Why is Getting Started So Hard?

In general, I’m a person of action.

When I decide I want to do something, my contemplative stage generally doesn’t last very long. And when I make the change, I dive right in.

  • When I decided I wanted to get a nutrition coach, I immediately picked a general start date, asked for recommendations, and reached out all with in a couple of weeks.
  • When I decided I wanted to do strongman, I picked a month to get on board, asked for coach recommendations, and reached out with in a month of wanting to start.
  • When I decided I wanted to start riding my bike to work (when I lived in the city), I got good earbuds, mapped a few route options and ranked them, and started on a Monday after buying a bike.

I love it when something is discreetly actionable. When you just have to Do a Thing, and then you’ve started and it keeps on rolling. One strongman session and BAM! I’m a strongman. One trip on the bike and BAM! I’m someone who bike commutes.

But there are so many things in life that aren’t like that.

Take paying bills on time. I used to be terrible at that! In college, it was the dawn of e-payments and my company didn’t use online payments yet. My final semester, when I was living alone, I had my electricity cut twice because I just didn’t pay. Why was this so hard for me to do on time? For one, there is no real identity associated with paying bills on time. It’s not like you write a check and BAM! you’re…. still you. Super citizen? Meh.

I can only do it now because PG&E has auto-pay. Same with my car payments. I can’t wait for rental companies to ubiquitously offer it.

And there are so many daily routines that I know would make my life easier and my health better. Like drinking water instead of so much coffee and tea. But what’s so cool about being THAT person that drinks water?

So I try to associate a new persona or character facet to what I want to accomplish.

For instance, I want to learn how to code. At first I would just tell myself that I’ll occasionally open my editor and plug away when there is free time. Eventually, I’ll have enough hours under belt to attack the next project. But nothing ever happened.

So to make it happen at a better pace, I swallowed my fear of judgement and pride and told my boyfriend, a developer extraordinaire. Now it was real. Then I attached a persona to it: I don’t want to be a developer, but I would eventually like to be the kind of person who, if a technological idea struck, could hack away and pull something together.

With his help and this outlook, I’ve made more progress in understanding and learning in one month than I did in three months of just fucking around.

I know this won’t always work, but I encourage you to try this strategy: Define a character trait that fits the specific task/goal (this works better if the task or goal is discrete), and imagine you already have it that trait. See of you pick up that habit faster this time around.