Beginnings are hard. This is one life lesson that we tend to forget once the stressful beginning of any endeavor has evolved into something else, like competence, or expertise, or routine, or personal and/or professional expertise. Few things are harder than beginnings (except maybe endings, but that’s another topic) when fear, anxiety, and adrenalin are high, confidence is low, and the future is unknown.
My first job, as a waitress at Matranga’s Coffee Shop – in the summer of my sixteenth year – comes to mind. My hands shook so much when I counted out the change for my first customer that, before I could say thank-you-and-have-a-nice day, it had slipped out of my hands, onto the counter and onto the floor before our eyes. Just the day before, I had been so excited and proud to have my first real job, and now I was red-faced and feeling like an idiot. As the week went by, I had delivered the wrong meals to the wrong customers more than once (How would I know the difference between a filet of sole or a tenderloin of beef?); served a family of four their dinner but failed to pick up on their gestures for silverware as I darted past them three or four times; and by the end of the first week, I had spilled a whole coke on a lady in a white, eyelet dress, who looked like she was on her way to a garden party. Marge, the scowling older pro of a waitress, and Mr. Matranga were not pleased. The job soon ended in a classic, “I quit/you’re fired,” scene. I was never a waitress again, which is the happy ending to that particular story in my life.
Beginnings are always hard, but if they are disasterous and make you utterly miserable, the life lesson you hopefully learn somewhere along the line is that you can’t make yourself do just anything and expect to succeed at it – or even cope with it. There has to be, to one degree or another, a significant match between your gifts, talents, education, skills, personality, and abilities and the job at hand in order to even endure it, let alone do well at it. The more clarity you have about your Self – that cluster of characteristics and skills that you are – the more power you have to take effective action in your life when it comes to jobs, housing, partners, friends, activities, and practices. Everyone wants a good life, but a good life doesn’t happen automatically, just because you cross your fingers and hope it will be so. Life is an awesome endeavor, and it eventually requires you to be an adult and manage it.
Questions to ask oneself
Here we are at the beginning of another new year, a fact which means different things to different people, obviously, and it can mean different things to the same person within a lifetime. It was not always so, but to me in this stage of my life, the new year means a clean slate, opportunity, redemption, a fresh start, another chance, a new focus, a re-focus, another chance at living well and taking good care. I believe in looking at the big picture in the new year and continually asking the questions of momentum that are at the center of our business and our personal lives. Here they are:
- What’s working?
- What’s not working?
- What’s missing?, and
- What’s next?
Principles of momentum
Inherent principles of momentum include:
- Keep what’s working, and build on it. Make it bigger. Build positive momentum.
- Avoid what’s not working by quitting it or reducing its impact on your life. Avoid negative momentum.
- Think about what’s missing in your life. Add something good, something that worked for you in the past, made you feel good, swept you away. Retrieve it. Bring it back. You have control over things that are missing.
- What’s next? This is your plan of – action for the new year. It is based on what worked, what didn’t, and what was missing in the last year. Keep it simple, but make things happen. Chip away at it, month by month.
The basic questions of a momentum-based strategy can produce pragmatic, profound answers to guide you through the challenges of life, beginning right now, with the new year. Consciously develop a willingness to be a beginner, if necessary, to take effective, courageous action. Wisdom tells us that beginnings are hard, and that they are not always disastrous. Some beginnings are hard and lead to joy over time: think marriage, childbirth, becoming competent at something, becoming an expert. The symphony is full of players who were once beginners squeaking away on their clunky instruments.
Have a wonderful, rich, purposeful, new year that will lead you to the next and the next, and the next, building positive momentum for a good life, whatever you say that is!
Our dear Bonnie Bonetti-Bell was the force behind our Career/Life Coaching services, until her passing in 2019. As a principal of our firm, Bonnie had an innate talent for seeing the best in people. Moreover, she helped others see the best in themselves. Bonnie is fondly remembered and deeply missed.