Apr 022011
Procrastinating by Bruce

“It is not difficult to wield a sword in one hand; the Way to learn this is to train with two long swords, one in each hand. It will seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.” Such are the timeless words of the famous swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi. Everything is difficult at first, but we should not let this hinder us from getting started. Instead, we should accept this as part of the learning process and take heart knowing that as we grow in experience, the difficulty will lessen. How then are we to manage the difficulty we face and reach that level of experience? In all things, there is a natural way of attaining success. I shall now share that way with you.

Yijing Hexagram 3: Difficulty at the Beginning

DIFFICULTY AT THE BEGINNING works supreme success,
Furthering through perseverance.
Nothing should be undertaken.
It furthers one to appoint helpers.

Hexagram 3 by Ben Finney

Times of growth are beset with difficulties. They resemble a first birth. But these difficulties arise from the very profusion of all that is struggling to attain form . Everything is in motion: therefore if one perseveres there is a prospect of great success, in spite of the existing danger. When it is a man’s fate to undertake such new beginnings, everything is still unformed, dark. Hence he must hold back, because any premature move might bring disaster. Likewise, it is very important not to remain alone; in order to overcome the chaos he needs helpers. This is not to say, however, that he himself should look on passively at what is happening. He must lend his hand and participate with inspiration and guidance.

Dealing with Difficulty at the Beginning

Getting started can be difficult. This could be because the task is completely new to us and we have little idea of how to go about it or what to expect. Or it could be that we have to start from scratch and create something from nothing. Often, getting started is so daunting that we cannot summon up the will to begin. Instead, we delay the start and procrastinate. Procrastination can be one of our biggest obstacles to success. Yet by being aware of the nature of the process, we can take steps to deal with it in a more effective way. By tackling the root causes of difficulty at the beginning, we can get started sooner than we think. Here are some ways of doing so.

Break it Down by Stebulus

1. Clarity of Purpose

Having a clear purpose is useful when it comes to getting started. Knowing why we must do something or having a good reason for doing so gives us the drive to overcome challenges. But that is not all. It also helps to have clearly defined goals of what we wish to achieve. If we do not know where we are going or how to get there, we will end up nowhere. Clear goals and milestones are landmarks along our journey to success. If we have clarity of purpose, we are likelier to start our journey to reach our goals.

2. Break it Down

We cannot manage everything at once. On the one hand, when we manage many things at once, we have to spread our focus. In the process, we are likelier to end up doing a poor job for each especially if it is new to us. On the other hand, it takes great effort to step out of our comfort zones. Facing an overwhelming challenge will only send us scurrying back to safety. Luckily, we do not have to manage everything at once. In fact, it is more prudent to break down the challenge into manageable portions that we can complete. In doing so, we build up momentum with the small successes we achieve and before we know it, we will have completed the large task. What is new and overwhelming is easier to manage if we break it down.

3. Failure is the Path to Success

Failure is the path to success. To learn anything new, we have to make mistakes and adjust our actions until we succeed. Each of us is unique. We have our own strengths and weaknesses. What may work for others may not work for us. Thus, we need to find our own way by trying things out for ourselves. With the firsthand experience we gain from our mistakes, we will know what works and what does not. We will know how to adjust our actions to reach the success we seek. When we embrace failure, mistakes and the guidance contained within, we will forge our path to success.

4. Focus on the Solutions

Focus on the solutions, not the problem. We are likely to face challenges in anything that we do. But this is merely a part of the process to success. We must not let these obstacles hinder us from reaching our goals. The best way to deal with these problems is to focus on finding the solutions to overcome them. When we do so, we channel our energy in a constructive way to reach success sooner.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

When we start something new, it is usually confusing. Take archery for example. Initially, we lack the proper form, strength or skill to hit a target. Yet we can acquire these things over time with practice. In fact, confusion and unfamiliarity are part of the learning process. But as we step out of our comfort zones and stretch ourselves beyond our limits, we will grow in wisdom and experience. Before we know it, the new and the strange will become as familiar to us as breathing. With practice, patience and perseverance, we can become good at what we set our minds to master.

6. More Haste Less Speed

Time and tide wait for no one. The longer we put off getting started, the further we will be from our goal. Let us imagine that a process requires ten hours to complete or master. Any procrastination on our part only serves to lengthen the process by adding wasted time to those ten hours. Because in the end, we still have to begin from square one to get through the process. Some situations may require more preparation and planning than others. But we must be careful of overdoing this in the futile pursuit of perfection. It is therefore better to start early to achieve success at a comfortable pace.

