The simplest guide to starting, over and over again. By Leo Babauta
Whether it’s starting a yoga practice, or a new project at work, sometimes the hardest part is simply getting started. Even then, once we’ve started something, it can be easy to let our best intentions slip — and then we need to start all over again.
Sound familiar? There are lots of people out there who have committed to a daily yoga or meditation practice to help them find greater peace and ease in mind and body, only for old habits to get in the way. Before long, that daily commitment becomes once every few days, then once a week, and then slips away altogether.
There’s always a hope that when we start creating a new habit that we’ll master it and never have to worry about it again, or when we start a new project that it’ll go perfectly.
Unfortunately, life never goes according to our plans. We travel, and eating and exercise habits go out the door. We get sick, and our meditation habit falls off. We have visitors, and our writing project falls into a deep abyss.
So, what we need to do is get good at starting, then starting again. And again. This is an incredible skill that becomes a superpower. When everyone else is wringing their hands about how much they suck at life, how difficult things are, how everything has fallen apart, we just focus on starting gain, and let go of all the stress.
The first skill, of course, is starting in the first place. Lots of people never do this, procrastinating, saying they’ll start tomorrow (I’m not judging, this is very human). So just starting at all is an incredible step.
The skill isn’t that hard, and with practice you can get good at starting: Take the tiniest step to get started. Any movement at all.
Commit yourself to continuing that tiny step every day. Just take the first step.
After that step, the other steps are a lot easier.
Okay, great, but what about when you get disrupted, for whatever reason, and have to start all over again? Here’s the method I recommend:
- When you get disrupted, notice this and notice any tendency to be harsh with yourself about it, or resentful towards life or other people about the disruption.
- Shake off that feeling and instead, tell yourself that life is an uncontrollable river and you just have to flow with it. Instead of wishing the river were a set path, perfectly controlled and manicured, accept that things are constantly changing, and that you just need to adapt to the present circumstance.
- Shrugging off any past mistakes, focus on starting again. Just like before, focus on taking the tiniest step.
If there’s any learning to take from the previous attempt, adjust your method to account for whatever obstacles you faced. Sometimes it’s just a random life event (a family crisis, for example), so there’s no learning to be had — you just have to start again. Other times, there was an obstacle in the way that you can adjust for — mornings are too chaotic for writing your novel, perhaps, or maybe you need reminders so you don’t forget. There’s always a solution.
It’s that simple. Shrug off the disruption, flow with the changing circumstances, and simply start again. Adjust, if needed, but don’t stress out about having to start again.
Life is a constant stream of disruptions, changes, broken plans and rain delays. Every day, we’re just starting again. Every moment is simply a new start. That can be a source of frustration, or delight.
So, shall we begin?