How to Overcome the Fear of Starting - Defeating the Mind-Killer
Last Updated on Feb 13, 2023
Can you start a new task easily or do you keep postponing it? Do you have a list of things you want to do but you don’t do any of them? Do you have a feeling that while everyone is talking about consistency your biggest problem is starting it and you know that if you just start it you will keep going? If your answer is yes, then you are not alone. I know exactly how you feel.
The law of inertia tells us that an object will continue to stay in the resting or moving state unless an external force acts on it.
The law of Inertia is 100 percent true about me. I know with all my heart that if I start something I will continue doing it but before starting it, there is a powerful force that doesn’t allow me to change my state. And I am tired of it.
For example, I got a notebook almost a year ago and I wanted to start writing again. But I haven’t even opened it yet. Every time I open my closet and see it, I say “today is the day, I will definitely start writing something this afternoon” but the day has never come. I bought a book and I didn’t start reading it. I had the idea for 10 side projects and yet I haven’t started any one of them.
The law of inertia says “unless an external force acts on it” but I can’t and I don’t want to wait for an external force. I need to find a way to fight back, I need to act on it, I need to generate the necessary force to change the state, internally.
I know the time has come, I know that I should do something because the fact that I wanted to do all of those things is undeniable and yet I don’t start them and it’s bothering me. It brings me a lot of sadness.
Find the Cause
In the art of war it says "In order to fight and defeat your enemy, you must know your enemy well." so the very first step for me was obvious. I needed to know that internal force that doesn’t allow me to start a new thing. I needed to know the enemy in order to defeat it.
I researched externally and internally for the root cause.I had to go through some of my deepest thoughts and feelings to see what caused this behavior and there were many explanations.
I listed down all the things that stopped me from doing all those things I knew my enemy was inside me so I didn’t write excuses like “I do not have time” because I knew I did. I did have a lot of time.
I will share only a few of them here but believe me the list was long and I had written pages and pages of feelings, thoughts and reasons that I had, to avoid starting something new.
Reading a book: what if the book is not good and it’s a waste of time? What if I don’t understand what it wants to say? Or worse, what if I misunderstand?
Writing: imagine I wrote what I wanted, So what? What is going to come out of that piece of writing? And what if I write something intimate and someone else finds it and reads it.
Projects: it’s not going to work. I am just going to waste a lot of time and lose a lot of money. Someone else is doing it with much better quality.
After reading all the pages multiple times, going through every reason one by one, I realized something. All of them could be summarized in one word. So all the reasons that were holding me from starting something new were just one word. I felt like I had found the enemy. That powerful force inside me. The one word that could describe all those pages of reasons and feelings.
And the word was FEAR.
I was happy that I had found the enemy. But I didn’t know much else about it. I like the quote from Dune that says "Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration."
It’s not an easy enemy. It’s one of the hardest enemies anyone faces.
Don’t get me wrong. Fear can be a good thing. Fear can save us. Fear can help us survive. Fear can make us make better decisions.
I didn’t hate fear. I loved it. Without fear all of us would be dead.
But in my case I had to fight it. I should admit, It’s hard to fight something you love. Something so vital. But I had to. The rest of the quote from Dune says:
"I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
Know the Fear
I needed to know more about fear, the thing that is going to pass over and through me. So I searched on google. Did you know google shows more than 1,880,000,000 results for terms like “what is fear” and “different types of fear”?
I looked at a few of them but they did not have the answers I was looking for. I had to ask someone smarter than me, someone who could read all of those articles and summarize it for me and give me the answers. Who else is better than AI? So I asked ChatGPT about different types of fears that can cause not starting something new and this is what I got as response:
It's important to recognize that fear comes in many forms and can hold us back from starting something new. Some common types of fear include fear of failure, fear of rejection, and fear of the unknown. Fear of failure is the fear that we won't be successful in achieving our goals, and this can be a powerful deterrent to starting something new. Fear of rejection is the fear that we will be rejected by others, and this can make us hesitant to put ourselves out there and try something new. Fear of the unknown is the fear of the potential risks and consequences of our actions, and this can make us hesitant to take risks and try something new.
Overcome the Fear
It was a promising answer. Short and to the point. By asking more questions I got more detailed answers about fear and what it is. So I needed to know how to overcome these fears. How to fight back. How to let it be past so only I would remain.
Evidently there are many ways that can help people like me. By this time I was becoming good friends with ChatGPT so I will quote my friend about some of the ways we can overcome our fears and start something new:
To overcome fear and start something new, it can be helpful to take some time to reflect on why we want to start something in the first place. What are our goals? Why are these goals important to us? What will we gain by achieving them? By reminding ourselves of the reasons behind our goals, we can stay motivated and focused on starting something new.
It can also be helpful to break the task down into smaller, manageable steps. This can make the task seem less daunting and more achievable. For example, if our goal is to write a book, we can start by setting aside a specific time each day to write. We can start by writing just a few hundred words per day, and then gradually increase our daily word count as we become more comfortable with the writing process. By taking small, manageable steps, we can gradually build momentum and make progress towards our goals.
Another way to overcome fear and start something new is to seek support and encouragement from others. Surrounding ourselves with people who believe in us and support our goals can provide us with the motivation and confidence we need to take the first step. We can also seek out mentors or coaches who can provide us with guidance and advice as we embark on our new project. By seeking support and encouragement from others, we can gain the confidence and motivation we need to start something new.
I tried some of them. The things that work particularly good for me were two things:
1- managing my expectations and even expecting the worst case scenario
2- staring with the smallest, and even worst step
Let me explain. Do you remember when I mentioned that one of the reasons I kept avoiding to start reading a new book was “what if the book is not good and it’s a waste of time? What if I misunderstand?” Well, I opened the book and expected it to be the worst book possible. I expected to misunderstand the whole book. I expected it to be a waste of my time yet I did it purely because I wanted to. It was my choice.
This made me start the book. Actually, not only did I start the book but also I read the first chapter on the first day and kept reading it and finished it in less than a week. I told you if I get started I have no problem with continuing to do it.
And about the second solution, let me give you an example about my notebook. I opened the notebook and all the fears came back. I didn’t know what to write. I knew that all I needed was to write only one word. Because that was a small and manageable step. But I didn’t know what that word should be. So I started with the worst word that comes to mind and then drew a line over it. Now my paper was no longer pure white. Now I could say that I had started it. And it worked.
Since then I’ve been writing in that notebook almost everyday. Sometimes a joke, sometimes a memory, sometimes some dreams. But I kept writing. I started writing and that’s what mattered.
In conclusion, starting something new can be difficult, especially when fear holds us back. But by recognizing the different forms that fear can take and learning to overcome it, we can take the first step and begin to make progress towards our goals. By taking small, manageable steps, seeking support and encouragement from others, managing our expectations, and reminding ourselves of the reasons behind our goals, we can overcome fear and start something new. So let's not let fear hold us back any longer. It's time to start.
- What causes us to avoid starting something
- What is Fear
- Different Types of fear
- How to Overcome the fear of starting