Starting, Over and Over Again

Written By: Leo Babauta
There’s a hope that when we start creating a new habit that we’ll master it and never have to worry about it again, or when we start a new project that it’ll go perfectly.
Unfortunately, life never goes according to our plans. We travel, and eating and exercise habits go out the door. We get sick, and our meditation habit falls off. We have visitors, and our writing project falls into a deep abyss. I know from my own experience, and coaching thousands of others, that habits and projects are a messy affair. 
We get good at building and maintaining 5-6 habits, or we get off to an amazing start with a new project, and then everything falls apart when our lives get disrupted. And this becomes a huge problem — we get discouraged! 
But what if the disruption and falling off isn’t the problem? What if the problem is our hope that we’ll never have to get disrupted, that things will always go perfectly? This hope is, of course, greatly misguided. Things don’t ever go smoothly, progress is never linear, and we’ll always get disrupted. It would be best to give up that hope, and instead deal with the reality of our lives.
What we need to do is get good at starting, then starting again. And again. This is an incredible skill that becomes a superpower, when everyone else is wringing their hands about how much they suck at life, how difficult things are, how everything has fallen apart. Instead, we just focus on starting again, and let go of all the stress.

The Skill of Starting

The first skill, of course, is starting in the first place. Lots of people never do this, procrastinating, saying they’ll start tomorrow (I’m not judging, this is very human). So just starting at all is an incredible step.
The skill isn’t that hard, and with practice you can get good at starting:
                         1.) Take the tiniest step to get started. Any movement at all.
              2.) Commit yourself to continuing that tiny step every day. Get accountability if you need it, and set up reminders so you don’t forget.
                        3.)  Keep taking tiny steps, creating a good feeling about this endeavor and about yourself. This good feeling is a powerful thing.
4.) When you notice yourself pushing it off, delaying the start, rationalizing why you can start “in a few minutes” … shake that off. Just take the first step. After that step, the other steps are a lot easier.
The Super Skill of Starting Again

OK, great, but what about when you get disrupted? Not a problem.
Most of us have a process, when we get disrupted, that looks like this: we mess up, we curse ourselves, we feel bad about it, we stress out about why our lives are a mess or we are so horrible at this, and then we let all of that stop us from continuing. Or some version of those elements.
But that’s a harmful method. Instead, if we could learn a less stressful, more helpful method, it could change everything. All of a sudden, falling off a habit or a project would be no problem at all.
Here’s the method I recommend:
                         When you get disrupted, notice this and notice any tendency to be harsh with yourself about it, or resentful towards life or other people about the disruption.

               Shake off that feeling and instead, tell yourself that life is an uncontrollable river and you just have to flow with it. Instead of wishing the river were a set path, perfectly controlled and manicured, accept that things are constantly changing, never according to plan, and that need you just to adapt to the present circumstance.

                       Shrugging off any past mistakes, focus on starting again. Just like before, focus on taking the tiniest step.

                            If there’s any learning to take from the previous attempt, adjust your method to account for whatever obstacles you faced. Sometimes it’s just a random life event (a family crisis or a loved one died), so there’s no learning to be had — you just have to start again. Other times, there was an obstacle in the way that you can adjust for — mornings are too chaotic for writing your novel, perhaps, so you have to either wake earlier or find a better time. Maybe you need an accountability partner. 

         Maybe you need better reminders so you don’t forget. There’s always a solution to the common obstacles we face, and someone has figured it out, so do a little research! And then adjust your method, so you are constantly getting better. It’s that simple. Shrug off the disruption, flow with the changing circumstances, and simply start again. Adjust yourself if needed, but don’t stress out about having to start again.
Life is a constant stream of disruptions, changes, broken plans and rain delays. Every day, we’re just starting again. Every moment is simply a new start. That can be a source of frustration, or delight
About Leo Babauta. He live in Davis, California with his wife and six kids, Leo eat vegan food, write, run, and read.

Books by Leo
  1. Essential Zen Habits: The Art of Mastering Change, Briefly (print & digital)
  2. The Zen Habits Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness (a short read)
  3. Ultralight: The Zen Habits Guide to Traveling Light & Living Light (a short read)
  4. Zen To Done

Men and Sexual Trauma: Morty's Story in His Own Words

Men and Sexual Trauma

At least 1 out of every 10 (or 10%) of men in our country have suffered from trauma as a result of sexual assault. 
Like women, men who experience sexual assault may suffer from depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other emotional problems as a result (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2016). 
However, because men and women have different life experiences due to their different gender roles, emotional symptoms following trauma can look different in men than they do in women (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2016).

What are some symptoms related to sexual trauma in boys and men?

