“Time doesn’t change things. It’s how we use our time that makes the difference.”
– Richie Norton, American author
About This Week’s Chat
A few years ago, my husband and I visited Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
We were there at the end of an excellent rainy season, and the flow rate of the falls was extreme. The mist from the falls could be seen from many miles away, and the waterfall itself was breathtaking.
The river below was a black, swirling, turbulent mass of water, but from the First Gorge (where the falls are), you couldn’t see much of the river because of the mist.
The best view was from the Second Gorge, just downstream. But, of course, it’s never enough to look at something from far away. We decided to do a tandem gorge swing, so that we could get an unhindered view of the Zambezi River.
To do the gorge swing you’re strapped into a harness that fits around your legs and waist, and you jump feet-first from a platform on the side of a cliff, 120 meters above the water. After a 70-meter free fall, the cord bounces a few times, after which you swing from side to side.
Taking the Plunge
As we approached the platform, all kinds of thoughts raced through my head. Should I have phoned my mom first? Is it really necessary to jump from a cliff? Are we stupid, or what?
But all too quickly we were standing in position, and the marshal explained what was going to happen. After he’d checked the cords, he was going to count backwards from five to one and then shout, “Jump!”
Our toes were on the edge of the platform. When I looked down, the river seemed very far below. Again, I wondered if we shouldn’t back out. What if the cord snapped?
The marshal triple-checked all the cords and clips, and gave the thumbs-up. It was almost time.
In my mind, he was going to count slowly – a count per second or so. But the full count only lasted for about one and a half seconds, and before we had time to register what was happening, we jumped.
In free fall, everything in your body and mind is confused. Your stomach wants to push through your heart. Your brain doesn’t know how to stop what’s happening. Your ears hear nothing but rushing wind. And then you stop.
The rope swings from side to side, and you’re rewarded with a magical experience. Swinging above the river and its steep rock walls in total silence, you can admire the scene from a place that most people will never see.
Too soon, the rope stopped swinging, and we were winched back up to the platform.
The Psychology of the Countdown
For a long time after this fantastic experience, I thought about the psychology of the countdown.
From the instant you enter the area where they strap you into the harness, they treat you as if jumping is a done deal. You’re told how it works, what the safety features are, how you should approach the platform, where not to look (which I, of course, ignored), and how the countdown is going to happen.
If they were to stop at any point and ask you whether you still wanted to jump, or if the marshal were to count too slowly, I’m quite sure that many people would back out.
Every moment of the experience is designed to help you get to the starting line and go, because if you don’t go, you won’t jump. If you don’t jump, you won’t swing. And if you don’t swing, you won’t reap the reward of the experience, and you’ll never know how much you’ve missed.
What Will You Start Today?
During last Friday’s #MTtalk Twitter chat, we talked about the things that we’ve wanted to start for a long time, yet haven’t. Here are the questions we asked and some of the responses:
Q1. What are some of the things that you keep meaning to start, yet haven’t?
It was interesting to see how many people wanted to start (or restart) doing something creative. It seems we’re so busy with the things we must do that we don’t get to the things we want to do.
And some of us have more than one list, it seems:
@DrRossEspinoza It has been about restarting: swimming, writing blogs. And about starting: setting up a business, do a serious Lego play business.
Q2. What tends to stop you from moving ahead and getting going?
@Limha75 Overplanning overplanning overplanning… listing and general knicker-twisting.
@LernChance That really important thing that I need to do first. Or also quite popular: “It‘s not the right time.”
@Mphete_Kwetli Freeing my schedule, and lack of motivation to do it. Not knowing exactly my standpoint on when it’s the right choice to say no to myself.
Q3. How do your mood/emotions affect whether you start or put off an activity?
Many people shared my view that guilt plays a role: we feel guilty if we’re not working, but spending time on a “want to do” activity instead.
@GenePetrovLMC Emotions and mood can definitely be a factor. But I like to remind myself that I have control over those. So I tell myself to get in the mood 🙂 Doesn’t always work. In those cases, listening to music or an inspiring podcast can help to clear a negative mood.
@JKatzaman made us smile, but what he said is true: “You can readily talk yourself out of doing anything by not being in the mood.”
@JusChas I suffer from anxiety. But I’ve always been a creative person. I visualize much, but lack the energy to act.
Q4. What is your biggest motivator to help get you going?
@BrainBlenderTec An idea, and often it snowballs from there.
@SayItForwardNow I am very motivated by deadlines, especially those that involve a commitment to others!
Q5. What one thing are you willing to start doing TODAY and not a day later?
@s_narmadhaa said, “Getting more sleep.” It sounds simple, but many people are sleep-deprived and can’t operate according to their potential.
@TwisterKW Downloaded a trial version of software I’ve been meaning to try and teach myself.
@B2the7 To start taking exercise more seriously and to get into better routines each day. For myself, that morning routine is important for starting the day off right.
Q6. What’s your “why”? Why will you start today?
@sittingpretty61 I find this chat helps me to keep and sustain my reasons for taking action. I am grateful for that. Such a gifted and sweet community. [Thanks, Dorrie!]
@ZalkaB There’s no better day than today. And then every day. And when you make time and effort to create new micro habits, it all falls into place.
Q7. What can you do to remain focused on your end goal?
@_TomGReid It is mostly a matter of will to meet goals I’ve set. Once I set them with deadlines, I focus and discipline myself to meet it, if it is in any way within my power. Thus I’m careful with the goals I set. A commitment, even to yourself, reflects your character.
@Irish_IreneB Remember why you started and have that end goal in sight.
Q8. Who will you be accountable to, and how?
@goiuby My community and clients. My wife is OK with any job I have, so I don’t hold my self accountable to her, but my clients depend on me. As does my community that I’m a part of!
@Midgie_MT I will find an accountability friend to send a daily message to, confirming that I have taken those 10 minutes a day.
Q9. How can you reward your “small wins”?
@shruti12d Do things that make you happy. Buy a book. Take time to go for a walk and reflect. Treat yourself to a nice coffee. Reward small steps or wins so you stay encouraged to carry on.
@harrisonia After “swiss-cheesing” my project tasks, I reward myself with a break, sweet treat, or sometimes keep working because I see the light at the end of the tunnel!
Q10. How can you support others who have things on their “want to do” list?
@Yolande_MT Be their biggest cheerleader. You might be the only one they have.
@MicheleDD_MT Lead them through a visioning exercise to paint a picture of what success will look like for them if they start and complete the task.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.
Some people are great at starting, but they’re not so great at finishing. They struggle to persist and persevere until they reach their goals. In our next #MTtalk, we’re going to talk about persistence and perseverance. In our Twitter poll this week, we’d like to know what you find it difficult to persevere with. Please vote in our Twitter poll, here.
In the meantime, here are some resources relating to what you want to start today, and how to keep going (please note that some of the resources listed below are only available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club):
How Can I Stop Procrastinating?
Are You A Procrastinator?
How to Learn From Your Mistakes
Overcoming Fear of Failure
Overcoming Procrastination Video
Helping People Take Responsibility
Amabile and Kramer’s Progress Theory
Breaking Bad Habits
Developing Personal Accountability
How to Develop Long-Term Focus