Don't wait until the 1st to start that thing
All right, confession time. This post is equal parts a reminder to myself as it is advice for anyone else who might find it useful.
You know how, if you’re active on pages like instagram or something like that, you might run into inspirational quotes? One of them being something akin to “That blog, just start it. That book, just write it.”. I saw one recently and it made me think of just how many times I’ve let “not the perfect time” be an excuse for me not to do something. That is why I would like to encourage everyone, right here, right now, to be their complete, imperfect, authentic selves.
Perfection is the enemy
When I was a child, I used to tell myself a lot of reasons why I could never be “really good” at anything. For instance, I could want to learn to play the cello, but since I had not started at age 3 and became a prodigy, why bother? I wanted to skip a year ahead in school because I was bored, but I kept getting silly little mistakes on my tests, so that was obviously out, right? I liked to write, but it was never as good as what I read in my library books or borrowed from friends, to certainly being a writer was out of the question. I was too old to do X, it was too late to start Y – As a child!
Any of that sound familiar? If it does, at least let me assure you, you’re not alone.
On the other coin of that was what my mother would call my reckless attitude towards crafts. Now crafts, for whatever reason, was always something I did for my own, personal enjoyment. It didn’t have to be perfect, I was never aiming to become number one at it. So there, I would happily read a handful of How-tos online before seeing what I could scramble together out of old cardboard, mom’s leftover yarn or cobble together in dad’s workshop. When my little brother would ask my mother why he had to follow the recipe when I just bulled ahead, she would sigh a little and go “Sometimes, the path is created while we walk.”. As a big believer in recipes and proper procedures, my haphazard approach exasperated her, yet it is that haphazard approach that has taught me the most!
By not waiting until I could save up for the “proper” equipment or tools and just giving it a whirl, I could quickly assess whether it was something I enjoyed doing or not. By creating things out of old cardboard I knew that I didn’t need expensive tools to get the job done, even if they looked nicer and would last much longer. Plus, it just being cheap off-cuts and random junk meant that I was not afraid of playing with it or testing its limits, like I might have been if I had bought something “proper”.
Sometimes my projects failed because there was a crucial step in the procedure I had forgotten. Oftentimes, that meant I learned a whole bunch about why that step was there and certainly remembered for next time!
Don’t set yourself up for failure
Another thing I’ve noticed about trying to wait until the 1st, or until January or “next year” or whatever the choice may be, is that we set ourselves up for failure. Take my modest picture of my new journal on top of this blog, for instance.
So, the story behind this is that my Paperblanks calendar is nearing the end of its time. It is November already, after all, and I have a 12-month calendar. For years, ever since I began university, a pretty Paperblanks calendar was my year-end splurge. It costs about 220 NOK in Norway (around $30), but I always justified it with how it was only a once a year thing, and it didn’t make much of a dent in my budget. It is true that it didn’t, but as I was talking with Mr. E. about my thoughts on the matter, I was reminded by how I had stumbled upon Bullet Journaling months and months previously. I knew I had a small stack of Moleskine’s lying around in a drawer, so I thought I would give it a go.
Here is the thing though, when you google “bullet journal” you get all these gorgeous, artistic, detailed and intricate designs. They look planned, they look gorgeous and they look, well, like nothing I’d have the patience to even aspire to for just a journal with the intent of keeping track of my appointments and maybe a goal or three. I didn’t need something perfectly colour coordinated (what about if I lost that pen or it ran out of ink?) or Instagram-share-worthy. I certainly want it to be pretty, but I know there will be mistakes in it and I will make uneven lines and it will be a little wonky. Life happens, and that is ok.
And that is exactly why I decided to start my new project straight away. Even though it was less than 2 months until 2018, I started it in November! I inked some pages and got going. Realised I didn’t like the first week-by-week setup that I tried… or the second. So I changed it going forward.
If I had waited until the 1st of January to start this thing, I would be much more upset if I made a typo or coloured outside the lines, or chose a design that didn’t actually work for me or I drew something non-symmetric or… you get the idea. And I would have done so, eventually (already have, to be honest).
I think that, by trying to make these big changes on the 1st or in January or “after summer” or whenever, we are essentially setting ourselves up for failure. Because we want to start with a clean slate and get everything right, we get so much more upset with even the slightest mishap or teeniest step backwards.
Take the oh, so common New Years resolution of exercising. Thousands of people start the new year with the very best of intentions, and a few weeks later, they’re all back to their old habits. They tried to do too much, too fast, too soon, and their expectations of themselves were too high. It was simply perfect or nothing, and since no one is perfect, it was doomed to fail. Discouraged and disappointed, we might not touch another exercise implement or Youtube exercise video until the very next January 1st. A whole year of opportunity, wasted!
So instead, I urge you, start today. Or perhaps on a Thursday. What about the 17th? Or any odd, normal November or December day? It doesn’t matter! Maybe if you start trying to get some healthy habits in now, you’ll be better armed when that New Year’s resolution of exercising 3 times a week or more comes around. Life is mostly normal days, after all, so make use of them.
As a rule, when I just start something, my expectations are much lower than if I have been planning it for weeks. Perhaps controversially, what I end up producing in the end is of better quality than if I spend hours upon hours pouring over how-tos and what-nots until I’m all tied up in an anxious knot. Just giving it a go gives me tons more practice and experience, and without the anxiety and doom of failure. Not least importantly, I have about 100 times more fun, at least.
Do you have something you’ve been wanting to start for so long? Just give it a whirl! You’ll be infinitely further along than if you never start. You can always fix it later or redo.