“ All glory comes from daring to begin!”…Eugene Ware

   It’s back-to-school week and the annual ritual of beginning a new academic year.  One can almost feel the flurry of activity in the early morning air with the scramble for showers, clothing, lunch boxes, book bags, and bus connections! Look closely on the faces of students making their way to their new school setting and what do you see excitement, fear, apathy, anticipation, dread, curiosity . . .?

   This week and the fall season ahead remind me of how life is full of beginnings . . . birth to death, old home to a new home, one friendship to a different friendship, previous career to new career, former family life to a re-configured family life, etc., etc. 

All beginnings have three elements:

  • An ending…that requires we let go of something that was before (“I can’t sleep in until noon any more?”)
  • change…which stretches us and prompts us to act (“the school bus will be here in 5 minutes!”)
  • A new unknown (“what will it be like at my new school and how will I do?”)

   Beginnings are emotional experiences.  They have the power to motivate, excite, invigorate, and inspire us… while often frustrating, overwhelming, paralyzing, and terrifying us at the same time.

   The business consultant, William Bridges, writes about the importance of good beginnings for healthy organizations. Many people engage my services for counselling in order to ‘find their way’ to a new beginning...a fresh start to a new school year, how to live alone after the painful loss or breakup of a relationship, a new career start, life beyond a paralyzing mood disorder such as depression or anxiety, or more generally …how to begin to live life better and differently, from the person we once were, to the person we now want to be? 

   Learning how to begin well is an important life skill.  So what do good beginners teach us about how to start well?  Here are some ideas:

  • Start Slowly. Most swimming lessons start in the shallow end of the pool.  Grief expert Alan Wolfelt, teaches those in the early stages of bereavement to move slowly, get lots of rest, and not to, “speed through” their grief. Most good beginnings are marked by a slow pace. What is your pace through the new beginning you are making?
  • Baby Steps. In the classic movie comedy, “What About Bob”, the psychologist Dr. Leo Marvin, exhorts the neurotic Bob Wiley to take ‘baby steps’ out the door in order to begin his summer without his therapist by his side!  Small steps are crucial with any new beginning. What small steps are you making?
  • Establish Routines. Look at every pre-school and nursery to see how routines are so essential for the ‘class of beginners’. They apply to we adults as well. Routines help to stabilize and organize us with any new start we make in life. What routines are you implementing in your new beginning
  • Talk it out.New beginnings are best supported by family and friends. We make them witnesses to our experience, tell them our story, and feel supported by their encouragement and presence. Beginnings are meant to be shared! Who are you talking to about your new beginning?
  • Balance the load. Starting anything new requires that we keep a balance with the other things in our life, so that the new experience does not overwhelm us.  Taking on too many new things at once can make us physically unhealthy and emotionally stressed! How balanced is your life as you make your new start?
  • Celebrate our successes.The first day, first week, the good test result are all  ‘markers’ to help us to recognize, affirm, and help solidify the new beginning we have made. How are you celebrating your early successes?

Making good beginnings are essential for our emotional health.  Let’s learn to do them well!

Happy New Year!. . . students, teachers, parents….and everyone starting out on something new in their life!