The goal is to start


I’m calling this month Work Out The Kinks January.

As good as it feels to have a vision for 2020, now begins the daily work of bringing it into focus. This isn’t a straightforward process. I’m rusty, distractible, and lacking skills I need.

Last year, I let some habits I care about (daily writing) fall by the wayside and others (too much phone checking) creep into my daily routine.

Other habits (consistent exercise, organizing household paper, dreaming more than doing) have dogged me for much longer and come with more baggage.

But the hard truth is that if I’m going to realize my vision (it’s pretty damn big), I need to take a deep breath, deal with my hangups, and face my fears.

I need to get started.

It’s daunting, so I’m leaning into the two strategies Christine and I talk about often on Edit Your Life: baby steps and course correction.


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* Pictured: Leuchtturm1917 Dotted Medium notebook and a Pilot G2 Ultra-Fine Gel Pen. The notebook’s ok, but I prefer blank pages and a journal that lays flat when open. But the pen! The Pilot G2 is the best pen I’ve ever used!

Baby steps are…small

My top priorities right now are to write and to exercise. These are the changes I need to make to get started:

  • Return to daily writing
  • Edit my schedule
  • Sharpen my writing skills
  • Shift my work habits
  • Restart my running practice (sigh. See: “Course correction” later in this post.)

The challenge is just to start, so I’m making starting easy. I’ve chosen one small step for each change.

  • Daily writing: In Google Calendar, I’ve blocked out 30 minutes for writing most weekdays.
  • Editing my schedule: I spend the first 15-30 minutes of my day with coffee and my journal. Not the newspaper. Not my phone.
  • Sharpening my writing skills: I’ve signed up for a six-week writing workshop (it starts Thursday evening!).
  • Shifting my work habits: I’m setting my phone to Do Not Disturb and closing social media tabs during my writing time.
  • Restarting my running practice: I’ve signed up for a local running group.

This is the beginning of the beginning. These small changes won’t get me all the way to my vision. But they seem like steps in the right direction. Thing is, I’ll only know for sure once I’ve done them for a while. That’s when things get messy.

Which brings me to my second strategy: course correction.

Try. Adjust. Repeat.

My baby steps seem easy enough. But habit change is hard. I wish I could magically change my behavior just by making a decision or writing a list, but I know from past experience that’s unrealistic. This process is gonna be bumpy and uncomfortable.

The goal is just to start, not be instantly successful.

An example:

Writing. Last week, I blocked out 60 minutes every weekday for writing. My week started off well enough, but stuff cropped up and blew my schedule.

I was pretty discouraged. BUT (and I’m proud of this) instead of stewing in my failure, I course-corrected. I didn’t fail; I just need a smaller baby step. I shortened my writing block to 30 minutes most weekdays. Let’s see how this week goes. I can always readjust.

Here’s another example:

Running. I started, and then I started again, but I didn’t keep it up.

Reality bomb: I’ve struggled to establish a consistent exercise habit my entire life. Chances are good that I’ll need to keep trying new things till I find something that works. Even if it takes me months or a year or more, I just have to keep going.

I course-corrected and signed up with a group coaching class. Group exercise is more motivating for me and I do better when someone tells me what to do. Let’s see if this changes my experience with running.

It’s going to take time to find my flow. There will be good days and bad days. I’m not superhuman. I’m trying to be kind to myself as I do this.

If I were helping a friend, I’d be all smiles and encouragement. Why not do the same for myself?

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. — Arthur Ashe

Photo credit: Matt Artz

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  • I love this attitude. You inspired me to take that screenwriting class, instead of trying to get motivated to learn things on my own. I do much better with accountability and working in groups and deadlines! Keep searching until you find what works!

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