Often the biggest problem people have with achieving their goals--New Year Resolution's included--is getting started. It seems that Sir Isaac Newton got it right with his First Law of Motion: Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. Many people just can’t seem to get underway and as a result they simply don't take action.
So, what does it take to get started? One easy way is to have someone light a fire under you—“if you don’t do X, by such and such a time, you’re fired”—or you light one under yourself. (“I am not going to sleep tonight until I have taken a first step toward finding a new job.”)
The problem with lighting a fire under yourself (or having it lit for you) is that eventually your backside gets burned. It’s not a great long-term strategy. Once the threat ends, you have no real motivation to continue. And if you are operating in an environment where you are constantly threatened, it gets demoralizing very quickly.
So, what is the best way to get started?
- Something that you want and
- Something that you can do about it with your means at hand, i.e. taking an action that is within your level of acceptable loss. (The the cost is minimal, if the action doesn’t work out.)
Put that way, there are only four logical explanations for why you are not moving toward your goal:
- You don’t have the means at hand
- The perceived cost is too high. Or
- You are lying to yourself about what you want.
The fourth is rarely the case. Most people who say they want to get a new job, or meet someone or lose weight really do want to find new employment, find that significant other or be thinner. As for habit, in this case, that’s “simply” a matter of getting used to taking action. (More on that in a second.)
So this means is if you aren’t taking action toward what you want, you either perceive taking action as either being too costly, or too risky.
What’s the solution?
It seems simple, doesn’t it? Reduce the cost and risk to acceptable levels, so that you could get underway.
Now, if it were as easy as all that, you would have done it. So, you need some help.
Here’s one easy solution. Talk to a friend about the challenge you face. (“I really want to find a new job, but I just can’t seem to get going.”)
Together, come up with a list of possibilities, being as specific as you can. In the case of the new job, you would identify what you want to do; whether it makes sense to do it on your own—i.e. start a company—or work for someone else, etc.
Figuring all this out could take a couple of conversations, and that’s fine. But don’t wait until the end of all your talks to get moving. Remember, we want to make sure that habit, that is you are in the habit of not moving toward what you want, is NOT the problem.
So, at the end of the first conversation, the one where you decided your next job will be with another company, you immediately start compiling potential firms to contact and maybe even go so far as to talk to people who have the sort of job you want.
At the next meeting, you and your friend would try to come with a complete list of places that might hire you, as well as who to contact at those firms.
Then you’d set a deadline—say a week—when you will report back to your friend. At that meeting you say what you did to follow up, or explain why you didn’t do anything.
Isn’t setting this deadline the same as lighting a fire under yourself? Yes…but also no. Yes, in the sense that you have drawn a proverbial line in the proverbial sand. But no, because you are acknowledging up front that you may not take action.
Let’s suppose you don’t. At the next meeting with your friend, you would explain why. Maybe it was because you were sick and so you give yourself a pass. But it could be you didn’t take action because you found the idea of cold calling companies too intimidating.
In that case, you and your friend would try to break down the next step into even smaller parts. (Is there someone you know, who can get to someone they know at the company; is it possible to find out if they take online applications seriously. If that is the case, you wouldn’t have to cold call.)
And so the process would go until you reduced taking the next step to a point where it is doable.
Happy New Year!