Heartstyles blog

Starting well

I love all beginnings, despite their anxiousness and their uncertainty, which belong to every commencement.

So wrote the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). The beginnings of any project, journey, enterprise or change are beset with exactly those worries that Rilke identifies. 

How we begin something will shape what emerges or what we get out of it.  And then how we design our work or enter into something with others will determine what we are able to do for them. Go somewhere angry and cross, and the journey will be full of tension.  Take a step with an open disposition and the experience of travel will be different.

How about a beginning as a start of a journey that means more than just the journey?  One of my favorite openings in the English romantic poet William Wordsworth is about a journey in Scotland in 1803 with his sister and his close friend Coleridge:

"What, you are stepping westward?" -- "Yea."
-- 'Twould be a wildish destiny,
If we, who thus together roam
In a strange Land, and far from home,
Were in this place the guests of Chance:
Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,
Though home or shelter he had none,
With such a sky to lead him on?

Plenty of anxiety and uncertainty here, and yet we are faced with many such steps in our lives, from one stage of life to another, from one place or career or status to another.  Life is full of “from-to” journeys.  Some of the toughest involve confronting the anxieties and uncertainties that Wordsworth sets out here: he’s in a “strange land,” and a “guest of chance.”  Yet he overcomes fear by being inspired by the splendor of the sky.

There are nearer examples in our lives and those of other people overcoming fear and anxiety in order to start anything: a family, a business, a new career.  But accepting the feelings common to any start can be a reliable check and a comfort: it’s always like this. Like the moment before you dive into a cold river, or the moment you walk into a room to give a presentation or stand up before a group to give a speech.

We can equip ourselves by the attitude which acknowledges that, and which takes its strength from who we are within rather than what is happening without.

Are you beset by anxieties and uncertainties at the start of something?  If you are living Above-the-Line you are deriving strength from within, whereas if you are Below-the-Line you are reacting to circumstances;  it is the big difference between living from a place of significance (ATL) to living for significance (BTL).




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