Beginning without a Road Map

Jan 6, 2021Publications

Originally published at Ideas on Fire, January 6, 2021

Goals and plans can be an awesome way to approach each new semester, project, or endeavor. But as we’ve all experienced at some point, sometimes those early plans end up being super-humanly ambitious or decontextualized, leaving us disappointed in ourselves when they get interrupted.

Many of you have been talking with me and the rest of the Ideas on Fire team lately about feeling like you can’t plan anything or look forward to anything since the global pandemic means we still have many more months of uncertainty ahead.

I deeply understand this feeling. So instead of jumping right into planning mode, which tends to be my go-to strategy and not always for the better, I want to talk about what comes before the plan. Let’s think together about the act of beginning

Beginning comes before the plan

To begin doesn’t necessarily mean to have a plan yet. To begin doesn’t require we’ve fully figured out what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

Instead, a beginning is that moment of possibility, that moment when we get to dream, brainstorm, and imagine without judgement and without the naysayer voice of reason that demands we be realistic.  

Looking beyond the new

Beginnings also don’t necessarily need to be about new stuff. Sure, you might decide to start a new project, develop a new goal, or cultivate new habits.

But beginnings can also entail renewing commitments, returning to old events with changed views, revising expectations, and letting things go that no longer serve us.

To begin means to recognize when something in your life or the world more broadly is calling for change. To begin also means to make that first gesture into the unknown to try to figure it out.

Transformation and fear

To begin can be as simple as asking a new question of something you thought you already knew or resolving to remaining open to what your personal and professional selves need right now. For instance, many folks are realizing the crisis mode of living prominent in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic is not sustainable over the long term, and they’re resolving to build more supportive and long-term systems to nurture their selves, their families, and their communities in the long run.

Beginning can also be scary and accompanied by internal and external voices that prevent us from starting things. Sometimes this looks like putting off starting that new project because you’re not sure you can finish it. And sometimes it looks like battling an inner perfectionist who tramples your curiosity about a new way of doing things.

Beginnings are iterative

Beginnings are also not a one-time deal. We begin over and over again as we work through a project or a goal. Rather than seeing those restarts as a sign that our plan is in fact a failure, renewable beginnings are a vital part of any journey, whether that’s is in fact a failure, we’ll be exploring how renewable beginnings are a vital part of any journey, whether that’s publishing a book, teaching a new online class, or building more self-care time into your schedule.

Beginnings embody hope not because the next thing will be perfect (it rarely is) but because we get to change and celebrate that change, regardless of where it might take us. So here’s to new beginnings that can bring us joy, transformation, fascination, and growth.

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