7. Find Help

What we can achieve on our own is limited. But there is strength in numbers. If we have help in terms of advice, experience or support, we can manage problems better and reach our goals sooner. There will always be people out there with knowledge and experience for us to draw upon. Thus, it is prudent to find these people to help us if possible. If not, it also helps to have people around to support us where they can. With the help of others, we will have an easier time of dealing with difficulty at the beginning.

Archery by Kalinith

Taking Action

Do you have difficulty getting started? How do you manage this difficulty at the beginning? Do share your thoughts and comments below. :)


The I-Ching or Book of Changes Translated by Richard Wilhelm, Cary F. Baynes. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.

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  18 Responses to “Everything is Difficult at First”

  1. My dear Vizier, did you say “Time and tide wait for no one.”? I used this phrase in my Fear Crushing Travel Guide the other night…..Indeed! Oh the beginnings are so exciting though; I hardly feel the difficulty from excitement of most things on which I embark. But oh things do get easier and we get stronger, leaner, more balanced, more focused, and pick up the technique of whatever it is we are pursuing. It’s a beautiful process. I love beginnings; they scare me but it propels me forward with energy. It’s when things get stale and we hit a plateau that I get depressed and need to find a way out….
    Lovely to see you here! Although what am I saying? I have yet to “see” you, hiding behind that mask as you are. When are you revealing your real face, my friend?
    Farnoosh recently posted..How to Organize the Ideas Worth PursuingMy Profile

    • Hi Farnoosh,

      Yeah I did say “Time and tide wait for no one.” I have to be politically correct in this day and age haha!

      Having great excitement for the things we do does help us to overcome the difficulties we face on new projects. But when it is hard to summon up excitement for the more uninteresting tasks we do that we have to remember that everything is difficult at first.

      It is hard for things to be exciting all the time. The opposite is when things get stale and boring. But these are merely cycles that are part and parcel of life. The best way to deal with it is to accept it and to find a way out as you say.

      Being an INFJ, the things I write about are the things that truly concern me in this world. This blog is in essence the “real” me and my true face. My real face is not the real me. But all will be revealed in good time. Patience dear Farnoosh, patience.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  2. Hey Irving! FANTASTIC post, my friend. I love that you tackled this topic. It’s a truth-teller. How bad do we want what we want? That is the real question. You’re absolutely right – difficulty is part of the process. And if something isn’t challenging, it is often not worth it. Clarity of purpose is critical to tackling the challenges!
    Bryan Thompson recently posted..How Your Lack of Trust May Be Sabotaging Your Career and RelationshipsMy Profile

    • Hi Bryan,

      Knowing how badly we want something helps to determine the price we are willing to pay and the sacrifice we have to make. Nothing is ever easy. All that matters in the end is whether we have the will to see things through.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  3. Hi Irving,

    It can certainly be offputting to look ahead at the journey in front of us. How many new destinations have we never reached because we didn’t take the first step? That most important one.

    I’ve missed taking quite a few journeys in life because I’ve anticipated the overwhelm … without ever feeling it for real. The tip of yours which is the perfect antidote to this is to break down the task. This never fails to work for me.

    We’re so much more likely to be able to start something when we see it as a series of small steps – rather than one huge jump.
    Scott McIntyre | Vivid Ways recently posted..The 8 Best Ways to Have Breathtaking IdeasMy Profile

    • Hi Scott,

      Lao Tzu once said that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” As you have rightly pointed our, the first step is the most important one. I am glad that you know how to deal with overwhelming challenges by breaking it down into smaller and simpler pieces. This is truly one of the important life skills for achieving success.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  4. Hi Irving,

    Great post. Perfect that you have that image of procrastination, since you hit the nail on the head. Usually if I procrastinate, it’s because it’s something new. And guides like this make me more aware of the issues at hand so that I can examine them in the light of day, and discover they are manageable.

    I especially like your #2 where you say “In fact, it is more prudent to break down the challenge into manageable portions that we can complete. In doing so, we build up momentum with the small successes we achieve and before we know it, we will have completed the large task.” So true, and for me this is the main point to keep in mind. Funny, but often I fnd I know how to do most, if not all, of the small tasks, it’s not until they’re combined that they become something new to me.

