (a dedicated office/writing space) to if Facebook is open in my browser or not. Other people are of course part of that, too. Here’s a beautiful blog post on surrounding yourself with “people who make failure impossible.”
– Recognize that this may not be about what I thought it was going to be about. This has been a really big one for me, especially in these projects lately and my want to know the outcome before I even start, and thus delay starting if I’m not sure of the outcome. I see this in my bodywork practice often, too: someone comes in because of back pain, and ends up having big emotional release as part of releasing that old trauma; someone comes in to be more fit and lose weight and ends up going back to school to take an anatomy class after falling in love with their own anatomy. These things actually happen pretty regularly. Similarly, I’m getting better at remembering to just start, just start … and the rest takes care of itself in ways I couldn’t have known.
I hope these are helpful pointers, as always.
Also as always, I’m curious to hear your thoughts about what has been and continues to be helpful for you in terms of sustaining positive long-term change.
To our health, cheers, Liam