Why Starting Is So Hard?
Updated: Feb 1
You have likely been there. You are motivated, maybe even excited to start working towards that new goal. Maybe you read a book, listened to a podcast, or watched a video that triggered a desire to make some positive changes in your life. You have every reason to start, you are feeling so ready, but then you still delay. This can be a frustrating cycle for so many people. You would think that with all the motivation, all the reasons why, starting should be easy. However, you might still end up asking (or screaming to) yourself:
Why Can’t I just start?!
Well, that’s an important question to ask, although I might suggest asking it differently. You might re-frame your question; What is currently holding me back? What do I need to do to take that first step? These questions evoke self-reflection with direction which is a key component to creating any change in your life. While I am not able to tell you exactly what might be holding you back specifically from whatever important venture that you are struggling to activate, I am sure you might relate to some of the most common struggles that come up with our coaching clients; Fear, doubt, and discomfort.
If you find yourself nodding along to one of those, you're not alone! Which one resonated with you? Maybe it was fear. Fear of what though? Fear of failure is a common one. Fear of failure can be an extremely intimidating barrier when starting something new. Once you take that first step, failure is now on the line. When you do take it though, maybe it is deciding to start at the gym again for the first time in 2 years, and you’ve been here before. That’s right, you have been here before and felt that ‘failure’ from the last attempt(s). You understand the pain that comes with not following through and you don’t want to feel that pain again. It may seem easier to not start and avoid the risk of feeling that pain again…
There’s also a doubt that is very common when struggling to get the ball rolling. Doubt, like fear can be a powerful distraction from taking that initial leap. If you have thoughts that you might not succeed or that you WILL not succeed, it’s going to be hard to hit the ground running toward that important new venture! You might be looking to start a new diet. You have read every detail and understand the rules and guidelines you will need to follow and you are all set to begin. Again, you are motivated and ready to go. But you are not confident in your ability to follow through in the long-term. It’s daunting. Can I even do this? I’ve never been able to stick to a diet before, how am I going to be able to follow through with this? These are again powerful distractions that take away from your ability to get going.
Both fear and doubt bring up a level of discomfort. It’s certainly not a nice feeling to be afraid. It’s not comfortable to doubt yourself and your abilities. But discomfort does not only come from fear and doubt, discomfort can also be a consequence of any change, positive or negative. If you have been holding back on change, you are doing so for a reason. There is something about what you are doing ie. Eating chips at night, drinking often, eating out instead of eating at home, or skipping the gym, that is providing you some level of comfort. Changing that behavior is likely going to shift your comfort level, at least temporarily. You likely hear often about the importance of leaving your comfort zone for success. Indeed, stepping outside of your comfort zone can be essential to creating positive change. Be that as it may, it does not make it much easier.
So, you know that change is hard and taking flight on a fresh new adventure certainly comes with challenges in the beginning stages alone. Hopefully you have gained a little clarity on the WHY you may not be starting something that you know you want and need. What is really going to help you though is discovering HOW to start despite these barriers! When you are feeling resistance based on fear, doubt, discomfort, or any other internal factors pulling you back, the first important step is reflection. I hope this has given you that very opportunity to stop and reflect on how your situation(s) may draw some parallels. The reflection I am referring to that will truly spark that change though, is deeper. When we start to ask ourselves impactful questions like the ones we addressed in the fear section, we start to understand ourselves with more clarity. It’s great to recognize that we are fearful or doubtful, but to understand why you are doubting yourself or what exactly you are afraid of, will bring you closer to that clarity and open you up to a more logical response to that situation. Using the example in the fear section, let’s say you are afraid to go back to the gym. You might be thinking about the what ifs.
What if I can’t commit? What if I look silly? What if I sacrifice all this time and energy and don’t achieve the results I am looking to achieve?
Change the question. Even the playing field here with your thoughts! Try this:
What if I don’t start?
That’s a powerful one as well. You can take that same fear and doubt that has been holding you back and shine a different light on it. Sure, it might be scary to start, but it might be even more scary to not start! Not only this, but you can also reflect on what might go RIGHT if you start this journey, even if you do “fail” along the way. What lessons might you learn? What questions might you answer? What relationships might you gain and what improvements might you see in your life through "simply" trying?
From here, you are almost ready to start - Although, spoiler alert; you have already started at this point. But, it’s important that you begin in the right way. Think about your expectations you have about starting and with what you are eager to achieve. One of the most important aspects of achieving a goal is having a realistic approach. If you have a ton of doubt surrounding that new diet, maybe look at adjusting the process to something you feel more confident with to START with. From there, you can build on your success toward the ultimate goal. You don’t have to do things perfectly. If you are in this situation, it is because you have struggled to stay consistent in the past. Do not look too far down the road to success. Focus on the small steps that get you moving first and refine the process along the way. If the diet you are looking to begin seems unrealistic or daunting, maybe you chose one or a few aspects of the diet to start with for a few weeks. Once that becomes consistent, you can start to add more components. Or maybe it is committing to one day a week at the gym to start with instead of 4 days. Make that consistent and then add to your routine - It's likely more than you were doing before and therefore still net positive! You know starting can be difficult, so make the beginning stages as easy as possible to feel successful and slowly build off that success.
If you would like to hear more about this topic, I would recommend listening to episode one of the Wellness Dojo Podcast where Dr. Riley and myself do deep dive discussion on this exact topic.
I wish you all the best with starting your next big thing!