Starting from scratch, the possibility of having a new beginning, can be exciting and motivating for some, but for most it’s a frightening and overwhelming experience. In reality, we are not afraid to start from scratch, but that the same thing happen to us again, stumble twice over the same stone, disappoint ourselves and confirm our worst suspicions.
However, we must remember that “nothing is lost if you have the courage to proclaim that everything is lost and you have to start over”, in the words of Julio Cortázar. After all, life is that: an achievement of starts and endings.
The fear of stumbling twice with the same stone
When we embark on a new adventure, what we most want is for everything to go well. We start with great enthusiasm and we strive to make things work. But it’s not always like this. Sometimes, no matter how much enthusiasm and effort we put in, things do not go well. Sometimes life “forces us” to rebuild the broken pieces and start from scratch. It can happen in any field, from relationships to work.
In fact, every time we embark on a new project there is a risk that it will not work fine, every decision we make involves both the germ of success and “failure”. When we have tried hard or we have put a lot of enthusiasm in a project and it fails, the prospect of starting from scratch can be frightening. In those cases, it is common to be paralyzed from fear. If we are not able to overcome that fear, we will be trapped in the past, keeping turn in a circle circumscribed by despair and frustration.
Maybe you have spent years of your life in a relationship that ended up broke, you invested your life savings in a business that did not work or moved to another country where you had to start from scratch.
In all these cases, it is normal for you to experience different emotions. After a “failure” you may feel discouraged and disappointed, which is not only due to disappointment itself but also because your emotional battery has been worn down throughout that adventure. When a project comes to an end it usually consumes a large part of our psychological resources, precisely because we try to save it at all costs. And while we try to save it we suffer an emotional bleeding, something very common in relationships.
It is also normal that you feel afraid. However, fear is such an intense and visceral emotion that it often eclipses the rest. Sometimes the “fear of starting over” becomes an umbrella term that encompasses all other emotions and ends up being paralyzing. But if you do not name what you feel, if you do not put a face to that fear, you will not be able to fight it effectively. If you do not know who you are fighting against, you will limit yourself to hit in the dark.
It is also probable that you do not really fear starting from scratch but that the same thing will happen to you again, to repeat the story of failure that left you with deep scars. You can be afraid of suffering again, of striving again without obtaining the expected results, of throwing away years of your life …
Starting from scratch does not generate fear, what causes that fear is the prospect of ending up at the same point of departure. It is a subtle difference that can help you overcome that fear and move on.
Why is it so difficult to start from scratch?
- You don’t know what to do. If you feel completely blocked and cannot even consider different alternatives to start from scratch, it’s probably because you don’t know what to do. Maybe you have your goal in mind, you know where you want to go, but you don’t know the way. In fact, it’s a usual situation when the goals are very ambitious and the necessary steps are not clearly seen. In that case, all you have to do is divide that goal into small steps that you can manage better. Little by little you will discover what is the best way, step by step. Make yours the maxim of Confucius: “One step doesn’t take you where you want to go, but it takes away you from where you are”.
- You are exhausted. Maybe you have clear your goals and the way forward, but the previous story has been so intense that you feel exhausted, at the edge of your strength. The simple fact of looking at the path that you have to go through exhausts you and you think that you will not be able. In this case, when you run out of psychological resources, the best solution is to take a break from that problem, give yourself a time to start over. During that time you can recover the strength, motivation and enthusiasm you need to start your new project.
- You have lost confidence in yourself. It’s the worst scenario because it implies that you don’t have enough confidence in your abilities. It’s likely the result of disappointment or previous failure. In that case, starting from scratch seems useless because you’re convinced that you will fail again. You blame yourself for what happened and don’t believe you have learned from past mistakes, so you deny yourself the possibility of having a second chance. To have a new beginning, you need to rediscover faith in yourself. To achieve this, you must do a deep inner work that allows you learn from past mistakes and assume them with a resilient attitude. When you assume that a “failure” only means that you have tried something, you will recover the desire to try again, this time with greater maturity and knowledge. Remember the words of Henry Ford: “Failure is an opportunity to start anew with more intelligence.”
How to start from scratch?
- Assume that you are not starting from scratch. In fact, all past experiences, although negative and unpleasant, leave a lesson. If you analyze the mistakes you have made, you will not be starting from scratch because you will have a stronger base, which increases your chances of success. Therefore, the idea of starting from scratch is actually a fallacy, a scam of the frightened mind.
- Take advantage of the new beginning. Sometimes you just have to change the perspective so that everything changes. Every day is a new beginning, a new opportunity for you to create something new and better. Instead of taking that new beginning as a punishment, you can see it as an opportunity to grow, do things differently and test your abilities.
- Be patient. Starting over is not always easy, especially when you have to heal some emotional wounds. In those cases, it is important not to rush but to take the time that is necessary for these wounds to heal. Rushing too much can lead you to make the same mistakes of the past.
- Overcomes the initial blockade. Some endings are so drastic or unexpected that they leave us blocked. To start from scratch you must overcome this initial block, and the best way to do it is to consider new options. This emotional blockage arises from the inability to glimpse the path ahead, in many cases because habits and routines have blinded us, so it is a matter of gradually clearing the fog.
- Recognize your fears. Are you afraid to start from scratch or to make the same mistakes again? Find out what beliefs are fueling that fear and put them to the test with techniques such as cognitive restructuring. It is true that trying new ways of doing things can scare, but even worse is to get caught in the circle of the past. Assume that each error is a learning experience and understands that you can never reach the same point because with each experience you grow. In fact, sometimes the goal is not as important as the person you have become while trying to achieve that goal. After all, life is a journey, not a destination.
- Embrace the change. Life flows in a process of continuous change. Many times we are afraid to start over because we see ourselves as a “finished product” or we feed static images of a relationship or profession. On the contrary, when we embrace change we change our perspective and open ourselves to a universe of possibilities that allow us to undertake new beginnings.
- Develop resilience. If you trust in your ability to overcome adversity, starting from scratch will not be so difficult. The people who have had to fight against all odds, have put their resilience to the test and have internalized a very valuable teaching: “No matter how difficult things get, in the end I will be able to deal with them”. That certainty is a beacon that illuminates them and keeps them standing in the most difficult moments.
- Separate yourself from the result. Many times the anxiety and fear of making the same mistakes come from the tendency to focus on the results. Everything changes when we assume a psychological distance. Therefore, instead of clinging desperately to mental images, ideas, beliefs and expectations about what that trip should be like, and trying to control everything that happens along the way, you must learn to let go and flow. Focusing on valuable experiences, rather than results, is the best strategy to get the most out of life.
- Forget about your ego. Sometimes the fear of making the same mistakes comes from a much deeper fear, the fear of being negatively evaluated, to be rejected. We are concerned about what other people will think about our “failures”. In those cases it is the ego that speaks, so you only have to learn to silence it. Understand that your worth as a person does not depend on your successes or failures but on the commitment and passion you put into the journey.
- Start from the end. It may seem a contradiction but it is a very valuable change of perspective when you need to start from scratch. Remember that for those who do not know what port to go to, no wind is favorable. Therefore, ask yourself “What kind of life do I want to create?” Think about what you really want and open up to the opportunities that will appear. It is likely that you reach your goal by a path that you had not initially planned but that has been much more exciting or simple.