Wow it’s peaceful here, and life is waaaay easier. Not that there’s not still work to do, but it’s like push starting your car: the difference between those first long slow groaning shoves to get the thing rolling compared to the quick hops with your foot as you sit in the car ready to pop the clutch. Ain’t nothin’ beats a little momentum my friend, let me tell ya. It’s getting the momentum that’s the tough part.
Sitting on the sweet side of momentum and looking back, I’ve learned a lot about how to get here and I think that’s worth sharing. Most importantly, I’ve got to debunk a few myths:
1) You’ve got to have confidence to start something. No, no you don’t. Quite the reverse actually. I remember when I took my first timid steps into the world of writing… and fell flat on my face. Considerably shaken and entirely discouraged I doubted whether I was doing the right thing, and if I even had it in me to take this on. I complained (okay, whined) to my Dad that this was all too hard and I wish I had the confidence to make this kind of leap easier. His words of comfort(?) were: “Well of course you don’t have any confidence, you haven’t had any success yet.” True enough. Reminds me of play and how kids take on something with clumsy good spirit, mastery coming only after many repetitions. Confidence is born from succeeding with the difficult, not from doing things that are easy.
2) You have to have knowledge to do something. Wrong again. Going back to the theory of play, you try something to learn about it; that’s pretty much the only way to really get it. You can read all the books on tap dancing you like (and reading is good, helps familiarize yourself with what you’re getting into) but there comes a time when you’ve just got to put the shoes on and giver! Knowledge is gained through experience; experience is gained by actually doing. You will lock yourself in a mental box if you tell yourself you need to know what you are doing before you do it (neurosurgery excluded please!). The reality is, you have to actually do the thing to really have knowledge about it.
3) Everything else must be in place first. Making a huge shift in your life is a multifaceted endeavour that will impact, and be impacted by, everything else in your life. It is all connected and you can’t take things on like lining up ducks in a shooting gallery. Change facilitates change, and change requires change. I’m becoming someone used to being terrified and clueless in a realm I know nothing about – moderately comforted by something I heard Stephen King say in an interview: “The worst thing you can do is think you know what you’re doing.” And that isn’t just about writing, I’m far more inclined to dive in and be willing to suck at any new thing I take on. The best part is that still small voice in my heart is building a megaphone and I’m much more able to hear that call and have the courage to answer it. Trying to make a change in my life has changed me, and that change has made me more able to make the changes I need to make. If I had waited until I felt everything was in place, I would never have started.
4) You’ll have help, you won’t have to do it alone. Imagine: Dreams Manifested Inc, where you could just dial up and someone would make your life’s aspirations happen for you. The truth of the matter is they’re your dreams, they’re your work. There’s no getting around it, what makes them yours is your struggles, your tenacity, your commitment, your accomplishment. How satisfying would it be if somebody just dropped you at the top of Everest, instead of you climbing it yourself? It’s not about what you accomplish, it’s about how you’re transformed through the process. There’ll be help for you along the way for sure, but more like in those old adventure computer games where you’re travelling along, meet the elf in the woods and he gives you the gem of wisdom – it’s still yours to carry, figure out what it does and when to use it. People will give you clues and tools along the way, but you’ve got to walk through the forest by yourself.
You’ll never feel ready. It’s a fact of life. Babies don’t learn to walk by lying in their crib until they are ready. They learn to walk by kicking their legs, pulling themselves up, letting go for that unsteady toddle, falling on their butts (and occasionally their faces), getting up and doing it all over again. It’s a process of many steps, many failures; a process that only happens when you engage it, ready or not.
I remember a title I saw on a self-help book: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. That’s what it takes to make a huge shift in your life: feel the fear… insecurities… confusion… ignorance… uncertainty… overwhelming incomprehensibility of what you’ve taken on… and do it anyway. Pushing outside your comfort zone means you’re going to be uncomfortable; as Martha Stewart would say: “that’s a good thing” and it’s the only way you’re going to reach Escape Velocity.