It’s Time to Get Started

“Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.” ~Neil Gaiman

LLV3[While kindness has been and will remain one of the most important lessons of my life—and one I continue to learn daily—lately, I’ve been thinking about other lessons life has taught me. And I’ve become increasingly aware of the lessons that no longer serve and need to be “unlearned.” Like many writers who say they write to find out what they think, writing is how I make sense of my world. Periodically, I plan to explore some of my life lessons here. I invite you to share some of your own.]

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make a promise to yourself and how hard it can be to keep it? Whether it’s writing that book, losing those ten pounds, exercising daily, or withholding judgment, it’s always easier to think about doing something than to actually do it.

Years ago, I heard these wise words from Michael Broome: “Commitment means continuing to do what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has passed.”

Without commitment, we are dilettantes—we dabble at life, easily distracted by the next shiny object that catches our fancy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Having wide and multiple interests creates curious and well-rounded personalities. But there’s a difference between flitting among attractions and recognizing what calls to us.

For many of us, there comes a time when, from among all the possibilities surrounding us, one or more pursuits captivate us. “This,” we say, “is where I want to invest my time and energy. This is what makes my heart soar.”

We make a commitment—to writing, race-car driving, playing the clarinet….

But do we, really?

For some, commitment remains a wish, and noble intention. I will do it just as soon as I have more time … as soon as I know I will be good at it … as soon as I know I will not fail…. Or, I’ll get to it when I retire … when the bills are paid … when the nest is empty. When the hills are alive with the sound of music….

True commitment requires one essential step. We must begin. That’s where so many of us—myself included—seize up.

Beginnings are messy. They can be painful and discouraging—often leading us to question our talent or our choices. Better to keep that noble commitment pristine, rather than tarnish it with the truth of our ineptitude.

Well . . . okay. It’s a choice. We can hold on to that image of ourselves as talented {writers … painters … taxidermists….} right up until we take our last breath, or we can prove our commitment by diving into it and accepting our incompetence. Maybe we’ll never be as good as that image we hold for ourselves, but we will surely be better than if we do not venture forth.

About 30 years ago, I received some very wise advice from futurist Glen Hiemstra, with whom I worked many times on organizational strategic planning. He had what he called the “15% rule.” Essentially, it said if you know more than 15% of what you need to know to start moving forward on a plan or project, you’ve waited too long. Glen acknowledged that for some, that percentage might be 5%, and for others, perhaps 25%, but his meaning was that if you insist upon waiting to begin until you have all the information or resources you think you’ll need to accomplish something, you may never get started, or you’ll always be behind. The point is to begin. Once you have done so, you can always adjust your course as more information or tools become available to you.

With organizations, the danger of waiting too long is that another group—more daring, more nimble—will jump in and assume the role you wanted to carve out for your organization. They will leave you in their dust.

For individuals, though, it’s not a competition. It’s more a matter of courage. Do we have the guts to commence if we can’t see a clear path all the way to our end goal? If our success isn’t guaranteed?

But think of it another way: If we can already see that clear path, if the end goal is visible to us, perhaps our goal is too timid. Making a commitment to a sure thing isn’t exactly bold.

But making a start on an audacious intention—diving in without any assurance of success or even any certainty that we know where we are going—that’s how we define ourselves as architects and adventurers in our own lives. I have long thought that the greatest adventure of all is to follow where the heart leads. And that requires starting somewhere.

Perhaps we hesitate because we fear we will suck at our chosen venture. Well, of course we will! And we should. Being dreadful is part of the process. There’s no shame in it and it leads us to progress, competence, surprise, and—eventually—to shining so brightly that angels smile down upon us as they don their shades.

Rumi writes, “As you start to walk the path, the path will appear.” This, then, is magic of our own making.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~Goethe

20 thoughts on “It’s Time to Get Started

  1. I really like your new project, Lessons Learned and Unlearned: What We Pick Up and Discard Along the Way. I gained so much from your first writing in this vein, and today’s post speaks to me particularly. I am in the position of having abandoned projects because I believed I wasn’t good enough; now I find myself in the position of hesitating to begin anew for many of the reasons you write about here. You’ve given me food for thought, and perhaps the nudge I need to get started all over again. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can so relate, Kathi! I find myself flitting among projects—either distracted by something new, or discouraged that I’ve hit a difficult spot. I try to remind myself that what comes easy isn’t what leads to improvement. After these last few challenging years, though, there is a real attraction in *easy*. Glad to provide a bit of a nudge. Heaven knows you’ve given me many over the last several years!


  2. It may not matter what you do as long as when you do it you feel confident that you’re on the right path. I tend to abide by the idea: when in doubt, don’t. This doesn’t mean I sit around idle, but that when I do things I am sure I should be doing them. That’s how I keep myself motivated to commit to something. I am not in doubt.

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  3. That’s a great quote. And your words are so true. Commitment requires courage and the conviction to not just follow through but begin. The hardest part is always the first few steps and getting the momentum going. Wishing you all the very best.

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  4. Here from Ally’s. It’s hard and scary for me to just jump in, but I need to do more of it. Sometimes I get a push from a daughter or a friend and that helps me start. Once I do, the rest is easier.

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    • Hi, Margaret. Thanks for visiting. Ally is a gem. I agree that taking that first step can be hard and scary. We’re lucky when we have someone in our life who can give us that needed nudge … gently, of course.


  5. Funny, Donna, because I generally let my enthusiasm for a project carry me away and will dive in with less than 15% of the info I think I should have and always beat myself up about it but now I will look at it differently. Thank you. ;0)

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