Many times, before setting foot on a long journey, we tend to think we’ll be traveling in a set, linear path.
Even before we take that critical first step to start something new, we shoot ourselves in the foot by thinking our journey will be ‘simple’ if not easy.
The reality is, nothing could be further from the truth. Like a mountain, our journey consists of peaks and valleys, and it’s comparable to being a passenger on a rollercoaster ride and not ever knowing when you’ll be able to get off.
In many ways, being creative and writing or making a startup is no different. Of course, you can always up and quit before you make much progress. But once you get the ball rolling and you know it’s something you want to do, you must commit to staying the course to gain any degree of success or make even a minuscule amount of the impact you want on others.
Once you’re on the ride, you’re on it. You can’t just get off whenever you want if you want others to care about what you’re doing. You have to commit to the course and invest in the long game, and promise that you’ll do your best no matter what stumbles along your path.
Things Will Never Look Like You Think They Will
It’s true that nobody knows what an outcome of any particular circumstance will be. When you’re standing on the outside of something, you can’t know anything for sure, other than the idea of what you think that something will be.
Take the arch of the Hero’s Journey. When Frodo or Luke Skywalker set out to make an impact on the world around them, they have to make a choice. They have certain goals in mind but don’t know what they’ll have to do to accomplish them. Yet even though they’re scared and fearful of what’s to come, they keep taking little steps forward, faltering and then persevering through the many challenges they face along the way.
The truth is, the journey never looks like you think it will, and the destination you eventually arrive at won’t look much like anything you initially believed it would.
The creative process is similar to the arc of a typical Hero’s Journey in many ways. It requires many conflicts and breakthroughs from the subject of the story (that’s you).
But unless you’re taking the actions you need to take on a consistent basis, then it’s going to be hard for you to gauge how exactly things will play out outside of your mind.
A Dream is Just a Fantasy
The truth is, your ideas are not much different than dreams. And dreams, after all, are not much different than fantasies in your mind. How could you possibly know what they’ll turn out like before you’ve taken the steps you need to arrive at the destination you seek, especially if you don’t know where to go next or are even aware of the place you’re at right now?
Without taking action, a dream is no more than a picture in your mind.
Consider this advice from John Krumboltz, a career advisor who helps people decide how to make the best out of the options available to them at a given time:
As he states throughout the video, we all have conceptualized notions of our ‘dream’ careers. But as John says, these ideas end up not serving us and our visions of better careers (or, in our case, better lives) because they’re little more than glorified fantasies that we carry about the world around us.
That’s because when you’re not engaged in the action of creating something, you run the risk of staying stuck and overthinking things. And when you’re stuck in the ‘dreaming’ phase, you run the risk of being that much less likely to fully engage in the ‘doing’ side of things.
Take That First Step, And Then Another
I used to think you needed to take monumental steps to make the impact you wish to make on others, whether you’re doing it through words, a movement, or a series of paintings or pictures.
But you don’t need to do something monumental and world-shaking to get big results. You just need to take a series of small steps forward in a consistent way every day*. If you can do that, you’ll start to see the changes you want to see manifest in your life in little ways.
You don’t need to move mountains to move others. You just need to show them that they’re powerful and capable of making the changes they wish to make in their lives too. If you can do that, you can spread your movement person by person until it grows into something massive that you couldn’t possibly foresee.
*BJ Fogg talks about how to take tiny steps in his book Tiny Habits here. Another resource to check out is the book Mini Habits by Stephen Guise here. Both are powerful resources to catapult your progress forward (neither are affiliate links, they’re just books I’ve loved to read through).
Be Consistent — The Results Will Follow
To ensure you’re making progress, you need to keep moving forward. Do a little bit every day to accomplish your goals. Set yourself small goals if you have to, but recognize which changes you need to make and then implement those changes and make them a permanent factor in your daily life.
Better yet, procrastinate on the things that don’t serve your goal so you can fully commit to whatever does.
The point is, you need to keep moving forward to accomplish your goals. Momentum is like a giant boulder that gains speed the more you lean on it.
And the faster it gets, the more it can build up on its own.
But if you don’t make that first step forward, and then the one after that, you won’t move at all.
And by not taking even a small action, you’re admitting that you’d rather be stuck and frustrated and not moving forward at all.
Don’t Stand on the Outskirts Any More
When you admit things will be a lot rockier than you originally presumed or imagined them to be, you can start to revel in the process of creation and deliver works of art that you never thought you possibly could.
But don’t stay standing on the sidelines forever. Instead, choose to take small actions and embrace the rollercoaster ride that’s to come.
Remember, it’s hard to see how things will turn out before you’re engaged in the work of making things. If you were to spend 6 hours staring at a blank canvas, it’s going to be that much harder to bring into light the images that are in your head. If you’re not actively engaged in the act of creation itself, then you’re going to run the risk of spending too much time analyzing and predicting every possibility that could arise and jump in front of your way.
Take the instance of a startup. You could spend months or years invested in a particular idea. But until you spend the time bringing it to other people’s attention and creating the thing ‘out loud’ that you’re so fond of thinking of, your idea has no real value to anyone else.
And why would anyone else invest in something that you haven’t invested enough time in creating yourself?
But if you’re spending time creating your business and finding prospects and getting feedback and running the necessary tests, you give your idea the permission to evolve. And as you create it, you allow the idea to grow and nurture in the soil around it by providing it with the nutrients it needs to thrive.
Then, once your idea has sprouted enough, you can send that idea out into the world and give it a chance to spread its wings and fly.