Emotional Disorders

Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to suffer from PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression than those who have never been abused sexually.

Substance Abuse

Men who have been sexually assaulted have a high incidence of alcohol and drug use. For example, the probability for alcohol problems in adulthood is about 80 out of every 100 (or 80%) for men who have experienced sexual abuse, as compared to 11 out of every 100 (or 11%) for men who have never been sexually abused.

Risk Taking Behavior

Exposure to sexual trauma can lead to risk-taking behavior during adolescence, such as running away and other delinquent behaviors. Having been sexually assaulted also makes boys more likely to engage in behaviors that put them at risk for contracting HIV (such as having sex without using condoms).

Morty's  Story in His Own Words!
Hi, my name is Marty. I'm a 48 year old man and at a prepubescent age, I was molested by one of my own teenaged male cousins. This went on to happen several more times by the age of 15, when I learned the power of the word no. I will not mislead you and tell you that I hated the act or even the various men who molested me. I did not, however, have the emotional strength to go to the authorities.
Many years have gone by and I have finally found a way to forgive.
  I know that it happened. I broke the cycle though. Urban legend professes that victims of molestation go on to molest. This simply isn't true. Finally, there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it. It's in the past where it belongs. Now, I will share with you some of the things that happened and what I tried to do to deal with my feelings. That's what it's all about really, our feelings.
   The various emotions that follow us after the abuse that cause us so much pain! The first time, he touched me by hand and mouth contact. I felt wrong and exhilarated at the same time. I didn't reach a climax or anything but I enjoyed the sensation. Needless to say, I felt weird and wrong and exhilarated and uncomfortable afterwards. 
What I was feeling at the time was violated but at the time my nine year old mind and vocabulary could neither paint a picture of my feeling with words or pick up a doll and tell mom, he touched me here and put his mouth here and now God is going to send me to hell. 
It took me till this very moment to say those words.
Tears well up in my eyes because I struggled with so many feelings afterwards that I honestly felt God would vaporize me for talking about it.
Having said this please let me assure you, you're not alone.
        If you're a man sexually abused as a child and have struggled with substance abuse, anger issues, violent outbursts, feelings of inadequacy or difficulty maintaining relationships, you are not alone. The subsequent occurrences of abuse by my cousin and two other men were similar to the first one. I don't feel the need to share every detail of the events, but I would prefer to address the feelings I had afterwards and how my life was affected over the years. After the first time besides feeling violated and confused and doomed to Hell for not stopping it, I felt like there was something wrong with me that I needed to fix. 

The feelings of dread I felt were intense, but didn't even come close to my feelings of inadequacy and guilt and shame. I couldn't help but compare our size. I was just a kid and he looked really large. 
I noticed feeling like this every time it happened. I was dabbling with drugs by 15, but I had been sneaking booze by 9 and I huffed good old fashioned leaded gas a few times.
After age 15, I would drink and smokes pot every chance I got. This went on till shortly before my twentieth birthday. I joined the Army, but I had to get my pee clean before signing the papers and taking the oath. I didn't use illicit street drugs during my tour of duty, but wow did I drink. My urine was clean, but I was still abusing a substance. It didn't take long for me to not only realize it, but also accept that I was a drug addict.
I knew twenty six years ago when I ended up in the hospital on a morphine drip, a shot of feel good and a pain pill frequently after crashing a dirt bike at sixty miles an hour. Okay, to be fair, I did get clean by myself a few times and abstain for long periods of time. I'm really stubborn though, and I thought the right combinations, changes of friends or places I lived could be manageable. So I lived with my mother from 2007 until 2015. I deluded myself that I was helping her with the heavy lifting and hard labor around the house.
The fact is she was my biggest enabler. She knew what I was doing. I didn't really try to hide it. I would to my credit do better for a while, but I would always return to using. I even managed to pay off a rather large arrearage of child support. I did give her money for bills and groceries, but that didn't stop me using. I have wanted to get clean and stay clean for many years but I couldn't. Anyone who is an addict would understand. If I didn't have money I would go work so I could have my fix.  In September of 2015, my siblings and I noticed something different about mom. I tried to make sure that she was ok by asking her and she would say very unusual things. She started feeling a lot and just didn't seem to be herself. At some point something severe enough happened that I told her, "All right, mom I'm taking you to a doctor".
 That was late September I think, I'm very ashamed of myself to have to say it, but by this time I was getting loaded daily, couldn't stop and my living arrangements were out of control. On December 15th, 2015 our sweet mother, aunt, cousin, sister, friend and confidante passed from this world into the hands of our loving Father and healer. Mom had Glioblastoma Multiforme. It's a very common and extremely aggressive malignant brain tumor. Five weeks after the diagnosis mom was gone. 

