There's no perfect time to start, so reap the benefits and start before you're ready.
by Susan McCarthy
Many years ago, I was excited to see that the local New Age shop would be offering belly dance classes. I’d wanted to take a dance class for a while, but I was intimidated by the idea of taking a tap, ballet, or jazz class for adults.
I was interested in belly dance because a year earlier, when looking through a home & health catalog, I saw a video (and we’re talking VHS tape) with a title somewhere along the lines of Belly Dance for Fun & Fitness and I thought, “why not?” I fell in love with the dance.
At the time, I was living in my parents’ house. They were hoarders and keeping everything still seemed normal to me as well at the time. This meant that I barely had the space to shuffle around my bedroom to crawl into bed at night and so most of my dance practice was limited to isolating single movements as opposed to dancing around my room (which would have been an impossibility).
By the time I saw the local class offering, I’d practiced this way for hours, but I’d had no way to judge whether what I was doing was right or not. Most of the women in class had never belly danced before. One woman had taken classes for a year or so in the nearest big city, Boston. I lacked confidence in my skills, but both the teacher and other students told me that I danced as well as the woman who had taken formal classes.
Every so often, I wonder if I would have had the nerve to signed up for the class if I hadn’t been watching videos and practicing in my bedroom for a year and felt comfortable with the moves. The reason I hadn’t been able to push myself to take tap or jazz was because I was afraid that I’d be too awkward and embarrassed.
Have you ever felt you couldn’t try something new until you were ready?
Planning isn't the same as acting
Maybe getting ready to try something different involves watching YouTube videos or reading books and online articles. I had someone tell me that she felt that before she could start decluttering her home, she wanted to see someone else go through the process in detail. (I pointed out that everyone and their situation was different and so she’d likely still be dissatisfied with the videos she’d find.)
But I understood the sentiment, that feeling of not wanting to do something wrong. Of being afraid that after doing something, you’d learn that there was a right (or at least better) way to do it. Of not wanting to be seen as foolish.
And so, we wait to gather more information, learn more, plan more, and avoid a misstep.
But here’s the thing, you can start before you’re ready. Get some facts and then get going. You’ll learn more by doing than by planning. When you think, "I need to know every step" or "I should find out more about..." you're really procrastinating.
Also planning gives us the false sense of momentum. “I’m doing something! I’m deciding what to do!” At some point, we realize that we’re tired from our actions but that nothing’s accomplished. We feel frustrated and we may even feel as if we’d failed…even though we haven’t done anything beyond making plans.
Don’t get me wrong. Planning is important, it provides us with insight. I believe the first step to living a less cluttered life is gaining clarity – what do you value, why do you want to do what you say you want to do?
You take that clarity and move onto the next step of clearing and curating your home and schedule. And here’s the ironic thing, the act of deciding what you’ll keep and what you’ll let go of (that comes from decluttering) will grant you deeper clarity.
Acting leads to accomplishing something
So, I’m not suggesting that you give up on making plans or doing some research before you start. Even when it comes to decluttering your home, I think it’s worth taking some time to question why you’re decluttering and what benefits you hope to see. And to then look at the room where you’ll be decluttering and ask what types of activities you want to do in this space, so you understand what belongs there and why.
But you can’t plan the space clear of clutter.
You need to act. Even if it’s slowly or hesitantly, take a step. You may find yourself holding a sweater that you never wear but can’t casually drop into a bag of items to donate. Ten minutes pass before you realize that you can put the sweater in that bag. You may feel that you wasted that time, but you were teaching yourself how to declutter.
You were learning what made something important to you and how you could decide if it was time to let go. You needed that time to fulfill your prerequisite decluttering skills. You didn’t need to learn more from a video or book. You’d learn by acting.
The same thing goes if you want to write a novel or your memoirs. You can keep reading books about writing or you can start writing. Chances are that after several weeks or month of writing, you can go back to some of those books about writing and information that was abstract before you sat down and started writing will make more sense and be more valuable to you.
And if you want to start a business that you can run out of your home, you can read books and blogs for years without ever opening your business. You’ll be busy, but nothing will happen. If you’re afraid of making mistakes, ask yourself what specific mistakes you fear and then find the right person who can answer them.
When I ask people why they want to declutter, they don’t talk about having a cleared coffee table. They talk about having more time with the people they care about. They mention self-care. Their goal isn’t their actions, it’s how they’ll feel for having acted.
When you start before you're ready, you feel accomplished
If you’re concerned about obstacles, consider if your fears are the general “what if?” variety because then the only way to find out how to deal with them is action. If you’re imagining all the things that could go wrong, come up with a plan for addressing the most concerning issues if they arise. But know that plan isn’t the same as acting.
Start before you’re ready. Your accomplishments will motivate you to take the next step.
Declutter your house or help your parents’ clear through their clutter (you’ll learn how to make decisions as you declutter). Write the book (you can edit to make it better). Purchase the domain for your website (you won’t break the internet). Plan to travel across country in an RV after researching practicalities like how to empty your wastewater instead of seeking inspiration by reading about other’s experiences. (Why learn from other travel bloggers when you can be one of those travel bloggers?)
Sometimes, you’ll learn what you need to do as you work toward your goals.
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