How to Start: No “Next Step”. Only “Now.”
Why is it so hard to put pen to paper when writing (or in this case, fingers to keyboard)? When there’s something so interesting to write about, why is there hesitation? Is it because I’m hungry? Perhaps the chair is too uncomfortable. Or rather, other things are “more important” (scrolling Facebook, really?). I could sit in front of a computer screen for hours just wondering how to start.
There are so many ideas I could run with, research proposals I could discuss, drawings and artwork I could practice. I could work more hours, save, and then travel everywhere. Or I could take a class on a skill I want to conquer (and now just, I almost left the WordPress browser to search for a class at my local community college). Sometimes (read: many times), procrastination takes hold. When I have the time to sit and develop myself, how do I start?
It’s easy as it is hard: just do it.
When I was fresh out of college, my NEXT STEP was looming just around the corner, ready to pounce of me. I was so anxious, frustrated. I ended in a position close to my field of study and did not like it. I took a leap of faith, accepted a job position that was the scarier option and ran with it as much as I could. The things I learned and the connections there planted a seed in me to put myself out there and take risks. I never thought I would be doing what I’m doing now.
Recently, I met for lunch with one of my close college friends; we chatted about life, shared interesting videos and podcasts with each other, discussed where we are in our life path. Neither of us thought we would be doing what we’re doing now. Not at all. Actually, when I was a recent post-grad, I ignorantly said, “I’ll never do sales! I won’t like it!”. Lo and behold, I’ve been doing sales for almost a year, and I’m don’t hate it. Among other things, as an extrovert, it gives me my fill of social interaction I crave.
So here I am. I’m currently in, what my fresh-faced post-grad self called, my NEXT STEP. It’s nothing like I would have imagined. I couldn’t plan this out the way it played out if I tried. And again during that lunch, I asked, “What’s my next step…” My friend goes, “Don’t focus on the next step. Focus on the NOW.”
And she’s right. For many of us, there’s TOO MUCH anxiety about the future. That’s why psychology puts an emphasis on mindfulness — placing yourself in the present and putting focus on that. In meditation, it’s when you focus purely on your breathing. There’s a term in Positive Psychology called “flow”, when you focus on a task of relative difficulty, and time just flies. These two things, both things helpful for mental health, put emphasis on the NOW.
Instead of asking, “What’s my NEXT STEP?” change the question to, “What’s my NOW?”
My NOW for me is simple: improving certain skills. I’ve always thought, “Writing is good for me… I just don’t like it!” Hindsight tells me: I do like it. I don’t like putting the effort into it. This comes in tandem with having focus and maintaining mental health.
So, I’ve always known how to start. It’s about doing the freaking work.
This is me putting in my work.
(Inspired by: Gary Vaynerchuk’s How to Start. Check it out. So worth it.)