Photo courtesy of Hollywood Press
For as much as I can appreciate spontaneity and surprises, I also like a plan. Or, at least give me an agenda. Oh, or an outline. I dig outlines. I just like an overview of what things are going to possibly look like. Whether it’s a meeting, a conference, my flight itinerary, or my day, I like to know what’s ahead.
However, I’ve noticed, self included, it can be easy to get all kinds of caught up in planning, preparing, outlining, mapping, or whatever else people do to get a handle on a situation, and never actually start. It’s like learning how to drive. You get in the car, you adjust your seat, familiarize yourself with all the buttons, the locks, adjust your mirrors, put on your seatbelt, put the key in the ignition and then….well if you are planning to go anywhere, you have to start the car. By the way, I was that student driver who looked at my instructor with the “Wait I have to start this thing,” look.
Well, sometimes starting is not that easy. It looks good and sounds good. We believe ourselves to be well equipped for whatever the journey that lies ahead of us is, but there is something that leaves our bottoms glued to the seat, our feet firmly planted, our hand on the door knob but our wrist resistant to turning the knob. I want to talk to you about what that “something” is that keeps us from starting what could be the conversation, job, career move, or whatever that we need to start and how to override those start stoppers and LIVE on.
Fear: I am sure it doesn’t surprise you that fear is the first start stopper listed. No matter how good things look in theory, the idea of putting things into practice scare the mess out of some of us. No matter how well we know the information we are going to present, the idea of starting the presentation causes dry mouth, sweaty palms, and has us reaching for the phone to call out “sick” and having our intern or associate present in our stead.
Anxiety: I am even more confident that seeing anxiety as number two on the start stoppers list surprises you even less than seeing fear as number one. Anxiety usually comes in the guise of “What if?” What if everything goes wrong, what if I write down the wrong address to pick up the rental car, what if my train is late and then I’m late for my flight, what if he’s just going out with me as a favor to Camille, what if she’s just going out with me as a favor to Calvin, what if I say I love you and they don’t feel the same way, what if I don’t get the promotion, what if that bank doesn’t approve me for the small business loan, or here was mine…What if I work on this blog and no one reads it? The “What if’s?” magically turn us into psychics. Somehow we “know” all of the “what if’s” will be realities. We don’t go on that first date, apply for the loan or promotion, or go on the road trip, and the simply LIVEd life doesn’t get created. We get knots in our stomachs, heart palpitations, raggedy nails because we bite them, thinning hair, growing guts, headaches, nervous awkward laughter that makes people give us the side eye, and we don’t start.
Insufficient Information: Ahhh, I think I may have surprised you with my third start stopper. Sometimes we don’t start because we don’t exactly know how. We have the idea, the super amazing brain storm scribbled on our mint green napkin while waiting for our friend to make it across town for happy hour,but we don’t exactly know how to make all of that a reality. We have the name of the business picked out, the ideal location, the target population, friends and family members who have told you you could totally work for yourself, but you don’t know the first thing about copy writing or trademarking your business name, how to create a logo, where to buy a domain name, licensing information, etc. And you decide since you don’t know, you might as well keep that as a hobby and keep on keeping on with your 9-5 gig.
Feeling Overwhelmed: You know all the facts, you have successfully combated the “What ifs?” ?and did not purchase your own 900 number because you’re not a psychic , you kicked fear in the face, but…..it’s just too much. There are too many due dates, checks to write, classes to attend, connections to make, networking events to attend, first date shoes to choose from, ice breaking one liners to remember, topics to write about, etc. Your life is busy enough as it is. You don’t start.
Lack of Support: I don’t care who you are or think you are, no one makes it in this life without other people to help them along the way. Some of us are more fortunate than others and have amazing all star teams of people in our lives. And others of us don’t and more often than not we are our own coach, cheerleader, study buddy, and opponent. We are fortunate if we get a person or two on the bleachers of our life, and even more fortunate if they stay the entire game. Sometimes we want to start, but we just don’t want to start alone. We don’t want to be the last one in our circle of friends still dating. We don’t want to be the first in our circle of friends and our family to start our own business. We don’t want to be the only woman, person of color, or person over 40 taking college courses. We want people we are familiar with to do it with us or at least constantly and sincerely remind us we can do it and they are committed to assisting the best way they know how. You don’t want to seem needy and ask for support or the people in your life don’t know how to support you, either way you are unsupported and so you don’t start.
So how does one overcome such start stoppers?
Photo Courtesy of Mario Testino for Vogue U K July 2012
Normalize Fear and Anxiety: You remind yourself that fear is normal and natural but that whatever you want to start, you deserve the challenge, the adventure, and the success of it all. You assess if the fears are warranted and if they are, address them. If they’re not, kick them to the curb.
Anxiety is just as normal as fear. A little nerves never hurt anybody. In fact I like to think they help keep us on our toes. However, when nerves are costing you sleep and beginning to LIVE, you’ve got to assess the worries. Again, are they warranted? If you are worried about the neighborhood of the restaurant your date is supposed to meet you at, then request a different location where you feel safer. If you’re worried the bank won’t approve your loan because of your credit score, then talk with them about improving your credit score.
Do Your Homework: In this day and age when it comes to doing research and information gathering you have no real excuse for not accessing the data you need. I like to call it…Google. You will be surprised what information is online. Now, all of it is not good, but if you at least start the search and read, you will be able to distinguish what is legit from what’s not. If it reads like a scam, it is a scam. And never just offer personal information all willy nilly on anyone’s website. But, if you want to figure out how to start a business in your city, Google it. If you want to find good conversation starters, Google it. Looking for effective tips to run a meeting, Google it. Need an agenda template, Google it. Want to take an inexpensive weekend getaway, Google it.
Break It Down: If you’re the type who gets too overwhelmed to start, might I suggest the good ol’ to do list. Create a daily task list with no more than 3 tasks that relate to whatever it is you want to start. Make sure tasks are able to be completed in a day. A to do list can be a way of committing to starting a larger task and can add a sense of accomplishment when we actually do what is on the list. When I started the process of defining a simply LIVEd life for myself, daily I spent time praying (not necessarily on my knees either, but dedicated time talking to God), I would read 2-3 blogs I believe incorporate the lifestyle I am creating for myself, and do at least one thing towards the development of the simply LIVEd blog (i.e. list blog post I wanted to develop, write a blog post, find pictures for posts, etc.). The longer I committed to these tasks, the more confident I felt in creating this blog and encouraged in building the The Simply LIVEd community.
Find Support in Starting: It’s nice to have support before you begin an endeavor. However, sometimes when you start, you find support. A few years ago when I started a small design company and I felt way out of my league educationally and professionally I met some amazing people, several of whom years later even after deciding to dissolve the business, I call friends. By going to small business development classes, researching and attending small business events in the greater Philadelphia area, operating out of my center city office aka Starbucks in Rittenhouse, I found myself in a very supportive network of people that I am confident I would not know otherwise had I not started. In fact many of these people are the same people who are supporting me now, supporting this blog. I won’t lie, I have my share of “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” moments, however as I overcame the fears, anxieties, the self doubt, information challenges, and just started, the support came. So if you don’t have a super supportive team just yet, I’d like to volunteer and be the first member on your team. And I mean that. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise, as you start, the support network will come.
A part of the simply LIVEd life is to simply start.