Why is it so hard to take that first step?

by Christine Unterthiner

We've all been there, perched on the edge of something – whether it's getting ready to go out on stage and perform, pushing send on that first big email proposal, taking an idea to fruition, or even me, right now, writing this article knowing it's going to be "live" soon. Why do we go for it sometimes, and not others?

I believe it's our head space, those old thought patterns that have been courting us for so long that they've become part of the background. They lull us with their familiar tones, "You still need more time", "You're not ready", or my favourite, "Just do it – tomorrow".

It's time for a break up!

Time to take that step, make that mistake, sing that wrong note, whatever it is for you.

I remember back when I first started working out. Looking around the gym I see all these people in amazing shape and there I am, barely able do one bench press with the bar. I notice my thoughts about how maybe I shouldn't be here, I must look really stupid, I hope no one's watching, etc. etc. But then, I have another thought. I realize these people all started somewhere. They didn't come to the gym on their first day and bench press 150 lbs (well, maybe some of the guys did). I knew in that moment that I could just focus on me, do what I needed to do, and let everyone else do their thing.

If you're ready to start, I encourage you just to start. I know it sounds easy, I know it seems scary, and I know you may feel like the world will end. Trust me, I've been on both sides of the fence and it really is way easier to take that first step and make adjustments than it is to wait. Waiting kills the opportunity of the moment. It also creates more waiting which creates more waiting which creates...you get the picture.

Plus, I guarantee if you take that first scary step, the world will still be there and nothing bad will happen to you!

Here are some things I do when I find myself being wooed by those old patterns:

  1. Go back to the beginning - why did I want to do this thing in the first place? What did it feel like when I first chose it? I recall that feeling so it's really present  and then take my first action.
  2. Call a friend or mentor or family member who's in my corner, someone I know will listen to what I'm creating and won't allow me to wallow in my crap (those old thought patterns), someone who can talk me off the ledge. After I've spoken to them, I take one action right away and report back to them letting them know how it went. I like this because it anchors my new experience and loosens the hold of the old one.
  3. Get out my journal - or a piece of paper - and write all the thoughts I have about why not to do it. I include everything on this list that I can think of, no matter how ridiculous. When I'm done, I go to a new page and write down everything I think would happen if I do take that first step. What will I feel like when it's done? Who, if anyone, will benefit? What will I say to myself when I'm done? Then, I go back to the "why not" page and do one of the following: paint or collage over it, tear it out and rip it into tiny pieces (or burn it), keep it as a reminder to chuckle at later.
  4. Play a game. For every thought or pattern that holds me back, I create another one that makes me laugh. Sometimes I get others to play this with me which ends up being hilarious.
  5. Distract myself by doing something that makes me happy, or curious, or calm, or whatever I feel I need in the moment.

I would love to hear from you: what has stopped you in the past from accomplishing something you've always wanted to do, what successes have you had in achieving something because you did take that first step, where are you not taking that first step now?

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