    Thank you!
    Patti Foy | Lightspirited Being recently posted..5 Reflections to Help Activate Your MagicMy Profile

    • Hi Patti,

      Yeah, I too have struggled with procrastination myself so I know what it is like to do so. After long and careful reflection, I realized that the main problem was being overwhelmed by large tasks. This is why I like to break things down into smaller and simpler pieces so that I will be able to manage them well. In the end, getting the job done is what matters.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  5. On a lighter note, this post reminded me of my daughter’s first lacrosse practice. She had played basketball for years and was very good. She begged me to let her play lacrosse, so I finally said yes. She came home after her first practice dejected and demoralized, and announced that she did not want to play lacrosse anymore. When I asked her why, she wailed, “because I didn’t know how to play!” So I asked her how long she had been playing lacrosse. She looked at me and said slowly, as if I didn’t know it was her first day, “Just today…for two hours.” “Hmm, why don’t you give it two more hours before you decide,” I suggested.

    She came home the next day jumping with excitement. She saw that her athletic background served her well. She learned fast and she was having fun. She loved the game and played for three years, quickly making varsity.

    So now in our family, when we are starting something that is difficult, and maybe feeling frustrated, we ask, “So how long have you been playing lacrosse?”
    Galen Pearl recently posted..There is no ThemMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      Thank you for sharing that interesting story of your daughter learning to play lacrosse. It does drive home the point that everything is difficult at first. Often it is a huge shame if we allow minor setbacks to stop us from doing things that we would enjoy with greater practice.

      I too was trying to get my friend interested in playing Shogun 2 Total War. It is about trying to unite war torn Japan during the warring states period. I find it fun to be able to establish my own shogunate in place of the Tokugawa haha! Anyway, having known my friend for almost two decades, I knew he would appreciate the game once he learned to play it well. Initially, he had lots of complains about how hard it was to play the game. But I ignored him and kept on encouraging his delusions of grandeur. Now he is having lots of fun with it and he would spend hours yakking with me about how to unite Japan under his rule and crush his foes haha! How different is the starting and ending of things.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  6. The wise reply that always frustrates me (but is nevertheless endlessly true) is when I feel overwhelmed at how long it’s going to take me to get good at something –if I ever *can* get good at it– is this: “And how old will you be [in X amount of time] if you *don’t* learn it?”

    The answer is the same.

    Time will march on as it always does. But it’s up to us if we want to make full use of the time we have been given, and learn all we can, and practice, or if we just want it to pass by.

    Delena Silverfox recently posted..epc BelfastMy Profile

    • Hi Delena,

      The question/reply, “How old will you be if you don’t learn it” does help to put things in perspective. Our time here is indeed limited and each moment is precious. As you rightly point out, it is up to us to make full use of our time. Since everything is difficult at first, it is a good idea to start early.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  7. I like the point about breaking things down. My problem is not with procrastination. My issue is not doing enough planning. And the thought of having to do a major project can have me going in circles. Planning helps in also reinforcing the intended goal that I hope to achieve. So instead of the usual way of starting things haphazardly, I hope to be more streamlined. Everything may appear difficult at first but once we get the momentum going, we find its easy to be in the flow.
    Evelyn Lim recently posted..Self Love Series Take A Self Love QuizMy Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      Learning to break things down is one of the important lessons in my life. With this approach, I have been able to manage life in a more effective manner. Planning can be a arduous task especially if it is a major project. But if we can break it down instead of trying to do it all at once, it does become easier. In planning or anything that we do, moderation is the key. There is no need to obsess over details, but we must have a fairly comprehensive plan in place so we know what to do and how to adapt.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  8. Irving,

    This is so much truth in what you said. When starting a new project it seems like it will be impossible to get everything done. In fact the odds seem so overwhelming that we can talk ourselves out of even trying to get things done. It wasn’t until I learned to take my project one step at a time like you mentioned did I start to get more accomplished. I make micro goals in major projects using a formula I got from, Getting Things Done, by David Allen. It has helped me get started as well as get things finshed.

    Very insightful post!
    Frank recently posted..Don’t Die ThereMy Profile

    • Hi Frank,

      Getting things done by David Allen is a great book. When we make micro goals for major projects, things are less overwhelming and we are more likely to get started and complete them. At the end of the day, getting things done is important. But to do so, we have to get started first and we must do everything we can to make our start easier.

      Thank you for sharing your lovely comments! :)

  9. I fully agree that it is always difficult at first. However, it is difficult to start. When you go ahead and get used to the situation things begin to go much easier. So, just start, believe in your success, make use of mistakes made and work hard. You will see that results will not keep you waiting for a long time.
    Terje Sannarnes recently posted..How Social Networks Can Change the Life on an Online EntrepreneurMy Profile

    • Hi Terje,

      Yeah starting is usually difficult. But as you rightly say, we should still start and get the ball rolling. Over time, we will get used to it, build up momentum and get the results of our efforts. The important thing is to believe in our success and take the steps to get there.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your lovely comments! :)

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