You Start by Starting
"You start by starting.” I read that somewhere, and though it made perfect sense, I tend to think of all the reasons NOT to start, not to take that chance, not to pursue that big bold dream. Sound familiar?
I want to share my story, but there are so many reasons not to:
I fear that nobody will care what I have to say
I’m unsure if this is the right direction for me
I’m worried that my website isn’t finished
The list goes on… and that’s just the surface stuff. When I dig deeper, I ask myself: Who the hell do I think I am, claiming I’m some expert on life with all the world’s answers? There are so many other people who already do what I want to do, people who are seemingly more qualified and better at it. Is it too late or too risky to make a change? And what if I fail? Isn’t it much easier/safer to keep the status quo?
Two years ago, I was the proverbial unhappy, unfulfilled corporate professional. I had been a lawyer for a number of years before leaving to become a law firm business leader. By most standards, I had a great job — I was well paid with lots of autonomy, responsibility and respect, yet I felt utterly unfulfilled and trapped. I kept thinking that there must be more to life as I dreamt of quitting my job and traveling the world.
Ignoring the worry and warnings of friends and family as well my own self-sabotaging talk, I actually went for it! I bought a one-way ticket to Mumbai, took a few months to plan the trip, saved enough to cover my travels and a few months of post-trip expenses, donated all my belongings, and took off for parts unknown.
The trip was like nothing I expected and everything I dreamt of. I experienced the exhilaration of waking up every day not knowing what adventures awaited me. I made unlikely new friends, I stood on gorgeous mountaintops, I stumbled upon stunning hidden beaches, and I discovered exotic new foods. The magic of the freedom I felt was incredible, and I will always be grateful for this life changing journey.
By no means am I suggesting that such drastic change is necessary for everyone. In fact, it’s often the small, consistent steps that yield the greatest results. It’s probably a non-starter for you to go to India to meditate for a month or even take a 5-day retreat close to home, but what micro-changes can you start making today to get you closer to achieving your own goals and dreams?
That all-or-nothing mentality can keep you stuck. That’s why it’s better to start with five minutes of mediation (or journaling, exercising, or playing piano) a day. The thought of the end goal may feel overwhelming, but eventually you run out of excuses to take that initial first small step.
I was hoping that after my trip, I had found the perfect equilibrium by trading New York for Austin, and the intensity and overriding negativity of big Law for the creative and hip world of a Tech company. But the truth is that I’m not so sure I did. I still have pangs of guilt for not contributing enough. I still feel restrained by the idea of working for a big corporation. I still long to travel the world. I still wonder what my purpose is.
What I can say with certainty is that quitting my corporate job and leaving NYC to travel the world started in my mind and then required action, one small step at a time. Maybe you are nervous, uncertain, and afraid. Perhaps you’re weighing the risks and rewards of making a change. Maybe you’re not, but you know you want a different outcome. Something inside you persists until you can’t ignore it any more. You instinctively know that the comfort of the nest is no longer enough. If the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving, that’s when you need to leap.
What’s holding you back? Your weight? An addiction? An unhealthy relationship? Depression? Uncertainty and fear? Golden handcuffs? All of these challenges have real solutions, but first you have to be willing to take a chance, a leap towards a better life. Sometimes the flight is bumpy, sometimes it’s the wrong leap and you end up falling. Some falls take longer to recover from than others — but playing it safe by never leaping is its own kind of hell.
What change do you know you want or need in your life? What one small step can you take tomorrow, next week, next month?