You’ve probably heard or read an article where successful people tout loud and clear that the one critical piece of advice they have is always to start before you’re ready. On the surface, this sounds good. It appears to be a piece of valid advice. But the more you think about it, the less it seems compelling. After all, our entire lives, all we do is prepare. We start with school, college, entry-level jobs, and so on. Every year we seem to progress and get more ready for the next challenge. So, what does it mean to start before you’re ready? Isn’t that like putting the carriage before the horse? In a way, it is but stick with me, and you’ll see that in some cases, it’s not only good for you, but it’s also quite a critical mindset to have.
How Fear Stifles Our Courage
As one of the leading human emotions, fear is the one that heavily holds us back. Sometimes, that is for a good reason—fear has helped our species survive by staying out of harm’s way.
But in the context of this article, I’m not talking about that kind of fear. I’m also not talking about the various phobias such as fear of spiders or leaving the house. I’m not even talking about the fear of death, which, to some extent, is the ultimate fear.
In this case, I’m talking about three particular types of fear:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of looking bad
If you think logically, rejection can be a strong motivator to try harder. Looking bad is not your problem but the problem of the person who judges you. Merely having someone think that you look bad or that you are dumb doesn’t change who you are at the core.
Although failure is an integral step of growth and development, it might pin you into a corner in some instances. So, if you are to give merit to any of the fears, perhaps this one is the one you should.
But, in the end, all these fears have the same effect on us—they destroy our confidence and kill our courage to act.
When that happens, what thought takes form? I’ll tell you: “I’ll get a bit more ready so when I take that leap of faith, I won’t fail or be rejected or look bad. ”
Do you see a problem? Our thoughts morph into one of those lies we keep telling ourselves.
Reasons Why You’ll Never Be Ready
Fear occurs when your confidence about what you want to do is not par with the challenge. When you feel like you don’t know enough, you haven’t practiced enough, or simply that you are not enough, fear takes over.
The problem is that to grow in any capacity (professionally, as a human, in a relationship), you frequently have to overcome higher and higher obstacles. In other words, your bar needs to go up after every step forward so you can continue your ascend.
Remember that the easy path leads downhill. Therefore, if you want to grow, every step of the way must be met by a higher and higher bar.
Preparing to be ready is an illusion. You are always ready.
That means that you will never be ready. There will always be the next thing. No matter how much you work on getting prepared, the next peek will still seem unsurmountable.
But then, you’ll say, wait a minute. What if I get ready for this step, not for all the many steps after it?
Okay, fair point. The problem with agonizing about the step ahead and not leaping in is that you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s a mouthful, but it’s true.
No amount of theoretical and mental preparation can make you foresee all the situations, cases, obstacles, and problems that can only be revealed through action and practice.
You may think you are getting ready, but you are merely sharpening those things you already know. The unknown is and will stay elusive until you start acting. No matter how you spin it, it’s far better to start before you are ready than keep getting ready for the rest of your life.
How to Start Before You’re Ready
Now that we understand why it’s important, let’s go deeper into how you can push yourself to start before you are ready.
Accept that the unknown is unknown
As I said above, you cannot know what you don’t know. It doesn’t matter how much you read and ask for assistance; there will always be things you can’t face only in theory; you must experience them on your skin. Experimentation and practice will expose you up to those things in ways that no academic study can.
Once you understand and accept this concept, it will be much easier for you to leap forward. The more you try to figure out the unknown, the more the unknown will expand. That is not a bad thing. That’s what the unknown is supposed to do—tempt you to try it, not to figure it out just in your head.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and only acting will reveal in the unknown.
Realize if you are a perfectionist
Perfectionism is a common condition that acts subconsciously by not letting you pursue or complete something before attaining a certain level of perceived perfection. It takes a hard look at yourself to understand if you suffer from that. If you do, you must address this first before you can move on.
