Several years ago I decided that I was going to start a daily yoga practice as a way to get my blood flowing every morning. The key for me was to get on the mat and only do down-facing dog, then stop. The key obstacle to overcome was moving from avoiding to facing, from not doing it, to doing it. So I did down-facing dog for 21 days straight. And then from there I expanded it to 5 minutes; now years later it's 15.
The central challenge when we are starting anything new is to overcome our stationary inertia.
I remember learning in physics that the coefficient of friction is greater for a stationary object than for an object in motion. What this means is that the force needed to overcome that stationary inertia is greater than the force needed to keep it moving. Once we begin something it gets easier to sustain the momentum.
The worthwhile things in life are difficult. They take time. They can be overwhelming. We can’t do them alone. Often we give up because it feels too uncertain. And yet we have a vision for creating something meaningful that we can’t ignore. So we step out knowing that we what we create is in conversation with our interactions in the world.
On Tuesday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman (age 29) elected to Congress (NY’s 14th district).
“I spent the entire first part of this campaign just going to people’s living rooms and having them invite their neighbors, and just doing little coffee parties for like six or seven months,” she said. “And that’s how we really started this campaign.” (Source: NY Times 6/27/2018 article)
I imagine that as she kept holding these conversations they became easier. She found momentum. And as she listened, she learned, she consistently showed up.
Our ability to have meaningful dialogue seems to be diminishing in our society. It’s easy to avoid the difficult conversations (flight) or get caught up in a fight.
What would it look like to cultivate our ability to be present in the midst of difficulty, to be grounded and to engage with others who may or may not agree with us?
This is difficult work to be sure.
And if it's difficult, the question is: What's the first small step?
It’s worthwhile: for our workplaces, our cities, our national dialogue, and our way forward.
And dare I say, necessary.
David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, knows that often the most difficult work is the inner work:
Start Close In
Don't take the second step, or the third
Start with the first thing,
The Step you don't want to take.
We don’t and we can’t figure out all the steps before we start.
The key, as Seth Godin reminds us, is to merely begin.