Five Reasons to Start Before You’re Ready

Picture of coffee cup with the word "begin"

It will shock no one to find out that I’ve always been a planner.  An extreme planner.  And, although I’m familiar with the phrase “start before you’re ready”, I’ve never followed it.  Until recently.  For years, I said “no” to doing anything before I felt completely ready.  To do otherwise seemed a bit crazy.

I’m learning that starting before you’re ready is truly sage advice.  Especially when it comes to doing something new or scary.  Because I won’t ever “feel” ready to do any of those things.  Which means I haven’t been doing them.  

So, even though my ultra plan-it-out personality has allowed me to be successful in many ways, I now realize that it’s also held me back.  Because there are too many things in life that I’ll never feel completely ready for – but that I should go forward with anyway. 

And so, I’m listening to this advice and moving forward with it.  How?  For one, I don’t think I’d ever be “ready” to go out on my own and start my own business.  But I did it anyway.  And, even though speaking in front of a large audience terrifies me, I recently gave a speech at a Relay for Life event.  And I’m so glad I did.

Getting out of my comfort zone by doing these things before I felt ready has taught me some valuable lessons. They’re now reasons why I know I should start before I’m ready.  And I’m sharing these reasons with you today.  Because I know I’m not the only one who has been putting new things off because I wasn’t yet ready.

Reason 1:  Doing is the Best Teacher

You don’t know what you don’t know, right?  This is yet another phrase that I’ve heard all my life – but never given much thought to what it really means.  And, to be honest, I’m not sure that I completely understood it.  But now I do – at least I know what it means to me.  

It means that you’ll never know what you don’t know, unless you do something about it.  And you learn best by doing.  

Besides, you can plan all you want, but you can’t anticipate everything that could happen.  Nor can you fully anticipate how you’ll feel and react in any given situation.  So, how can you plan for what you don’t know?  You can’t.

You’ve got to go do it – and learn along the way.

Reason 2: Mistakes are Magic

This is all about making mistakes and learning from them.  Ever notice that you learn best after failing at something or making a mistake?  Failure is often our best teacher.  

And what we learn from making mistakes tends to “stick”.  That’s because mistakes force us to re-think our assumptions, what we’ve been doing, and how we’ve been doing it.  They require active thought.  We must analyze what didn’t work and why in order to move forward.  I’ve found that my biggest life lessons have come from mistakes.

One note:  I think we should reconsider using the term “failure”.  Because if we learn something and take that learning to move forward, then it isn’t truly a failure.  Only if we give up and choose not to move forward would it be a true failure.

Reason 3: Acting Creates Momentum

Planning can go too far and create analysis paralysis.  I know I’ve found myself caught up in it from time to time.  You can get stuck planning for every contingency you can think of.  Never mind the fact that you can’t anticipate every contingency (which is why some of us get stuck in the planning phase and never move past it).

Besides, acting creates momentum automatically.  And the knowledge gained by moving forward (including the tough lessons learned along the way) give you additional momentum.

This doesn’t mean that I advocate not planning.  Planning still has it’s place.  And I don’t believe jumping in without any knowledge or education is a good idea.  However, most of us don’t ever feel ready to do something new, regardless of how much or well we’ve planned.  It’s scary. 

There comes a point where we must get started – even though we don’t feel ready.  All we have to do is take the first step and the momentum created by that step will help us along the way.

Reason 4: It can be riskier to do nothing than it is to get started

I used to delay acting on something new because I thought that acting was too risky.  But I failed to take into account that sometimes it’s risky not to act.  This was a big lesson for me (and one that I’m only beginning to think through and apply to my life).  

Sometimes, you’ve got to carefully consider which is the riskier move:  staying put or starting something new.  When you analyze the situation carefully and honestly answer the question, you may be surprised that there’s just as much (or more) risk in doing nothing.

Besides, starting something new doesn’t mean committing yourself to it forever.  We humans tend to believe that once we go down a path, there’s no turning back.  But that’s just not true.  We can always turn back or branch off onto a new path.  The choice is ours.

Reason 5: Purpose is revealed primarily through action

Believe it or not, your purpose in life isn’t to plan and never (or almost never) take action.  So, what is your purpose?  I don’t have the exact answer for you.  But I do know that you’re going to get much closer by doing something – especially when moving towards something that is exciting to you (and even a bit scary). 

There’s a reason for the excitement. 

When you go down a new path toward something new, there’s an energy there.  And that momentum discussed earlier plus the lessons learned through trial and error?  Both of those will create additional energy and help to inspire you.  You’ll be honing in on what you truly want.  And that’s what will make you feel like you’re honoring your purpose in life.

What if acting tells you that this isn’t something you want after all?  Then you’ll know.  You can move forward with that knowledge.  And you can change course.  See the last paragraph in Reason #4 above.

I’m now a full believer in starting before I’m ready.  I’ll think through where I want to go and why, and will educate myself and plan when necessary.  But I won’t let planning stop me or delay me from moving forward. Because I want to continue to learn and grow.  And I believe it’s one of the best ways to continue in my growth and personal development.  

How do you feel about starting before you’re ready?  Do you jump in and start before you feel ready or are you an ultra-planner like I used to be?  In the comments below, I want to hear from you.  Please let me know the following:

1.  Which camp are you in?  A full believer and follower of start before you’re ready or a planner that has trouble living this way?

2.  What have you been thinking about doing, but don’t yet feel “ready” for?

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Until next time…


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  1. Timely for me too – but I can’t help getting caught in the financial analysis of it all. If you are single – and take the leap – if it doesn’t work out I am not worried about my heart or my ego – I will worry about my future if I take away from it (financially) to cover today’s electric bill. What if you have NO back up? Doesn’t that scenario lead to being more cautious and planning a lot more?

    1. Great question. I’m not advocating no planning or not having a back-up plan. What I’m talking about is allowing over-planning to get in the way of doing. I think many of us plan appropriately, but then feel that we’re still not ready (because, most of the time, we’ll never feel 100% ready to do something new) and allow that to stop us from ever doing it. This is what I’m talking about. However, you do need to plan some. And that includes providing for a back up if needed. I didn’t go out on my own until I’d discussed it with Jeff (a lot), took classes, started to coach as a hobby/on the side to ensure it was a good fit for me, and ensured that we had a financial plan in place. I was moving forward the entire time and knew that once I crossed certain stages I needed to make the jump. And when I made the jump, I absolutely didn’t feel ready. I’m still learning A LOT and will continue to. But I see now that what I needed to learn in regards to my business was never going to be learned until I made the jump and took a chance. Hopefully, that helps to answer your question.

  2. Love it. I think this also touches on the trap of being a perfectionist. In our minds we imagine the perfect outcome and that then becomes the ONLY acceptable outcome. And of course we aren’t perfect and we immediately imagine a dozen different ways that things won’t be perfect and we freeze – afraid to act for fear we won’t achieve the unachievable.

    1. Thank you! Yes, it is definitely tied to our wanting to be perfect. This is something that I’ve only recently begun to tackle myself. And I’ve been surprised at how freeing it is to let go of perfectionism.

  3. Heather, this is such a good post and very timely for me, personally! I think that all high-achievers have a struggle with this. We know that planning and giving careful thought to our actions is the wise thing to do, but we can – and often do – go overboard. Sometimes you have to just be willing to jump. After all, most things in life are reversible or fixable.

    1. I’m so glad this is timely for you! I do think that people get too caught up in thinking that we can’t reverse or change things once we’ve gone down a path. But we often can. All we have to do is make the choice to move in another direction. Most of our decisions aren’t as “big” or life-altering as we believe them to be at the outset.

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