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Start Where You Are

Is there something you've been putting off doing because you don't feel you're ready yet?

Are you telling yourself you're not smart enough or capable enough? Do you think you don't have enough information and you "just" need to do a little more research?

Maybe you think you need to work out at home to get "fit enough" before you go to the gym. Or you want to read one more book, listen to one more podcast, or take one more course before you give it a try.

Have you convinced yourself that this is just not the right time? Or that you'll do it when... [fill in the blank].

I can relate. I've felt called to start writing this blog for about eight months now and kept coming up with some excuse or another to put it off. I'd tell myself that something else was more important, or that there was no point starting because there's a holiday coming up and my posting will be inconsistent, and - most especially - I psyched myself out by reading the work of writers who are far more experienced than I am and convincing myself that there was no point even starting, since I'm not as good as they are.


There's a powerful story about Milton Erickson, a thought-leader of the 20th century who influenced a lot of modern psychology and therapy techniques and whose work forms the basis of the coach training I pursued:

Erickson was afflicted with polio and at the age of 17 found himself paralyzed. He was quarantined on his family's farm and as he lay immobile in the family home, he kept himself occupied by observing his younger siblings and developing a depth of insight into human behaviour that influenced his later contributions to the field of psychology.

As the story goes, one of his younger sisters was at an age when she was just learning to walk. He watched all the minutiae of her progressions. He saw her unsuccessful attempts: her buckling knees and folding hips, her unceremonious crumples as she landed squarely back on the floor.

He also noted that at her young age, she had no concept of these as 'failures.' She learned something - however small - from each attempt, was emboldened by each new piece of the puzzle, and little by little, she put together all the things she learned until she could stand and eventually walk.

Being able to walk - in a direction of our choosing, at a pace of our choosing, without consistent interruption of buckling knees and hips landing our bottoms down on the ground - is something many of us now take for granted. But for every single one of us, there was a time in our lives when we didn't yet know how to do that. If you are a person whose body does not walk, there are almost certainly other things you have learned to do that you now may not remember how you learned: like how to read or speak or develop the fine motor skills to hold a utensil.


In Erickson's case, his detailed study of his sister's approach contributed to him eventually teaching himself how to walk again, once the paralysis had waned.

For others of us, we can adapt this mindset to other skills we are looking to develop. We can embrace the ideas of progression, of learning from attempts and experience, and not expecting perfection right out of the gate, as it were.

We can offer ourselves and others the same compassion, forgiveness, and grace that we offer a toddler learning to walk. We do not judge her for not striding gracefully across an entire room on her first attempt. We celebrate each small advance, accept that she does not yet know certain things or has not yet honed certain abilities, and encourage her to keep trying, trusting that she will and improve and that the best - indeed only - way for her to learn is to try.

Even for Erickson, though his detailed of his sister's progression ultimately informed his approach to teaching himself to walk again once his paralysis had subsided, if he had only ever observed and never actually tried to walk again, no amount of careful thought could have animated his body into motion.


So here I am, writing. I finally held myself accountable to start somewhere - to start where I am, to borrow the expression from Pema Chodron. I mustered up the courage to try, to be an imperfect beginner, and to learn from the experience.

Though reading about how to write and studying acclaimed writers is helpful to a point, no amount of that will ever get me all the way to the level of skill I hope to wield. For that, I need experience. I need to actually write.

This is not necessarily a profound post. It does not contain any earth-shattering new insights, nor the wisdom of the ages. It may not transform your life. But it is a step in the right direction and I hope it will encourage you to take action on whatever dream or calling you have been excusing yourself from!

You've got to start somewhere, so it may as well be here. Start where you are. You'll learn along the way.

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