Starting Something New: Where to start and how to stick to it.
Something New: Where to start and how to stick to it.
With so many of us having so much more time on our hands, it seems like many of us are wanting to take the opportunity to use our time wisely - maybe learning a new skill, starting a new project or maybe that side hustle that we always said we’d do....but never did until now.
However, starting something new can often be more difficult than we think - like choosing what ‘thing’ to work on in the first place, and then actually sticking to making it happen after that initial excitement wears off is easier said than done.
Last week, our Head of Product, Steven Ebbers ran a workshop talking through how to start (and stick with) a new idea, and here are some practical tools and techniques you can use to get your new project off the ground:
1. Adopt a curiosity mindset
Being curious about different activities/topics can open your mind and inspire you to think of new project ideas or things to work on that you wouldn’t initially think of - and, maybe, help you to discover a new passion.
Also, if you’re annoyed that your new thing isn’t going as planned, or you’re upset that you’re not sticking with it - use a curiosity mindset to uncover why you feel like that, rather than getting sucked into the emotion itself. Once you uncover the cause of your emotions/enthusiasm, you can figure out ways to get around it. For example…
- Why are you feeling angry/annoying/upset?
- Why do you think you’re not sticking with your project?
- Could you be kinder to yourself, or lower your goal to something more achievable?
Activity: How to practice a curiosity mindset
- Think of an activity/topic that you would never normally find interesting
- Now, think of 3 reasons why this activity could actually be enjoyable or interesting to you - get creative, try to think of different ways of seeing this activity/topic, for what reasons would you do this activity even though you’re not naturally drawn to it?
- If you can, try brainstorming with somebody else and try being curious about something they find interesting but you don’t.
2. Finding the ‘Why’
Often we give up on new ideas because they seem too tough or we don’t enjoy them any more, but these challenges can be overcome by thinking about what the ‘why’ of your activity is.
This is important because
- It helps you to work on things that have meaning to you
- When you’re working on things that have meaning to you, you’re more likely to persist with them even when we come up against roadblocks and challenges.
The ‘why’ of your idea/project/’thing’ is aligned with the underlying need that it solves, and it needs to be aligned with something that is meaningful to you. If, once you uncover ‘why’ you’re doing the activity, it’s to please other people...it might be time to rethink what you want to work on.
Activity: Finding the ‘Why’ of your Activity
- Write an activity that you want to start or already are doing
- If social media didn’t exist, would I still do this idea?
- Whose praise am I looking for with this activity?
- Would I still engage in this activity if I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it
- If I didn’t get paid for this activity (eg if you’re starting a business), would I still do it? Or, if you wouldn’t normally get paid for this activity, would you pay to do it?
Now, reflect on your answers to these questions and write down what you think the underlying needs/motives are for you starting this particular activity
Activity: What other needs does this activity serve?
With another person (or by yourself), now brainstorm to see if there are any other underlying needs that this activity serves.
For example, if you want to start an eco business with your friend, your needs might be to build a great relationship with your friend, and feel like you’re helping the environment.
Are there any other needs that this solves? Who else would this activity help, and how?
Now, think about if there are any other activities you could do that would serve those needs instead. For example - could you have a bigger impact on the environment by building a technology company instead?
Another example - if your activity is learning to handstand to help you get healthy, but you also want to connect with other people, could you play tennis instead?
When we start a new activity we’re confronted with our own shortcomings, which can lead to a lot of feelings of vulnerability as we take steps into the unknown, and engage in things we’ve never done before.
When we don’t accept this vulnerability, it can manifest itself in behaviour like procrastination, perfectionism, and self doubt. All of these behaviours try to protect us from this feeling of vulnerability, but tend to lead to self-sabotage and giving up.
However, one way to get over is “dichotomy transcendence” - which means moving away from thinking in extremes such as “either I’m succeeding or I’m failing” or “either I’m the best at this, or I’m not worthy at all”.
Instead, try thinking in the grey area. There will always be a way to be better, so the size of your goal is effectively irrelevant. The idea that to start something you have to be good at it, defeats the point of starting in the first place. Instead of seeing this vulnerability as negative, try seeing it as a teacher that shows you how you can improve, using a curiosity mindset.
4. Set attainable goals
Rather than aiming super high right away, try lowering your goal to something less intimidating. You’ll be much less likely to procrastinate and fear failing. Then when you hit your first goal, push to the next one - take it step by step.
5. Treat your new thing as an experiment
Treat your new activity as an experiment. Once you do this we suddenly become much less afraid of ‘failure’, because failure is part of an experiment. For example, instead of starting a business straight away, why not talk to 50 people about your idea and work out if there’s a real need for it first?
- The most important thing is to understand the underlying motivation, or ‘why’ for whatever activity you want to do. Sometimes, starting with the underlying ‘why’, and needs, and thinking of the activity after, you might surprise yourself with what you want to engage with
- Adopt a curiosity mindset to allow you to consider new ideas, and overcome negative or challenging feelings
- Accept vulnerability, so instead of worrying about ‘succeeding’ or ‘failing’, enjoy learning your new skill and the journey towards getting ‘good’ at it.
- Set attainable goals so you don’t feel overwhelmed and procrastinate
- Treat it as an experiment, and accept failures as part of the process.