Do you recognize any of the following thoughts?
– Oh, I’d love to take up that project… but I could never do that. I don’t even know where to start!
– I really want to go on that trip… But how would I ever get the time and the money?
– Maybe I should set up that business. But….no way.
If you do, then this means you suffer from a not-so-rare disease called ‘initial hesitation.’ It means that you’re full of good plans, but you are often hesitant to actually carry them out. I feel you – been there, done that! Here is one strategy that never fails to help me get started (and to get things done!) and that will be useful for you, too. I call this strategy: ‘Here Comes the Broccoli’.
Here comes the broccoli!
Think of a boy toddler, sitting in his chair at the dining table. Before him, on the table, is his plate – full of veggies. The little boy refuses to eat any of them; veggies suck, if you ask him. So how do his momma and papa convince him to eat them, anyway? Right. They make eating veggies fun. Goes like this: dad picks up a piece of broccoli with a fork; says it’s an airplane; makes a lot of noise – vaguely resembling an engine- and lets the fork fly through the air, circle widely and turning over and over. The boy, giggling in his seat, knows what’s coming; he opens his mouth, imagining it to be a tunnel where the plane needs to get through, and right before the fork goes in, the mother shouts: Here comes the Broccoli!
I know, it’s silly. But it works. It has worked for me (I’m the author of five books, so trust me – I’ve tried this), and for the many writers and other creatives who I work with in realizing their dreams. And it will work for you, too. Now, of course, the boy KNOWS he’s eating the same veggies that he despised less than half a minute ago, but he no longer has a problem with them. He’s forgotten his objections, and he’s been lured into doing something that he did not plan to do, initially. Know what’s even more silly? This works for us, too. Whenever I have a big project or task ahead that I find intimidating or otherwise difficult, I lure myself into it. Yep: I make it look fun, I distract myself, I play all the tricks that I know. Slightly childish, that’s right, but I don’t care- as long as they help me to achieve my goals! Broccoli for adults Here are three ways in which you can make something bitter, taste pretty good.
Often we become overwhelmed by our Big Plans, and as a result, we freeze and don’t act at all. Instead, make one move towards your goal that is so tiny, that it is nearly ridiculous. For writing a book: brainstorming 10 minutes on a potential title. For planning a big trip: do an online google-search on the most beautiful beaches in the world. For setting up a business: go to the library and borrow a handbook for entrepreneurs. That’s all you have to do. Don’t make yourself do more than this one task, but do plan one new, tiny task for the next day. That’s doable, right? Even better: all those tiny tasks together, will eventually get your things done.
When I need to get some deep-thinking work done (a task that people typically find much harder to start with and commit to, than ‘easy tasks’ like replying to Email or social media-messages), I allow myself to do the work in an environment that feels comforting and stimulating. For me, this can be a nice coffee shop, or a bench in the sun in the park. I take my notebook, install myself with a nice cuppa-something, and consciously stay offline while setting my alarm for 1 or 2 hours of focused work. Nearly always, I can work without being distracted too much until the alarm goes off. See how this works for you!
Often when we find something intimidating, we subconsciously use a discourse that emphasizes the complexity and the heaviness of it all. ‘Oh no, I have to sort all of this out first’, we say, or ‘I have no idea how I am ever going to do that.’ Not only is this language demotivating, it also underemphasizes the fact that you may be working towards a very cool or valuable goal. You want this, right? Then say that! Active and open sentences like ‘I want to sort this out’ and ‘I have no idea how I will do this…yet, but I’ll find a way’ feel inspiring, hopeful and empowering. They also give you agency and ownership: you are working on an awesome plan, and nobody is forcing you to do so!
This weekend, I am going to spend some hours in a airconditioned coffee café, working on the first action step of a plan that I am unsure how to turn into reality…yet. Are you with me? Enjoy that broccoli!