If you want to be surrounded by broken dreams head on down to your local pawn shop. The guitars on the wall represent all of those people who once had dreams of being Slash from Gun’s N’ Roses. You then turn around and are faced with lonely pieces of exercise equipment that look like they are fresh out of the box and never been used. If you had the ability to jump in a time machine and go back to the moment before the owner bought these items I’m sure you would see a person with great intentions, never would they think they would end up in a pawn shop hardly used.
Imagine this, you wake up one morning and feel like you are missing something in your life, that you need a hobby. One of your good friends is a really good guitar player and when you watch them play you admire what they can create and see how people respond to their music. In this moment you determine that you are going to learn guitar.
After the decision has been made you devise a plan to get things rolling, you can’t help but think that maybe one day you will create a number one song that will be loved worldwide, the dreaming has begun. Over the next month you spend nearly an hour a day researching, if you are going to do this you want to do it right. You research the best methods for learning the guitar, what gear you need, you even join an online forum where you feel connected to a community of players. Up to this point you only have a very old acoustic guitar which you haven’t actually started playing because you haven’t had the time or motivation. You think to yourself that if you invested in a good guitar you would want to practice everyday, this is the key to the start of your journey. After visiting the music store for 10th time you invest in a $3000, top of the line, Epiphone, you figure if you are going to do this you may as well do it right.
Unfortunately the only thing that touches this guitar after a couple of half hearted practices is dust. The poor guitar just becomes a reminder of a dream that you never took any action towards and eventually you head down to the pawn shop and lose a lot of money when you sell it.
There’s a concept that I want to introduce here, it’s called The Investment of Starting. The Investment of Starting looks at the time and money you commit to an area of your life where you want to create a new behaviour. In the example above, the person spent numerous hours and thousands of dollars to get started in playing the guitar. For many people they hope that the investment they make in getting started will give them the motivation they need to become what they dream of.
All new hobbies will have some level of Investment of Starting but when we invest too much time and money hoping to find the motivation we can stop the most important part of creating new behaviours - starting. If you want to start playing the guitar you will need a basic guitar and some form of lessons but that’s all you need, the only way you will ever write a number one song is if you start practicing.
Starting can be hard, especially if it’s something you have never done before or that you have been away from for a very long time. The most important question to explore when you are going down this path is ‘how can I make sure I spend some time doing this today’. Researching the best gym to join has value to it but going for a walk today is actually building the framework for the new way. When you ask yourself this question it allows you to foresee and confront potential barriers that will prevent you from acting today. The better you become at this the easier it will be to keep building the habit.
So next time you think about starting a new hobby or behaviour make sure you keep your Investment of Starting as low as possible and just get to the real work of starting asap. This way you’ll be working towards your dreams, not creating broken ones.
This piece orginally appeared in The Press
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