It’s tempting to start anywhere else:
- Jump ahead a few steps.
- Pretend you’re further along than you actually are.
- Fudge the truth a little to put as much distance between who you’ve been and who you’d like to become as you can, as quickly as possible.
It’s tempting but impossible. Enticing but unsustainable.
You can only progress authentically from where you are now. Not from where you’d like to be or from where you tell other people you are or from anywhere else.
It’s that way with learning. To be a good learner, you need to remain keenly aware of the holes in your own knowledge. When they’re important enough, you fill them. When they’re not, you gracefully sidestep them. You can’t do either without knowing the holes are there. Ignore them outright at your own peril.
When I don’t know, I don’t imagine that I do. It wouldn’t serve me.
It’s that way with life, too.
The hardest part of starting where you are isn’t starting. It’s admitting where you are. It’s inhabiting that space, without rushing to the comfortable lie (if only I could appear to be this or that, I’d be it) or the ever-present distraction (technology, the media crisis of the moment). In our families and our cultures, we’re trained to conceal weaknesses – even from ourselves, if possible – and look away from hard truths. So we skate around on thin, crystalline layers of delusion, cordial to the world but alien to ourselves.
If you want to end up anywhere different, you have to be honest about where you are now. You didn’t arrive at this point (this impasse?) by pure chance or coincidence. There are specific things you need to learn, at this stage of your journey, in order to proceed.
Try skipping ahead if you must, but don’t be surprised to find that the shortcut circles right back around to this same old familiar place. Until you dare to be honest with yourself.
(Upon searching the phrase “start where you are,” I found, among other things, this modern classic by American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. If this post resonated with you, you should join me in picking up a copy. We’ll all get more Buddhist together.)