Ep 81: Fail to plan, plan to fail, but you’ll fail if you don’t start

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Do you struggle to just get started on your plans? Maybe you’ve given your goals and plans a lot of thought and consideration, but you may just be missing one thing.

How do you just get started?

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Full transcript 👇

Ep 81: Fail to plan, plan to fail, but you'll fail for sure if you don't start

Hi. I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.”
— Ivan Turgenev

I don’t know Ivan Turgenev but I think he and I might have had a lot in common when it comes to starting things.

I adore planning. I get my ho-ho’s in life by taking a jumble and mess of unrelated details and creating order from it.

To me, much of work and life is like a puzzle just waiting to be put together.

My biggest challenge, though, is that I spend so much time creating and revising a beautiful plan for something amazing.

But then I’m terrified to start actually working that plan.

The internal magpies start almost right away.

  • This is a pretty big plan, sister. What if you don’t finish it?
  • What if you do get there and it doesn’t work?
  • What if other people have better ideas for your plan?
  • What if you get going and have to change the plan?

Fear sets in. Everybody says you have to fail a lot on the way to success so that could definitely happen.

Analysis paralysis tells you putting together just one more set of numbers will give you a tighter goal.

Before you know it, you’ve shut yourself down before you started.

Do you have a plan for something that you just haven’t been able to get moving?

Maybe writing a book, or finding a better job, or improving your public speaking skills, or starting a side business.

There are a lot of moving parts to any of these things so having a plan is definitely an important first step.

But what happens when half a year goes by and you haven’t even started?

It’s not like you don’t want to start but you’re resisting pulling the trigger.

What can you do to finally explode off that starting block?

When I look at others who manage to bring their plans to life, I see a few common threads.

Go after the low-hanging fruit first

Productivity gurus say to start first with the hardest things, or the stuff you’re really dreading. This way it’s not hanging over your head. You can just get it out of the way and the rest will be easier.

In my experience, that can sometimes be the quickest way to a Netflix binge.

Tackling the hardest stuff first requires a mountain load of energy and motivation you haven’t stored up yet.

Your internal Tony Robbins will have to spin out of control just to get you to sit in the chair.

That’s a good waste of Tony Robbins.

Now you’ve made starting a “thing.” And you’re also bringing a fair amount of overthinking into play.

Instead, going after the easy stuff first serves to get the ball rolling in some way. Seeing that ball move, even slowly, builds confidence.

Taking action always comes before motivation.

Years ago, they used to tell writers who had writers’ block to simply start writing out the phone book.

This simple and boring exercise helped connect the hand with the brain and got the creative process started.

It’s as if your brain realized, Hey, look at that, we’re writing something!

I’m not sure who Bob Smith on Topeka Avenue is, but I feel like we’re on our way to a great story.

Movement begets movement.

Find the things in your plan that you can easily color code, highlight, strikethrough, checkmark, pin, whatever, so you can see some forward motion and create excitement and confidence for the hard stuff.

Acknowledge and make peace with resistance

Steven Pressfield explains this a lot better than I can in his book, The War of Art.

Pressfield beautifully personifies the resistance we feel in starting anything. He conceptualizes it as a fierce dragon that is hell bent on stopping us.

A dragon that breathes the fiery vapor of excuses, lies and justifications.

Distracting you is this dragon’s sole purpose, and he’s very good at his job.

No one is exempt from this creature, not even crazy productive writers like Stephen King.

People who work their plans well anticipate the dragon’s arrival and have their swords already drawn up when he arrives.

They set up their environment and routines in a way that make it harder to wiggle out of the commitment.

Plan your schedule in ways that will make it more likely for you to get things done.

If you do your best writing without your offspring wildly enjoying life around you, you may need to get up earlier in the morning to ensure you have that time.

If you’re easily distracted by social media, put your phone out of reach for an hour and use that time to start something. Even better, give your phone to your wild offspring; you may never get it back.

Problem solved.

If you have a hard time getting your work done at the office because of the constant flow of visitors, come in before everyone gets there, or set some boundaries with your coworkers. Or stop being so helpful (I’m kidding, don’t do that).

Prepare for the resistance you know will be there, and you’ll be less likely to go down in a blaze of smoke for the day.

Trust your plan

On some level, in order to get a good start on your plan, you have to be a bit agnostic about all of it.

When you put a plan together for anything, it becomes your creation. You brought it to life, and now it’s a part of you.

But if you’re judging or second guessing every single objective as you’re working on it, you’re going to create a terrifying new mashup of tasks, metrics and new ideas in your head.

Now your plan just seems confusing. You might even be tempted to trash your existing plan and start building a completely new one.

Now you’re way off track. And you haven’t even really started.

I’m not saying don’t reassess or measure your success along the way.

But if you know you have a good plan, then trust the experience and insight you brought to the initial planning.

Make yourself stick to what you’ve already put down on paper and start doing the work.

Have someone hold you accountable

Knowing someone is counting on you, or at least knows what you’re supposed to be doing, counterbalances some of the fear of starting.

I don’t know about you but I don’t like to be embarrassed because I missed a deadline that I bragged about in front of my peers.

It takes a certain amount of humility to allow someone to speak in to your life’s work in a meaningful way. It means you need help and can’t do it all on your own. That’s a bitter pill for many of us.

But knowing someone expects something of you, and believes you can do it, can be the catalyst to get you started.

Don’t be afraid to share your plan with someone who is not afraid to challenge you in a kind and respectful way. If you don’t have a friend or coworker like that, find a coach. They are literally everywhere now.

Let others run with you at the starting line

Sometimes the deepest regrets happen when we start seeing our plans actually working, and we realize we could have started sooner. It’s hard to swallow that the only thing keeping us from moving forward was actually…moving forward.

Make it difficult for yourself to find excuses and not start.

You don’t need the perfect plan. You just need to work the plan you’ve got.

You can catch episodes of Mental Health Moment by visiting mymentalhealthmoment.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Just search for “Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.”

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If you’re STILL wanting for more, you can find articles and videos about stress and mental health, by visiting my website at LoriMiller.me.

Thanks for listening!

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