“I just need to start.”
A familiar refrain. Many of us struggle with that difficult thing, that work item that we avoid, push aside, and pretend isn’t there.
For a while it works, until once again, it returns to mind, reminding us about the source of that stench we’ve been trying to ignore.
So, we often say, “I just need to start.”
Sometimes, it even works.
- Put on your jogging shoes, head outside, and suddenly you’re exercising.
- Write that next sentence of the report, and before you know it, you’re getting through it.
- Pick up that one dirty dish, and gradually the pile begins to clear.
The trouble with the approach, however, is the dishonesty with one’s self.
You force yourself. You say, “do this little thing” but there is often a hidden deception saying “trick yourself to get it all done”.
The trouble is hiding in the word “just”.
As a psychoanalyst, anytime I hear the word “just”, whether it is something interpersonal, like “I just need to talk to her” or something about work, I know that some emotion is being skipped, avoided, or ignored.
“Just” starting might work this time, but every time you do, you are ingraining another layer of deception, another injury you may need to work through when you want to start something else in the future.
Instead, consider a reframe. It may seem subtle, but I assure you it’s not…
Show up, then decide.
The difference is in the retention of agency – that vital part of you that makes you human.
When you show up, for example with your jogging shoes outside the door, you are in a better position to decide about exercising than you are sitting on the couch.
The difference is that you can still make the decision. You can still reflect on the “I don’t wanna” feelings, perhaps rendering them into more discrete or nuanced sensations.
You may realize that now, in fact, is not a good time to exercise, and save yourself an injury. That’s fine. You could then consider, when would a good next time be to show up and decide again?
Or maybe you do start jogging, finding a gentler and kinder transition from stasis to motion.
Heightening the pause, the moment of decision more so than the act itself can be powerful. The same may be said of most any type of work.
PS. If you find yourself arguing with yourself or forcing work to happen, consider a gentler approach with Simple Steps to Calm Focus.