“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
I once heard the author of a book about Mother Teresa talk about the profound effect she had on him. When a woman asked him about what advice Mother Teresa would give to someone who wanted to do good in the world, but didn’t know where to start, the author said that Mother Teresa would have said, “Only begin.”
Only begin. It sounds so simple doesn’t it, and yet it’s often so hard. We should begin revising that play sitting in our drawer or send out that short story we’ve written or tackle or join that writers’ group we’ve heard about. And yet taking that first step is hard.
As my friend and mentor Rob Gilbert often says on his Success Hotline (973.743.4690),”It’s the start that stops most people.” How true this is! Recently I read an article that describes three stages to getting started on something. Here they are:
1) The roll-over stage: This is the stage where you decide to do something and even set a goal for doing it, but then you can’t overcome your natural inertia and so you simply hit your mental snooze button and “roll over.” In this stage, you come up against your own personal self-discipline. If it’s not strong enough to overcome your inertia, you’re cooked.
2) The “I’m gonna” stage: In this stage, you make a conscious decision to overcome your inertia and move past the “roll-over” stage. “I’m gonna get that play finished.” “I’m gonna get that story out.” You get out the steam roller and start cranking it up. But this often triggers a flood of excuses for why you can’t do it: You don’t have enough time. You haven’t taken that course you saw. You didn’t do enough editing. You get the picture. One of the best ways to push past this stage is to sit down and list all your excuses. Getting them down on paper will make them seem weaker, not stronger. Then list all the potential benefits of doing what you want to do. Which list looks more compelling?
3) The “I did it!” stage: This is where we all want to be. What do we need to get there? Deeper self-discipline, a deep desire, a game-plan, and a vision of our best outcome.
How do we get there from here? A great tool for taking that first step on the road to getting started with anything is what Rob Gilbert calls “The 15-Minute Rule.” Whatever you want to do, just commit to doing it for 15 minutes and then give yourself permission to stop. Nine times out of ten, once you’re 15 minutes into it, you’ll keep going. And the satisfaction you’ll feel at having actually gotten started will help you keep driving forward. So Mother Teresa was write: Only begin. And write on!