We’re sorry we haven’t been around at the start of the year…
We were so busy trying to “get a good start to the new year”, that we forgot to spend time doing the “normal” things. We were so busy wanting to do something new, to prove to ourselves that we were “starting” a new year, that we decided to ignore things that already existed and had been in our lives before. Too caught up in trying to prove how new we were to do what makes us who we already are.
It’s a funny concept we rarely think carefully about - to Start.
The Merriam Webster definition of Start is:
to come into being, activity, or operation
This covers a number of elements of the Thing that is Starting –
That the actual content of what is starting is existing for the first time
That the use of that content is occurring for the first time
That the rules of how that content belongs in the world are being implemented for the first time.
For most of us, starting something involves doing something new, or initiating something that has not been done previously, by others, or by us. It is often associated with anxiety and nervousness, with excitement and hope, and requires learning and development, as well as openness, trust and courage to discover. This reflects well on us if we can start things successfully – because that means that we have done all of the above. So often we spend a lot of time and energy trying to “start things”.
But starting something asks a lot of us, it asks for many things that we often do not have even individually on a day to day basis, much less all at one go. When was the last time you were able to feel anxious, nervous, excited, hopeful, and be able to learn, grow, be open, trust others and have courage all at the same time? It may have been the last time you watched a PIXAR animation… at least it was for me. So often we never finish things we start, because the effort becomes too much. Because it’s hard.
So is it any surprise that, in fact, we rarely want to truly START something, from scratch. Or that our subconscious may in fact protect us from being too “green” to the experience, by giving us beliefs or assumptions to bring into the situation, to make us feel more safe, and confident, to make things more familiar and manageable. These are often called heuristics, or biases.
Generally, they are protective. They save us making the wrong decisions when we don’t already know the correct answer. But they also stop us from being all the things that are required for a true start. We bring our previous experiences and knowledge and put them on something new- and if those old experiences are bad, this can colour our new experience and impact our choices in ways that don’t allow us to actually learn and develop from the new Start.
Interestingly, the other definition of Start is:
to move suddenly and violently
It’s ironic, though not funny, that this is often how we respond to situations where we are trying to do something new that’s not going the way we “assumed”. When it doesn't feel like it’s working proving we haven’t learnt or developed well, when our anxiety and nervousness overcomes our excitement and hope, or we feel so personally threatened that we can’t trust and be brave, we lash out. We turn the new Start into a combination of: the source of all our emotions and the old things we knew, which means it must be bad.
But that is not always true. Because the new thing is not YET something that has the ability to dislike or judge you, because it and you don’t know each other well enough. The new job is not too hard, the new boyfriend does not hate you, the new hobby is not too expensive, the new game is not dumb. When you start something, if these are already in your mind, it is because of the old thoughts that you are bringing to the new situation. This can work both ways, where positive previous experience can find you accepting things even when they don't go well.
The point is, to truly start something, you have to clean the slate. To presume nothing, to separate it from your past, and be open to what you discover in the new. To eventually make a decision about it based on the experience you have with it, this time.
What’s funny, is that in many ways, a large part of resilience and well being comes from the ability to forgive and to move forward in our day to day, and these skills are similar to starting something new. So in fact, in many ways, being able to truly start anew is a skill we can use every day, in our regular activities- for example, instead of trying to start something new this year, we could have just focused on starting a new Nay in the Life with fresh eyes… oh well, better late than never.
We can improve our lives by choosing to “start”. But not “again”, and not to be brilliant. Rather, to discover, to be growing and developing, and be courageous. And to get closer to being part of that PIXAR movie we love so much.