Being a perfectionist is a lot more than having a high bar or standard. It means that you lack the self-awareness to accept when enough is enough. Instead, you keep polishing and fixing and adjusting and then again and again and again. It’s not that things are not good enough; you have lost the grip of what good is.
You need to let go. Nothing is perfect. In fact, the most imperfect thing of all is you not starting what you’ve set your mind to start. When you start before you’re ready, you are basically accepting your imperfections or even act despite them.
Nothing is nor can it ever be perfect. Everything can be improved, including you. Focus on action, not perfection.
Know that there will be failures
When you start on a path and expect winning all along the way, you are delusional, or the path you’ve taken is too easy. Like Vince Lombardi used to say, “winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” There’s a significant distinction there.
The other side of the coin of expecting only victories is to be okay with failures. Failures are not evil; they are powerful lessons and part of any natural progress. Most inventions that you use today came after an avalanche of failures. If those inventors would’ve only wanted to pursue their ideas when failure was not an option, we wouldn’t have airplanes, TV, or the Internet.
Be happy to fail. It’s merely another step toward a victory.
Failure is a precursor to success, and you must adapt your mindset to accept it.
Determine the risk of doing versus the risk of not doing
Every time you face a fork in the road and you need to make a decision, you know instinctively that each direction you choose will have its risks and rewards. In the context here, the options are to start or to wait. What you need to do is re-frame the “wait” and replace it with “don’t start.”
In other words, you only have two options: to start or never to start. How does this one look like now? Scary, right?
If you can determine that the risk of not acting is far worse than the risk of acting, you will make this decision much easier. But you have to be honest and not shroud the risk of not doing with labels spawned from your internal limiting beliefs. Instead, truly evaluate how your life will suffer if you don’t act.
If you establish that the risk of not starting is far more dangerous than the risk of starting, you will have a more straightforward decision to make.
Find your tribe of supporters
Sometimes, making such a decision might feel overwhelming and anxiety building. When you feel that way, it’s a good idea to have someone to talk to. Ideally, you’d want to have a mentor or partner who is biased toward action. That’s not to say that you need somebody to convince you and ease your decision. Instead, you want someone who has a different perspective and approach to risk.
Fear is a terrible thing to face alone. That doesn’t mean that you can’t conquer it, but remember that your relationships represent one critical dimension of your joy in life. Use them wisely, and they’ll become support during your struggle of starting before you’re ready. If there’s anyone in this world that could understand and give you a boost, it’s the people with whom you’ve developed a bond.
Have one person or group of people that you can approach and get their feedback.
Understand the power of momentum
You know how you go hiking up a mountain and, at first, every cell in your body feels like it doesn’t want to go? After a while, though, it gets momentum. Yes, there is pain and difficulty, but the feeling you had at the bottom of the mountain subsides. Over time, it gets replaced with a desire to reach the top.
The same happens when you want to start something new. Once you make the very first step, the next step is relatively more comfortable. And so is the next one. Soon, the fear that holds you back turns into energy and a burning desire to move forward.
There will also be small victories between the many failures, and you will use those failures as learning opportunities. Victories, on the other hand, will build your confidence and give you the motivation to keep going. Momentum is vital. Spark it, and it will keep you going.
With every small step, your fear decreases, and motivation increases, and that momentum helps you advance.
Don’t think too big
Finally, you must understand if your fear is there because the endeavor you are looking at seems too daunting. It’s okay and recommended to have big, audacious goals and dreams, but every so often, that becomes a source of fear when reality sets in. Although you must think big to accomplish big things, there’s always a danger in thinking too big too soon.
If that’s the case, don’t look at the whole challenge as one big thing. Break it down into pieces or divide and conquer. Then, make the very first step toward the smallest task, and that’s what will ignite your momentum.
Instead of focusing on the entire mountain to conquer, focus on the first one hundred feet, and start treading them.
More Ways to Overcome Fear
I get that these steps, although compelling, might seem easier said than done. Fear is no joke, even for those who are genuinely courageous.
