Ever experienced a false start? One of those times you tell yourself, “I’m going to do X” but when you get yourself down to it, you don’t. False starts are most commonly experienced when good intentions don’t measure up to reality. Examples:
- New Year’s Resolutions
- A new schedule that demands new routines and habits
- A dream, ambition, or lofty goal of another kind your set for yourself
- A goal that you realize later is actually “too big”
We most often experience these failings and false starts with our goals in:
- Exercise + Diet
- Personal relationships
- Old or new habits
So what happens if we have a false start?
Well, for one thing, enduring a false start is often so de-motivating that we quickly just give up on our plans and opt for the easy way – old habits.
Or, consider an athlete in a race who has a false start. Although an experienced athlete may be hardened to the embarrassment of a false start, a young athlete surely is rattled and shaken and will perform at sub-par levels once the race is off. He may even jump more slowly at the gun the second time around to avoid another false start.
Do you find yourself doing that as well? After experiencing one false start after another, do you find it more difficult to keep starting? Do you start much more slowly and with less enthusiasm than before? I certainly do.
Last year is a good example for me – I accomplished much and successfully transformed many habits (at least for a short span of 3-6 months). In fact, many previous instances in my life are good examples. People often say we have perfect 20/20 hindsight, but I’d say that’s a conservative estimate. Actually, it seems to me that I’m actually quite nearsighted in hindsight – only able to focus on the most beautiful or terrible parts.
My past goals and accomplishments always seem so grand and wonderful as I reminisce about them when I’m walking back to the starting line after another false start. I think, “I was certainly driven…” and, “ah, to be able to spur myself into that kind of action again…” and even, “I really ought to stop lying to myself about what I’m going to do…” Ouch.
So what should we do with our false starts?
- Recognize false starts for what they actually are
- Reconsider the race you’re running
- Reposition yourself as necessary
- Re-pace yourself
- Reprioritize & re-engage
- Recommit, recommit, recommit
1. Recognize false starts
A false start is NOT a failure. A mistake, yes, but a total, utter, devastating, life-altering, earth-shattering, absolute zero failure, no. A false start should signal to you at least one of two things:
- You were too ambitious and eager to begin
- You overcommitted yourself from the start
How to fix this? Reconsider your race as you walk back to the starting line.
2. Reconsider your race
There are really two things to reconsider as you walk back to the start:
- Your underlying motivation
- Your actual ability
As for motivation, ask yourself the following questions: Why are you here in the first place? What is your deeper motivation behind attempting this task, or mission, or goal? Do you still have the same desire to succeed you once had?
And for your actual ability, consider these: Are you actually physically, mentally, financially, or spiritually capable of running this race at the pace you set out for yourself? Are you limited by time, other people, or other obligations?
3. Reposition yourself
Perhaps you’ve actually run a long way down this track already and have finally come to realize that this kind of thing isn’t for you. Now, I’m not talking about quitting because quitting means “stopping”. What I’m talking about is repositioning yourself to continue running (a different race) with the same kind of intensity and focus.
You see, there are times you may find yourself on a path that leads in a radically different direction than you initially anticipated, or it’s taking you to a place that you don’t want to be. In those instances, removing yourself from the first race and repositioning yourself in a more appropriate race are necessary.
Consider the fact that the longer you stay on the road away from your true destination, the longer you will have to run back just to get to the place you want to be.
4. Re-pace yourself
Or perhaps you started running this race (a marathon) at a sprinter’s pace and now you’ve exhausted yourself. Maybe you’ve quit running altogether because the race seems so long and you’re so tired of it. Well, pick yourself up and get back to walking! But let’s at least get some forward progress going on here again.
One of the habits I was most proud of myself for accomplishing last year was a daily bodyweight exercise program. I worked up to being able to do 50 pull-ups (10+ per set) and 150 push-ups (40+ per set) in a day. The thing is, I didn’t start off at that pace. Rather, I started by telling myself (rather firmly), “one pull-up today and five push-ups” and over the course of months, I built up the habit into something much more valuable.
Want to succeed where you’ve previously had a false start? Set “walking” goal in your mind that takes you step-by-step toward your destination that is so easy to do at first it’s actually hard NOT to do. Does that make sense? Let me rephrase it: Make your daily habitual goal too easy NOT to do.
- Only ONE pull-up today? I’d be stupid NOT to do that.
- Add ONE vegetable to my diet? How could I NOT?
5. Reprioritize & re-engage
Now is the time to really ask yourself what your priorities are.
- Choose the TOP THREE actions that will move the needle forward for you on any given goal
- Determine the TOP THREE priorities necessary to get you there
My Korean TOP THREE actions:
- Speaking in Korean conversations (not mere sentences) daily
- Reading full-length children’s books and short (familiar) novels
- Drilling vocabulary – whether with a workbook, app, or flash cards
My Korean TOP THREE priorities:
- Vocabulary: massive expansion
- Networking: making more and new friends, and being more available in person or online for chatting
- Practice: daily practice
6. Recommit, recommit, recommit
I find that most of my problems come not from a lack of knowledge, nor a lack of education, nor even a lack of motivation. Most of my goal-achieving problems come down simply to a non-concrete determination to pursue that goal.
For example, I say I want to learn Korean (or exercise, diet, whatever), and I can motivate myself to perform a series of practice exercises occasionally. I even tell myself, “I’ll make a schedule and stick to it” but all the while I know my stick-to-it-iveness is lackluster at best. Why? Why don’t I stick to my schedule?
Part of the problem is that life is busy – too busy – and I’m “leaving room just in case.” Here’s an idea: UN-busy yourself. Remember the TOP THREE actions and priorities from above? How about reducing those even further to the MOST essential activities in your life? For example, for me:
And under each of those:
- Site building
- Public speaking (including in Korean)
- Participating in events
- Hospitality (inviting people into my home)
Anything else inside OR outside of these priorities out to be eliminated – or at least reduced as much as possible. But the task doesn’t stop there. This is just your first “commitment.” After this commitment, you still have to DRILL it into your primitive, animal brain over and over and over again until you finally “get” it.
Your Daily Routine
When I wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing on my mind? Not these three things – but they SHOULD be. How about starting every morning with:
- A re-envisioning of your goals
- A re-engagement with your priorities, and
- A re-commitment to moving the needle forward today
And then finish every night with:
- A review of what you’ve accomplished
- A reminder of what you need to work on tomorrow, and
- A re-commitment to waking up early with a passion to get things done!
Like I said, I think the main reason I sometimes stink at getting things done is because my will is not CONCRETELY DETERMINED to achieve those goals.
Strengthen your will with repetitive re-commitment.