By Leo Babauta
I ran across a friend who’s been dreaming about starting his business for years … and he feels stuck.
Like many people who want to start a business, write a book or a blog, or launch some other kind of creative or entrepreneurial venture … he’s stuck in overwhelm, indecision, inaction.
I’m going to share a simple technique for overcoming these difficulties and taking action on your business, book, organization or other venture sooner. It takes just 20 minutes.
And it could change your life.
How to Overcome All the Obstacles
But first, let’s look at what stops people from taking action — and how we might overcome these individual obstacles:
- Feeling overwhelmed: The key to overcoming this obstacle is to pick one bite-sized chunk, one tiny action, and just start. You can’t climb the entire mountain all at once. You can only take one step. So focus entirely on the first step — and then the next.
- Not sure how to start: It honestly doesn’t matter how you start. What matters is taking action and starting. Once you start, you can always shift course if it becomes clear you need to do something else. Example: I don’t know how to start a blog — do I start writing, get a domain name, choose a theme, read a lot of articles on blogging? Why not just pick one and get started? It doesn’t matter which you start with.
- Indecisive about a tough choice: To overcome this, just go with your deepest gut feeling. Yes, you might be making the wrong choice (although honestly you’ll never know), but by making a choice and taking action, you’ll learn whether this choice is right for you. You’ll learn by doing, and then you can always switch to another choice later.
- Need to get things in just the right setup (perfectionism): This is just an excuse because you’re feeling uncertainty. Things don’t need to be set up perfectly. Just get going, you can work on it all as you go.
- Waiting for the right time: More delay and excuses because of uncertainty. There’s never a right time. Just get moving!
- Fear of failure: We all have this uncertainty. We don’t know how things will turn out, because it’s impossible to know. We wish we could control the outcome, but we can’t — and honestly, how boring would it be if we always controlled the outcome to everything? It’s actually a beautiful thing to not know, if we embrace the not knowing. To overcome this obstacle, allow yourself to feel the fear fully, dropping into the bodily sensation of the fear. Be gentle, be curious, be open to the feeling of fear, give yourself some love and compassion. Then from this place of openness and curiosity, start to move, start to take the smallest action. Start to develop a trust that you’ll be OK. And in fact, you will — even if things go badly, you’ll be able to deal with it. You always have.
- Don’t know how to do it, unsure about your ability to do it: This is more uncertainty. It’s totally fine to have uncertainty — practice with it as you did with the fear of failure above. Once you’ve felt the uncertainty and come to a place of openness and curiosity, just tell yourself that no one knows if they can do anything challenging. We just have to find out by trying. Take the first step. You can do that part. And in fact, it’s likely that you can take each individual step, one small bite-sized chunk at a time. Call on help if you can’t.
- Putting off the work by reading everything: This is just uncertainty coming up, causing you to procrastinate. Deal with it as in the last two items above (fear of failure, don’t know how to do it).
So with this list of obstacles and solutions, we can start to see a few common themes. Let’s turn those into a simple technique for launching.
The 20-Minute Technique
OK, let’s get to the technique you’ve been waiting for.
First, I’m going to assume you have a business idea, project, book, blog, non-profit organization you want to start, something like that. If not, go pick one. Then come back and try this.
Second, I’m also assuming you are doing this business or project because you care deeply about something. You want to serve people. You’re not doing this just to make yourself look good or make money (those might also happen, but your reason goes deeper). If you don’t have this deeper reason, someone you are devoted to … take an hour outside in stillness and silence to look within yourself. What moves you to tears?
So this technique assumes you have the first two things above covered.
Now here’s the technique:
- Feel your fear & uncertainty for 2 minutes. This is a mini-meditation. If you are feeling fear of failure or any kind of uncertainty (it usually feels like stress, avoidance or indecision) … pause for two minutes. Sit still, and allow yourself to fully feel the fear, stress and uncertainty. Not your stories about these feelings, but the physical sensations of the feelings. Where is the fear/uncertainty located in your body? What does it feel like? Let yourself fully feel it, even turning up the intensity so that you can feel it without barriers, with an open, raw, tender heart. Notice at the end of 2 minutes that you’re perfectly OK, and that you can stay open and upright in the middle of fear and uncertainty.
- Pick one tiny step. Now take 1 minute to pick the smallest step you can take. Maybe just the first 15 minutes of outlining your book, or 15 minutes of calling people to ask for their support. You might have 10 things on your list (or 100), but it doesn’t matter — just pick one. Let your gut be your guide. It doesn’t matter if you pick wrong, just pick. Don’t let uncertainty cause you to avoid this step — you can feel uncertainty and be perfectly OK. So feel it but pick a tiny step anyway.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes and do the step with devotion. Now that you’ve picked a tiny step, set a timer for 15 minutes and allow yourself to pour yourself into this step. Just for 15 minutes, so you know you’ll be fine. Be devoted to what you care deeply about, the people who you’re doing this for. Don’t allow yourself to switch or put things off while the timer is going. Just keep going. Hold the pose. You can do this. Smile as you do it.
- Repeat and iterate. Take 2 minutes to review how it went, what you learned. Was this a good step to take? Do you need to switch to anything else instead (not out of fear, but out of what you just learned doing it)? Do you need to adjust anything? With this tiny part of the process, you are allowing yourself to shift as you take action and get more info and learn. Then pat yourself on the back, feel a sense of accomplishment. Breathe, and notice how you’re different than you were 20 minutes ago.
You’ve now launched your business or project. You have taken a tiny step, and that’s all that it takes to get moving. Now keep moving. Repeat these steps several more times, and notice how much progress you’re making. Let that encourage you to keep doing this, every single day, calling on support when you need it, reminding yourself of what you care deeply about, serving your people with all of your heart, feeling the uncertainty and being joyful in the middle of that shakiness.
This is your love story.