Over the next year I fell into complete madness. I used daily, from waking till passing out. I honestly do not know how I even lived through it, much less didn't clear my head behind bars. Before I get into how my healing process started, I must share with you that throughout my life I have sustained much head trauma. I had my skull fractured twice.

 The first time with a skillet broken over my head by a punk in the dark. Yea, a very violent fight. I was trying to be nice to him and asked him nicely to stop doing the thing I could not permit in my presence. It was a party, I was playing music with some musician friends, he was a guest, little children were present and he was using horrible language. Children are little mirror recorders. I didn't want them talking like that so after several times asking nicely, I very calmly told him if he did it again, I would shatter his jaw. A man can tell a threat from word so he shut right up.
Later that night after the skillet broke and fell to the ground and I didn't, a very violent, somewhat bloody fight ensued that I walked away from not feeling victorious and needing stitches. Angry, afraid and resentful from childhood sexual abuse and years of verbal and emotional belittling from someone I won't mention, I tried using to stuff it. I tried denial, ignoring and other methods. I gave in to the problem after the skillet fight. I fed all the anger stuffed away and a monster began to grow inside my head. It lied to me and told me I was evil, going to hell, was no good, never had been any good and never would be. There's more that my disease told me, but it gets intense and frightens people somewhat when I discuss the clowns in my head all yelling derogatory messages.
On October 24th, 2016 I opened my eyes, feeling broken, alone and truly dead inside. I simply existed, my life had no meaning. After experiencing all these feelings in what felt like a second or so I heard a voice from somewhere not within me, but neither within our physical world tell me in these exact words, "all right, everything is going to be okay we just need to start doing things differently. That very morning I was talking to an on call psychiatrist. Slowly, predictably and even sometimes painfully my life began to change. I was in intensive outpatient therapy for substance abuse a little more than a month later. In rehab I started opening up about my feelings, not so much the sexual abuse as a child but anger issues, paranoia and abandonment.
  I realized very quickly where I believed I was alone with these feelings that I was not. Over time in therapy, I heard things here and there that stuck with me and helped me begin to feel better inside and about myself. I began my return from the abyss of self-pity, self-loathing and hopelessness that is addiction. I'm clean just over a year and in a 12 step program. Through following the program I have begun addressing my feelings instead of running from them. I need the program because I'm an addict and I can't stay clean on my own. In the process of addressing my feelings I have had to get professional help. The feelings I speak of now are the same ones all adult victims of childhood sexual abuse experience at some point in my opinion.

  The first time I had sex with a woman, I couldn't reach climax. This has turned out to be persistent. I've also frequently found myself questioning my sexual orientation at the age of 9 years old. I have had struggle what seem to be a lifelong problems with intimacy, I either couldn’t maintain an erection or couldn’t reach climax. I like hanging out with guys fishing and barbeques but I'm not a huge sports fan. I never have been. I like opera, ballet, classical and contemporary music.  I even enjoy a little gaming. I'm ok with all of that. The sexual dysfunction will require professional help but other than that I'm fine with who I am. I never knew that there was a hotline or websites for adult men who deal with these issues till recently. Online chats, websites all of the tools are great for healing.
  I never knew that there was a hotline or websites for adult men who deal with these issues till recently. Online chats, websites all of the tools are great for healing. I found an article I shared(Kysha) that described all the long term effects of childhood sexual trauma. 
It relieved me of a huge burden. Why?
Why? Why did he do it to me? God, why?
The theories proposed in the article finally helped me address the most maddening question in the universe, why? With minor teens, as you can guess, it could be a combination of surging hormones and bizarre fantasies. Adults who molest children are either mentally ill , morally sick or worse both. In either case, adults who molest children must be held accountable.
 Minor offenders need to be held accountable as well. It seems as usual a different code exists for each case. The thing I found most healing in the article was means by which one can identify a child who is a victim of abuse. 
The list included things I grew up. Acting out sexually, after the abuse I began masturbating... A lot, I did other things, but it's better I don't mention them. There is a chance to trigger.
These childhood traumas can do more than take our innocence. They give us long term issues with trust, guilt, shame and PTSD.
It's very important for adult victims of childhood abuse to reach out, get professional help and establish a circle of emotional support. When I was in rehab, one of my counselors remarked that sometimes bad shit happens to good people. I don't feel right clean it up because it loses a lot of punch. I started healing a little that day. It was a response to my relating the feelings of my skillet incident, but it took the sting out of a lot hurt that I felt inside. In conclusion, on a personal note, I know that we are not to blame and we aren't doomed to the lake of fire.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016, April 18). Men and Sexual Trauma - PTSD:National Center for PTSD. Retrieved from