One thing that I’ve heard repeatedly in conversations with clients is a human desire to be set up and prepared for transition before actually transitioning: before I find clients for my new business I want to finish my website, before I finish writing my novel I want to set up a separate writing space, before I can get exercise I need to clear an hour in my schedule every day, etc. It’s a human tendency to start an undertaking by preparing for it. We do a subtle version of this in everyday life all the time: checking the weather before getting dressed, or putting on pajamas before going to bed.
But there is a small but crucial difference between these two sets of examples. In the example from everyday life, we don’t actually first check the weather and then get dressed, we check the weather because we are getting dressed. The action we are taking isn’t checking the weather, the action we are taking is getting dressed, and consequentially we need to check the weather to know what to wear. This willingness to dive straight into getting dressed, and then back up to fill in what we need to move forward, propels us forward toward our real goal. If our primary initial action was simply to check the weather, we might end up 45 minutes later having moved from checking the weather, to checking Facebook, and be late. And still in pajamas. And probably posting on Facebook about our challenges with getting dressed and out of the house on time.
It is so counter intuitive to start something before you are ready to start, but doing so drives your preparation differently, by need. It’s immersive learning. It’s learning by doing.
Let’s say for example you used to love painting and you want to start again. If you first clear out part of your office space to make an art space, and then go to the paint store to buy supplies, and then carve out 3 hours on Sundays for painting, all before you start painting, it can take you months to actually create any art. In fact there’s a real chance you will never start painting at all. Somewhere between buying supplies and carving out time, the probability is that you will get sidetracked or defeated or overwhelmed or just move on and forget. Then your dream becomes more of a distant abstract longing or something that you used to do when you were younger and felt slightly more alive than you do now.
On the other hand, if you decide today I’m going to start painting, you find yourself in a quandary and it needs a solution. Well, today, you might think, I’m supposed to pick up my children from school and I have to work until then, and I don’t have paint or canvas or brushes, how am I going to make this work? And then because you’ve committed to painting today, you might find an imperfect solution, maybe doing 10 minutes of watercolor painting with your kids and their broken art supplies, at your kitchen table.
But that 10 minutes of imperfect painting gives you a vital gift - it inspires you. You remember the joy of creating art. You reconnect with your artistic talents and share them with your children. You feel excited. And this excitement makes you want to keep painting. This excitement drives you to carve out 30 minutes tomorrow to stop by the art store on your way to pick up your children. And using the new art supplies you bought, at your kitchen table, tomorrow afternoon with your children, fills you with more excitement. So the next day you move a few things in your office to make room for yourself to paint there, and the day after you move a few more things. And soon you find that the painting you started working on in the afternoons with your children is calling out to you when you aren’t working on it, and you find that you want to go back to it after their bedtime. And the pull from that painting might drive you to talk to your family about setting aside time for you to paint on the weekends.
Before you know it you have an art space and supplies and you are making time to paint. Why? Because you are already painting and so you need time and space for it.
It is the human intuition to set up first and do second. But one thing I’ve seen consistently when new clients come to my practice is that trying to get set up first in fact often postpones and gets in the way of doing. Instead if you are willing to take the leap of faith needed to just start doing your dream, your life will make space for it, your skills will catch up to it, and you’ll be ready.