Saturday, August 11, 2012

Getting Started

Why is it often so hard to get started doing something you want to do, would maybe like to do, or really should do? Sometimes, procrastination can be easier than getting started because we have no idea just how to go about getting started.

For some things we need to follow Nike's advice of "Just do it." A friend told me just today that she's been swamped dealing with a huge pile of paperwork for her accountant. The job seemed so overwhelming that she kept putting off starting it. She finally just told him that she would have it on his desk by Monday. Once she'd made that commitment, she had no choice but to sit down and dig in. She says she has what was once 42 piles whittled down to only fourteen. She's determined to have it ready by Monday.

Retirement is a new beginning. We have lots of free time to devote to whatever we choose. Often we have projects that we've been meaning to get to, or new things we'd like to try, but somehow we just don't seem to get around to doing it. We finally have the time but we can't seem to get going. Or maybe we decide it's silly to consider starting something new at this stage of our lives. We wouldn't even have any idea of where to start. It will take too much work. We're too old. Those are just more excuses to put off getting started.

You've Gotta Start Somewhere - How About At The Beginning?

The first step is to decide what it is that you want or need to do. I like to get the "needs" out of the way so I won't have them nagging at the back of my mind when I'm having fun doing something I "want" to do. One way to do that is to divide the job up into small parts to be done daily.

For instance, in my ever-evolving goal of simplifying my life, I have just begun the job of going through all of my drawers, cupboards, and closets to get rid of stuff that I can comfortably live without. This is actually an annual job for me. It seems like each year I get rid of lots of stuff but then I turn around and gather up more. I'm not conscious of gathering but the drawer somehow is full again.

This can be a stressful job because there are some serious decisions to be made. I suppose I could do it as one huge job, but I prefer to take it easier on myself by committing to go through at least one drawer or cupboard each day. That way it doesn't get overwhelming.

I have one box for stuff I will donate, maybe one for stuff I think I can sell, and one for trash. I completely empty the drawer I'm working on and then deal with one item at a time. It must go into one of the boxes or it can go back into the drawer if I'm really sure I want to hang into it. But if I haven't used it in a year or two, it's time for it to go.

I make sure that I deal with this project early each day so that I can go on to the things that are more fun without feeling guilty.

Trying Something New

Think back to the days when you were young and had your whole life ahead of you. I'd be willing to bet that you had some kind of dream - something you wanted to do with your life. Then someone came along a burst your bubble. Convinced you that you would never be good enough or never be able to make enough money to live on.

Did you dream of being an artist? A musician? An author? Take some time to think about it. Is that dream still hiding out in a little corner of your head? Does it still sound like something you would enjoy?

Or maybe your dreams have changed as the years have gone by. Maybe you now realize that you have new dreams that you would like to follow...  Cooking? Travel? Sailing?

Even with the fun stuff, it can be hard to get going. It can be too easy to get stuck in a rut of doing the same old things over and over again. You get an idea but just don't quite get around to doing anything about it. Or you think - Oh, yeah, that sounds like fun. I'll have to try that next week or next month or even next year. But it just never happens.

Make A Decision And Then Make A Plan

Once you decide what it is that you would like to accomplish, you have to figure out the first step you will need to take. Do you own any art supplies? A musical instrument? You will probably need to purchase, find or borrow something basic to get going.

I'm working on learning to speak French right now. I may take a class some day, but for now I am working with Rosetta Stone and French in Action on YouTube and some workbooks I've picked up over the years. My plan is to study French for an hour every day. My ultimate intention is, when I have a basic understanding of the language, to go to France and rent a house or apartment where I can stay for three months or so and force myself to use the language and become more proficient.

Maybe you'll need to take a class or two. Drawing class? Sailing school? Everyone has to start somewhere. Maybe you could do it on your own, like preparing a new meal each night for dinner, but a class can work as a jump start. You'll find out what you need to buy, what you need to learn, and meet other people who want to do the same thing as you do.

One really good thing about a class is that it kind of forces you to get going. You'll have specific things you'll need to learn or to do to prepare for the next class, and it will be harder to procrastinate. By the time you've finished the class, practicing the new thing will be a habit. You may decide to continue with the next step in another class, or maybe you will be ready to just go on by yourself. And you will probably now have a new friend or two to do it with.

Intention And Networking

Intention is a great tool for getting things done. An intention is defined as a course of action that one intends to take toward an objective or goal. A definite project is easy - your intention is to work on it until you get it done. You just need to decide how to go about it.

When it comes to learning new things, it can be more difficult. You could set an intention such as becoming a world-famous photographer or a best-selling author. But if you do it that way, you might just be setting yourself up for failure. Or it may become so stressful that what you thought would be fun is now a real drag. Be sure to make your goal one that is achievable. Start with small steps and work up.

The really cool thing about intention comes when you share it with friends and relatives. It's pretty hard to back out on something if you've already told everyone that you're going to do it, so sharing your intention may just give you the push you need to get going.

The other good thing about sharing your intention is the networking that just magically happens once people know what you plan to do.

When I decided to move to Japan, my niece and her husband mentioned my plans to his uncle who had been a Peace Corps volunteer. He, in turn, mentioned it to some old Peace Corps friends who published an online newsletter in Japan. They asked me to write a letter to their newsletter explaining why I was moving to Japan. I did and was happy to become pen pals with six different Japanese women. Four of them invited me to stay with them when I was in their area. One of them became a very good friend. I stayed with her for two weeks. She introduced me to many other Japanese women, taught me so much about Japanese culture, and helped me find an apartment to live in.

Make It Enjoyable

Remember, there is much less stress if we do something just to please ourselves. Take photos that you like. Draw or paint pictures that you like. Commit to write 500 or 1,000 words a day. With constant practice, your skills will improve. You will probably like your work more and more. Some day, you may become skilled enough that other people like your work. You may suddenly find that you've written a whole book. You may even make some money. But, most important, I hope you will have had fun along the way.

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