When I was 16, like many other teenagers, I learned how to drive. I took a driving course using a standard transmission vehicle, and it was hard. I stalled all the time. I rolled down hills, stalled in the car wash, and even accidentally drove the car through the back of my parent’s garage. It was hard.
Pretty soon though, it got a little easier, and then it was no big thing.
Thinking about that made me wonder about all of the things we don’t start because they are hard, and all of the things I thought that would be hard that are easy now.
I thought it would be hard to …
- Change my diet. When I was diagnosed with MS, I changed my diet to reduce inflammation in my body. I became a vegetarian and the beginning was hard. Reading books and spending time with other people who supported my new diet change made the process easier and soon, it became my new normal.
- Pare my wardrobe down to 33 items. When I challenged myself to create a capsule wardrobe with 33 items for 3 months, I thought it would be so hard. I thought it would be hard to box things up, hard to choose only 33 items, and hard to explain to people what I was doing. The reality is that it wasn’t hard at all. I spent more time thinking about how hard it would be than experiencing it. Today is the first day of a brand new season of Project 333 and after 3 1/2 years, I think it would be hard to go back to an overstuffed closet.
- Start a blog. When I started blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. I had very few technical skills, and didn’t know the difference between a tweet and a widget. I thought it would be hard to write things that people would like. I thought it would be hard to get noticed and grow. Luckily there were resources to help. Blogging has become such an important part of my life and work. I’m so glad I started even though it was hard.
- Speak in front of people. I started speaking in front of people who wanted to live better with MS in 2007. I was so nervous during my first presentation, that I brought note cards with me and could see my hands shaking as I held them. By the end of it, all I wanted was to do it again. Now I speak to groups about simplicity, microbusiness, and healthy living, and I don’t need note cards anymore. Sometimes I get a little flutter of nervousness, but my hands don’t shake. The only thing that is the same, is at the end of every presentation, I want to do it again.
- Travel alone. I spent the last leg of my trip last month in Paris alone. I didn’t have wifi outside of my apartment, and had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. I was excited about the trip, but I also thought it might be hard and it was sometimes. I got lost and delayed, and sometimes felt a little unsure about myself. In between the very few hard parts though, were the amazing experiences pictured above. I had time to start to my day slowly and drink espresso while writing in the most beautiful parks and cafes. I saw amazing works of art in the Louvre and the L’Orangerie and enjoyed watching artists create new works of art by the river. Being alone gave me time to appreciate the simple things in one of the grandest cities of all.
What I’m learning is that our propensity for positive change is largely proportionate to the length of time we need to go from thinking something is hard, to finding the ease.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t bumps in the road, but the sooner we go from “This is impossible.” to “I got this.” the more open we will be to trying new things, even the scary things.
1. Start sooner.
The more thinking you do, the more time you have to identify all the reasons not to move forward. You can think your way out of anything if you take enough time. Stop wavering and make a decision. When you jump in with confidence, the hard stuff feels more manageable.
2. Fake it.
You don’t have to know everything to get started. Planning and research have its place, but so does some good old-fashioned winging it. When you stop being afraid of making mistakes, everything is easier.
3. Ask for help.
There is someone out there who can help you start the thing you think is hard. Connect with them. Ask them for help. Someone helped them, and they will appreciate an opportunity to pay it forward. If they don’t, ask someone else.
4. Don’t measure success on the end result.
Your new habit, idea or project does not live or die based on the final result. Your efforts can’t be boiled down to one number, one grade or one check mark. Loosen your grip and expectations so things have a chance to unfold. You don’t know what you don’t know until you get started.
5. Let go.
Perfectionism and comparison can make the hard part of your new beginning even harder. If you want to feel ease sooner, then let go of your need to have everything just right and forget about how a similar journey was for someone else. You are not them. You are you and who you are and what you do, have, or desire cannot be compared.
Some of the hard work is really hard, but some of it is only how you think about it. You can’t force it or will it to be easier. Just get started and you’ll discover that everything is hard until it isn’t. You’ll also find that the time from hard to easy isn’t nearly as painful or challenging as you imagined.
What was the last thing you did that you thought would be hard?