• Dr Ruth Briant-Jones

How 'starting cold' could be a game-changer

Small steps, big gains

I've done a lot of hillwalking in my time, some of it not exactly voluntary; military service has many perks, but some downsides too. Trekking up mountains with a heavy pack in the pouring rain is more of the latter than the former, in my view - but, getting to the top - well, that's something else. The sense of achievement when you realise the difficulty and hardship you've just overcome is one of life's sweetest pleasures. Getting there is the slog, one foot in front of the other, sometimes easier to go back down than to keep going to that alluring summit. One line that's used in the walking world is 'start cold', which means to wear less layers than is comfortable at the bottom of a climb, because very soon you'll be sweating and won't need those extra clothes.

'Starting cold' is sometimes necessary when you're working towards something. Knowing you want to achieve a goal is one thing; finding the courage to put yourself at the start line and begin the slog can be harder than the slog itself. This is where recognising that you might need to start cold can be useful. In non-walking terms, this can mean starting on your path to your goal without having scoped out the full details of your plan, or without waiting for the perfect time, or for when you're definitely ready. It can mean throwing yourself forwards, even if your heart's not in it at the beginning. Often, the act of taking that step, or series of small steps, can be enough to give you the impetus you need to propel yourself towards that summit - the impetus that wouldn't be there had you not taken yourself out of your comfort zone at the start. That's not to say that you don't plan the details of the steps you need to take to get you where you want to be, or to have a very clear outcome in mind - it's saying that you don't necessarily need to agonise over the details. Those details can be obstacles that you're procrastinating over, obstacles that you're subconsciously putting in the way to avoid the fear of trying to achieve something, and failing.

Fear of failure is a very common limiting self-belief. Overcoming it can often be achieved by taking the small steps, right at the beginning, to experience success early by setting mini-goals along the way and building confidence in this way. Starting cold can be an excellent way to begin your journey. In other words, just do it and see what happens. You may find that you'll have made it to the top of that hill before you know it.

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