when you dont know where to start

Sometimes, life goes into a bit of a free-fall. It’s not just one thing, one resolution, one goal; your entire life is feeling a bit like a rehab project that not even Chip and Joanna Gaines would be willing to shiplap. What do you do when you don’t know where to start?

When you don’t know where to start, the overwhelm about even picking a possible place to begin feels like another overwhelming decision to make, another item on the to-do list. In such moments, the lure of the couch and Netflix has a strong pull.

—which actually, makes that the place to start.

I think that there’s a reason why people evangelize for things: minimalism, CrossFit, green juice, EMDR, untethering from digital devices, meditation. When people feel stuck in their lives, wearing down the same old maze of dead ends again and again, and then something emerges that seems like a path out of the maze, it feels like new life has been breathed into them.

To feel so stuck and then find out that completely decluttering your house renews you, gives you something to do and a sense of purpose, is everything. To feel miserable and careening out of control and then learn that you can go to the gym and throw around barbells once a day and feel blood pumping through your veins and color in your cheeks, is everything. The archetype seen on so many self-help websites of the person who was sad and stuck, but who discovered a way out, isn’t so very off-base. Lots of people feel sad and stuck, and when they discover a way out of that, it’s natural to want to cry out to the world, “I was so miserable—and I found a way out! You can, too!”

No Right Place to Start

When you don’t know where to start, don’t get stuck in the trap of thinking that there is some right place. There isn’t. Waiting until it’s the right place, right time, yadda yadda yadda is just a delay tactic.

You could start with just being consciously aware of your breath, something that requires no money and no time (after all, you’re always breathing, whether you call it meditation, or whether you’re just noticing your breath as you drive down the street).

You could start with not turning on the television for one week, or cutting the usual amount of time in half.

You could start with taking a walk around the block.

You could also go rogue and radically change a lot of things, all at once. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg reports that researchers have found that one of the best times to start a new habit is when you’re on vacation—because all of your normal life’s cues that go into the habitual way of living your life, are not present in your new environment.

You could even start by just being curious about your present-day unhappiness, without any attempt whatsoever to change it—sometimes deciding not to do stuff to change, is the place to start.

So there you go—you can really no longer way, “I don’t know where to start,” because you do know where to start.

You start right here. (Feel free to borrow any of the suggestions, above.)
You start right now. (There is no better time.)

You start with you. (You are the perfect person.)