Want to Shake Up Your Life? Create an 'Artificial Beginning'
Here's how to create a “before” and “after” effect in your life.
I opened my email on Jan. 1 to see a message from my dentist wishing me a happy new year. It got me thinking — the new year is a wonderful reminder to schedule your tooth-cleaning appointment and that you have yet another chance to do things differently.
There are few moments in life that genuinely feel like you’re at the starting line of a new chapter. With every passing year, it becomes more and more rare to encounter moments that force you to feel like a novice.
For me, there are only three moments that have had this effect: The first day of first grade, the day we moved to the United States, and the day I became a parent. At one point in life, I was a student for the first time, I moved to a new country for the first time, and I had a baby for the first time. All three were a shock to the system.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need to move countries or have a child in order to feel totally incompetent. There are many ways to create an artificial beginning that creates a “before” and “after” effect in your life.
Every time the calendar flips to January 1, it marks an artificial beginning. Resolutions aren’t effective because they’re usually abandoned and forgotten in a matter of weeks. What’s more effective is setting practical goals that are difficult to weasel out of.
For instance, on January 1, 2015, I signed up for a four-year-long mentorship program. On January 1, 2018, I signed up for a marathon, and I bought flights and paid entry fees. On January 1, 2021, I cut out alcohol and got rid of all the beverages in my home.
Creating artificial beginnings is especially important when you start to feel comfortable and complacent. When I interviewed endurance athlete Amelia Boone, I understood why mastering something new is so crucial to building mental toughness. She was a corporate attorney and had never run a race in her life. At age 28, she signed up for her first Tough Mudder, became obsessed, and went on to become a four-time world champion.
How? She created an artificial beginning that forced her to be the worst before she could become the best.
Here’s how she describes the feeling of starting from scratch, learning a new skill, and mastering the art of suffering. "When you put yourself through situations that are very hard, and you do that on purpose, it helps you to deal with the messiness in life that is not voluntary," she says.
Anyway, if you’ve been looking for a sign to commit to mastering something new this year, consider this your wake-up call. Remember, being a novice will likely be jarring, terrifying, and horrible at first, but those are all prerequisites to building true and long-lasting confidence.
Today is only January 2 — it’s the perfect time to find a new challenge, start over, and get closer to the person you want to be. As Matthew McConaughey says, "I'm a big fan of creating resistance to keep myself in check to make sure I'm feeling most alive. It's a daily routine to sober yourself up. Big moments in our life sober us up.”
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