The Discipline to Start

If you start enough times, you'll eventually finish.

Discipline, and the idea of building discipline, is a daunting concept. Many of us struggle with it.

We tell ourselves we’re going to get home from work and put serious effort into Chess study. We may even block the time out on our calendars.

If we’re organized, we’ll even decide exactly what we’ll work on.

Then we get home and end up playing bullet games until it’s past our bedtime.

In my day-to-day, I feel that too. As a solopreneur, I feel that.

I feel the gulf between how I intend to use my time and how I actually use my time.

Sometimes events, family, and other external factors will change our plans. There’s nothing wrong with that- it’s to be expected.

But mostly, if we’re honest, we simply don’t follow through.

For me, it’s a hollow feeling. Reaching the end of a day and knowing I didn’t follow through on my plan.

Looking back and seeing I did the easy things, not the things that move me forward.

On other days, the ones where I do the “right” things, the feeling is wonderful.

My confidence blooms, my motivation soars, my energy doubles. And I wake the next day ready to go again. Itching to dive back in.

Caught in that wave of momentum.

It’s my favorite state to be in. There are few better feelings.

But eventually the momentum fades. And I’m right back where I was, struggling.

I’ve spent a lot of years grappling with this.

Chess is a great mirror for our psychology. It forces us to confront our mindsets and our thoughts.

And Chess has proven a useful battleground for this issue as well.

How do we make sure we study when we say we will?

How do we build and sustain momentum in our Chess, so we can reach our goals?

The answer, predictably, is discipline.

But it’s not Marine Corps discipline, or Buddhist monk discipline. That’s far too intense. Far too daunting.

I’m talking about a very small, very specific kind of discipline.

The kind of discipline that happens in a moment. That’s so small, it can seem laughably easy.

The discipline to start.

Just start. That’s all.

To get home from work and start studying. To finish a game and start analyzing.

To start reading that Chess book, or working through that exercise.

Just start.

If you become distracted or something comes up, no problem.

When you notice you’ve drifted, start again. Pick up where you left off.

Just start.

That’s all there is to it.

That’s how we follow through, stick to our plans. Reach our goals.

Start as many times as it takes.

Anyone who ever accomplished anything had to get good at starting.

Ding, Nepo, and Magnus all became masters of starting long before they were masters of Chess.

Until we start, nothing can happen. But when we consistently start, we make progress.

If you struggle to follow through on the things you know will help you progress, change your focus.

All you need to do is start.

This is about half the length of a normal post. So use this extra time.

What’s something you could do right now that would move you forward?

Work out what it is, then start. Just start.

That’s all you need to focus on.

That’s how you do great things.

About the author

Aiden Rayner writes about how to make the adult brain better at Chess. Using science-backed insights, he works to change the narratives around adult improvement, and help adults discover the power of their Chess brains.

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