Fear, especially fear of rejection or failure, is a genuinely sneaky feeling that grips you in the most unexpected ways and paralyzes you. Sometimes, fear has that effect even when you expect it to happen.
In other words, if you believe a lion might be around the corner, you’d expect fear to come should the lion appear. When the lion does arise, your fear is no less. That expectation of fear doesn’t make it go away because the danger is still imminent.
So, you need a few more techniques to learn how to expect the fear but then still act despite it when it creeps in. The mindset you’re looking for is not only about accepting that you should start before you’re ready but also about figuring out practical ways to do it.
Steps to Empower Your Courage and Start
Analyze past failures
When you find yourself unable to start because you don’t feel ready, reflect on your history. Identify some past situations when you did act similarly and ended up with egg on your face. What happened?
Was there any silver lining? Any learnings? Was it all bad? What did you learn from those past leaps of faith? How have they contributed to the way you feel today?
Very often, we all forget to look at the hurdles we’ve overcome in the past. In reality, those situations are powerful boosts for your self-confidence. Remember them, and reflect; ask yourself, how did you do it? What was different then? How can you do it again?
Understand the worst-case scenario
When you feel you are not ready for something new, write down the best-case and worst-case scenarios. Look at the worst-case scenario and dissect it but be honest. Don’t make stuff up. Think of what could happen should your whole plan goes belly up.
Once you understand the risks and clearly define all their implications, you can look at the situation from a different perspective. In this way, you also add clarity to the potential effects of you failing, regardless if you were ready or not.
Armed with the knowledge about the past and a clear understanding of the worst-case scenario, think about several ways in which you can mitigate the potential risks of the worst-case scenario.
Understand that over-mitigating can become a hurdle to your starting, so don’t overdo it. Find some of the more significant risks that can be diminished, but don’t make that become the problem.
Sometimes, merely being aware of all the potential risks will allow you to move on. A simple analysis that reveals those risks will give you the peace of mind that you know what might come versus being in a total fog.
Have a plan
Understand that taking a leap of faith doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane without a parachute. That would be somewhat reckless. Starting before you are ready doesn’t mean doing things just for the sake of it.
Even if not complete but just a sketch of an idea, having a plan will give you self-confidence. Once you see a potential path from A to Z, you will boost your confidence about a likely positive outcome even if all the details of the entire journey are still unclear.
Plans are a powerful deterrent to fear because they create a map for your actions. Much like the GPS sucks the anxiety out of your chest when you find yourself driving through unknown places, so does your plan.
Find practice grounds
Finally, always look for safe practice grounds to exercise your ability to start before you’re ready. Identify places that are safe enough not to break your ship, sort of speak.
That means finding smaller projects where risks are minimal and push yourself to start. By doing it repeatedly, you will train your mindset to accept that predicament.
Be clear that practice won’t make the fear go away; instead, it will merely train you to act despite the fear.
Start Before You’re Ready—The Only Way
If you take any idea out of this article, remember this one: it’s far worse to regret than to try and fail.
There is no redemption in regrets, and usually, they come when it’s too late to turn things around. Don’t allow yourself to get there. Be bold and trust yourself.
Your ideas are great even when they’re not. Why? Because they’re yours. Nobody gets to say otherwise, especially you. So, start changing the tune. Start believing in yourself and your potential.
Pick a project you’ve been putting off for a while. Take that project, dust it off, and start. It doesn’t matter if you’re not ready because guess what? You are. You are always ready, and you are also never ready. Why? Because your level of readiness doesn’t matter. It never did, and it never will.
Therefore, just go for it!
Other Resources on Starting Before You’re Ready
- Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready
- 5 Reasons to Start Before You are Ready
- Five Reasons to Start Before You’re Ready
- Start Before You’re Ready
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- When was the last time you wanted to do something but felt like you’re not ready?
- How about the reverse situation? When was the last time you stepped into a situation without being ready?
- What are some of the thoughts that come to mind when you don’t feel ready for a new endeavor?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!