Starting over is hard. Whether it’s getting back into a routine like exercise, reentering the professional world after a hiatus, regaining the closeness of a relationship, or building back financial security, starting over ain’t easy.
Today I decided to start over with writing. It’s not a New Year resolution (although I’m starting over with those too), just something I enjoy doing and haven’t done in a while. Starting over means dealing with disappointment and accepting missed time. But it also means that you’ve done this before and you can do it again… only better and, uh, more continuously. Easier said than done? Sure. But here are 5 steps to make the second (or third, or fifteenth) time around more successful.
This step usually happens without much effort. It’s that little voice that bugs you to get off your butt when you’re watching reruns of Modern Family. Maybe it’s urging you to cook a healthy dinner, maybe to call an old friend, maybe to research GED programs. Whatever it is, you know it will make you happy because it used to. And you’ve probably come to the logical conclusion that the effort to benefit ratio is reasonable. Of course, logic and reason are not always enough to nudge us over the hump of starting over. Otherwise there would be 1 step for Starting Over and we’d be done by now.
Step 2. Forgive yourself for stopping.
Shit happens. It’s really okay. Maybe big life events got in the way or maybe you were just plain lazy. In any case, it happened and it’s over. Just because it didn’t stick last time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again. Ask any recovering addict how many attempts it took him or her to stay clean, and the answer will most likely be more than one.
Homer Simpson might not agree with me, but chances are you’ve set your sights higher than an overweight, clumsy, dim-witted drunk (however loveable). So do yourself a favor and try try again.
Step 3. Identify the barriers and figure out how to overcome them.
This one is really important. You know what Einstein said about insanity? So let’s not be crazy here. Just “trying harder” or “wanting it more” probably won’t change your fate. Let’s be honest; you wanted it just as badly last time and you most likely worked hard last time too. Don’t sell your former-self short. Instead, you have to figure out what went wrong and fix it.
For example, I stopped running last September after finishing my first 5k in part because I had made my long-term goal too finite and did not set any continuing goals. So after I crossed the finish line, I celebrated by basically never running again. Next time I want to start running again (I’m not quite there yet), I will not attach a deadline to the activity and I will continue to set new goals just before I reach the old one.
For some people, the barrier may have been lack of accountability or record keeping. In other cases, the goal may have been too daunting or maybe you tried to do too much at once. Take some time to predict barriers to achievement, and you will truly set yourself up for success.
Step 4. Start!
You can’t start over without starting- duh! Seems like a no-brainer, but this is probably the hardest part. Remember what Newton said about an object at rest? That first law is really a bitch. The good news is that the inverse is also true: an object in motion tends to stay in motion, so get moving! Even baby steps move you in the right direction. Overcome the inertia! Something about friction coefficients!! Physics analogies!!!!
Step 5. Reevaluate.
If you make it this far, you should be very proud. GO YOU!!
But you’re not quite done (sorry). Hopefully your predictive capabilities from Step 3 put you on the right track, but if not, there’s always opportunity to adjust the course. Goals are an ideal shaped by reality, and that’s okay! You may need to simplify or up the challenge. You might identify budding barriers that you need to blow up with a grenade (or cleverly outsmart, whichever). Keep your goals working for you, your lifestyle, and your values, and hopefully after this you’ll be over with starting over.
Time will tell whether this writing continues and this blog endures. My last blog was short-lived. I poured over potential blog titles, spent hours picking fonts and widgets, and carefully penned my first few entries. The only problem was I never knew what I was going to blog about. This time, I am at least armed with a hastily scrawled brainstorm of future topics… I look forward to writing about house hunting, speech-language pathology, vegetarianism, marriage, friendship, diet, exercise, weddings, and just generally life and living. I promise not to take myself too seriously and I hope you’ll use the comments to provide some perspective.
Starting over is hard, but good. It confirms that, despite life circumstances and inevitable changes, we still hold ourselves to the high standard of our goals. It’s a testament to our faith in ourselves and our resolve to be great.
So in conclusion, you got this.
(and hopefully I do too!)