• Mark Palmer

Beginnings Can Be Difficult

Beginnings can be difficult

The new year is traditionally a time for a fresh start or to make changes in our lives. To some degree, that makes sense - a new year makes it easy to know how long we have stuck to a resolution, such as eating better or exercising more, and it is an old tradition in many cultures.

But if you have not made any resolutions this year, or struggled to keep those that you have made, do not despair. You can make a fresh start or a change at any time. And if you find it hard to get started on things, know that you are not alone in that either.

After all, the start of a new calendar year is a completely arbitrary landmark. A year is an approximate time it takes the earth to make one orbit of the sun. But the start of the year in our calendar has no great significance in astronomical terms. In some ways it would make much more sense to start the year on one of the equinoxes – either the longest or shortest day of the year in summer or winter or on the day when the dark and light are equal in spring and autumn.

So other than it making it easy to remember when you started, 1st January is no better than any other day to make a change or start something new. If anything, it may be a worse day for this than others, not least because of the pressure to compare progress on resolutions with others. If your resolution is something like taking more exercise outdoors, it would surely be easier to start in the summer when it is lighter and warmer, so that the habit is well engrained when winter comes around again.

The best time to start something or to make a change in your life is when it works for you to do so. That could be 1st January, 31st December or any date in between. But one word of caution – if you are waiting for the perfect time, it may never come. It is far better to start at a good time or indeed any time than to wait for the perfect time that never comes.

But perhaps you struggle to start something new, even when it is something you want to do, or at least want to have done, like completing an official form or cleaning or maintaining your home! I know I do. A combination of fear of failure, fear of the unknown and self-doubt can be paralysing. In autistic people, this is known as autistic inertia, though the difficulty in getting started is far from confined to members of that community.

If you find it hard to get started, be kind to yourself. It does not mean that there is anything wrong with you. Do not compare yourself with others who seem to get started with ease. You do not know the battles they fight in their heads to do so, or how they compare with you in other areas, such as keeping on with something once you have made a start.

It may help to try and pin down why you are hesitant to start something new. Once you can put the issues into words, you may find it easier to argue against them. But at the same time, be wary of over analysing yourself. Find what works for you to get started. Remember times when you overcame similar inertia and then made great progress. The unknown is always much scarier than a real issue encountered when you have started that can then be addressed.

Most of all, know that you are not alone. There are many others of us around fighting mental battles every time we have to start something. I love reading, yet I even find starting a new book by an author that I love difficult. Why is that? I have no idea, but I am learning to understand that it is just how I am. Somehow that recognition seems to help, even if it is in forgiving myself for a delay in starting. I know I will get there in my own time, and so will you.

So whether you have made resolutions or not, happy new year! Last year was difficult for many of us and will not be quickly forgotten. But every day brings opportunities, including opportunities to build a more diverse and inclusive world. I look forward to continuing on that journey together.