“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.
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.
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.
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.