Life is hard sometimes. What’s worse is when you know you need to do something and you can’t. Or rather, you “can’t.”
Since making my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve realized one thing that turned out to be more important and universal than I initially realized… that making the decision to start something is the hardest part of the process.
When I decided to quit watching TV, that was a big undertaking. I’ve been known to watch a lot of TV, several hours every day, and I would talk to friends about TV, so it had become a big part of my life. The decision to quit was hard, and it actually took months to make. In the weeks leading up to the start of 2016 I thought about doing it, and was crippled by the idea of how hard I expected it to be.
Similarly, when I decided to quit drinking soda I was dwarfed by how hard I thought it was going to be.
About a year ago I decided to get an office for my business. Some people ask me why I don’t just work from home, but it’s because the office gives me a dedicated place to work that becomes my “focus zone.” Unfortunately, there have been a number of days where I haven’t even gone to the office. Despite having work to do, I put it off citing reasons like having to shower, walk there, it’s cold, there’s no coffee, the internet is faster at home… Meaning of course that I wouldn’t put in a full day’s work.
I often find my to-do list to be quite paralyzing. Each task/project is feels so big that I don’t know where to start, and I don’t for a long time.
I’m not a morning person, so the decision to try and develop a 7am wake-up routine did not come easy, and I’ve failed to do it more times than I can count.
I wanted to go for a run last week. It took me two hours to talk myself into going. I was worried about my (in)ability to run, how I would look, the time it would take the get there and back, how I would have to shower afterward…
In each of these cases I was being held back by excuses. These excuses have easily derailed my ability to actually make the decision to do the thing, whatever it is. The most surprising part is that once I get started, the actual process of doing the thing is easier to follow through on than the decision to start in the first place.
I once heard that it takes some serial killers years to work up the nerve for their first kill, months for the second, weeks for the third, etc. Same principle, I suspect. The first decision is the hardest, but then it becomes easier with each subsequent event.
So what’s the differentiator? What makes me, or anyone, finally able to overcome those excuses and make that decision? I think it comes down to wanting it bad enough, and I think that that comes down to feeling like you want it instead of just saying that you do.
I just spent about two years eating shit and not exercising, saying that I wanted to change but not actually doing it. I spent six months wanting greater business success, but not putting in hard enough work to get it. I spent who-knows-how-long telling myself “Just one more season” before I finally cancelled Netflix. All because I hadn’t made the decision to change.
Now I have no impulse to drink soda. I have no desire to watch TV (except when I’m eating). I put in 12-hour workdays and am getting shit done. It’s amazing the effect that building up some “Done” momentum can have on the rest of my to-do list. I’m exercising more regularly. I’ve been waking up at 7am pretty consistently over the past couple of weeks.
Objectively I probably knew that these things were likely to happen, but when you’re staring down the barrel of excuses, it’s hard to think about anything else. But when I knew, I mean really knew, that it was time, the decision came and went, action trumped excuses, and I made it through.
We all can come up with a million excuses “why not,” but all you need is one really good reason “why” and use that as the spark to light the fire of whatever change it is you want to see in yourself.
Don’t let the fear of failure trump the excitement of victory.