Mindset matters: How to start something new
Big things often have small beginnings - T. E. Lawrence
In the beginning, the easy things are difficult; later, the difficult things are easy
We need to embrace the process
Having the right mindset greatly helps in overcoming the drop in motivation
First, set process goals
Second, make it as easy as possible to take action
Thirdly, think of obstacles that inhibit you or make you stop and think of what-if plans
In the past few weeks, I've once again faced the difficulties of starting something new. I've set myself the goal to learn inline skating. In the beginning, as usual, I was motivated as hell. It didn't take long for me to order a pair of skates and protectors online. But yeah, once I had to actually ride my first meters on the skates, all the energy and euphoria went away. I sucked. And I hated it.
It's always the same: In the beginning, we're very motivated about an idea, but when it comes down to taking action and execution, our motivation diminishes rapidly.
I knew this emotional rollercoaster would happen. When I started with this blog, with running, or with my Youtube channel, I faced the very same issue.
In today's blog article, I want to talk about how I manage to get started and keep going, why the right mindset matters, and how you can start something new successfully, too.
The struggle is real - why it's hard to get started
There is this statement from the book "The winners' laws" I always remind myself of when I want to start something new: In the beginning, the easy things are difficult; later, the difficult things are easy.
There's so much truth in it. Every time we start something new, we suck. Can you remember the first time you spoke your first English words (to my non-native English readers)? Swam your first minutes? Had your first presentation? Wrote your first essay? Had your first job interview?
When I started with my Youtube channel, my first videos were terrible even though it took me numerous hours to cut and edit them. Today, the quality is significantly better (still great room for improvement though) and it takes a fraction of time to produce one of them.
And it's always like that: When we keep going and put in the hours, we improve and the difficult things become easy.
Another reason why it's hard to get started: At the beginning of the process, it often feels unrewarding. The first few steps usually yield no real benefits. E.g. my feet, legs, and hips hurt so much the first few times I rode inline skates; my first 20 videos consumed hundreds of hours of work but produced fewer views than one of my videos does today; it's such a struggle to learn grammar and vocabulary, and still, you cannot have a real conversation at the beginning of learning a new language...
Moreover, because we're highly motivated in the beginning but not long after experience a steep drop in euphoria once we took the first actions, we lose confidence in ourselves and in our goals. We start to doubt: Was it really a good idea to start a Youtube channel? Teach yourself to ride inline skates? Learn a new language? Pick of this or that hobby? Since we disbelieve in ourselves, it becomes even more difficult to keep going.
The importance of the right mindset
Therefore, maintaining the right mindset is crucial.
We need to embrace the process. Yes, it feels embarrassing to upload a crappy video, speak the first words in a new language, present the first time, ... but it'll always be that way.
Our body and brain are true miracles of nature. Just by practicing, we improve. We're capable of adapting to various stimuli just by exposing ourselves to them.
This certainty alone can carry you easily through the struggles of starting something new.
The most challenging part of this journey is the time frame between the drop of the initial euphoria and the first successes. Having the right mindset greatly helps in bridging this gap. Afterward, you've already built enough momentum to keep going despite new struggles.
Get started and keep going
Yes, having the right mindset is crucial. Relying on pure willpower, though, doesn’t work. We need to create the right systems to make an idea or plan become reality.
First, we need to set process goals. Missing proper goal setting is often the deal-breaker when people want to get started with something new.
When we want to start something new, we usually have a goal in our minds. This goal, however, is usually rather a vague vision than a concrete target. For instance, I just wanted to learn inline skating to have a fun alternative to running that I can enjoy together with my girlfriend.
To get there, to achieve this vision, we have to do certain things. These things, we need to identify and write down. In the case of inline skating, it's pretty simple: I just had to ride regularly and become comfortable. Hence, I noted down - in my personal development chapter in Notion - the process goal "ride inline skates 60 minutes per week".
By committing to this goal and actually taking action, I simply improved and now already have a lot of fun riding. Indeed, the first few times were unpleasant, but I had a very easy goal: Just go for a ride once per week.
Second, you need to make it as easy as possible to take action. I'm a full-time employee, and even at the weekends, I've plenty of things to do. Thus, I needed to find a time slot solely dedicated to this new endeavor. I chose Monday morning, 7:30 am. This might sound stupid to you, but for me, that's the perfect time to try something new. Little to no distractions, work starts at 9 am, no reason not to go for an easy ride - a perfect fit for me. Yet, what works for me doesn't have to work for you. You have to determine the circumstances that will help you to take action as easily as possible.
Thirdly, think of obstacles that inhibit you or make you stop and think of what-if plans. By anticipating factors that will make you fail, you can greatly increase the likelihood of your success. This technique is called mental contrasting and stems from the field of psychology.
For example, what would happen if it rained on a Monday morning? What could I do to still hit my 60-minute-inline-skating-goal? What should I do if I was seriously injured? What has to change if I didn't progress? What if I lose motivation? ...
Yes, it takes time and effort to think about potential obstacles and corresponding what-if plans, but if you encounter one of these obstacles, you will have a good solution at hand and thus keep going.