The Ultimate Guide to Taking Action

Taking steps towards what you really want…

With the start of a new year, I consistently hear and see talk of goals. People tend to rely heavily on the notion that a new year equals a fresh start– what better time to take action, right?! Well, sort of. The problem with this thought process is this: a lot of the time there is way too much hype, not enough action. I get it… setting a goal leads to planning a course of action. If you are anything like me, and the majority of people I talk to, you plan but never get around to implementing those plans. Or, maybe you do, briefly, but not long enough to truly accomplish what you want.

Don’t worry… if this sounds like you, here is a list of guidelines to push you towards ACTION!

  1. Don’t wait for the “perfect time”. News flash: the perfect time is NOW! While a fresh mindset can be productive, it can actually be counterproductive to put things off for a better time. “I’ll start Monday”, “I’ll make it my New Year resolution”, and “I’m waiting for my friend to do it with me” are only going to lead to thoughts like, “Eh, I’ve waited this long… one more day won’t hurt”.
  2. You don’t need to wait until you have all the answers. How? What? Why? When? Where? Who? These questions and a slew of others are bound to come up, especially if what you want to accomplish involves unfamiliarity. Research can typically provide the answers to several questions; however, some answers are best found by simply starting. Some actions require trial and error and learning by doing. If I were to wait to start writing until I had all the answers, I would never be able to start… ever. Get comfortable with not knowing everything and leaving some questions unanswered until a later time.
  3. Stop Overthinking. It’s okay to put thought into what you do, but too much thought can be dangerous. Overthinking often leads to stress, intimidation and giving up before starting. I am one of those people… I tend to overthink everything. I wonder, ponder, contemplate and think until I have exhausted my brain power and experience burn out. Overthinking is counterproductive, more often than not.
  4. Take messy action. This is one of the most valuable tools I can pass along. I can’t tell you how many years I have been carrying on about starting a blog. While the ideas were always there, I let my flawed thought process get in the way and never actually put pencil to paper. Until now. So, what changed? I am still me– scared, hesitant, and slightly intimidated. There is one difference: I was introduced to the concept of “messy action”. The friend who brought this concept into the light for me taught me that it is way better to just do it! Messy action is still action. No, it isn’t perfect, but it is something. No matter your endeavor in life, jump in with both feet and just go with it. This leads me to the next tip…
  5. Let go of perfection. I realize how hard this is for perfectionists, like myself. I rewrite my grocery list as many times as it takes to get a copy with zero errors, because I refuse to have scribbled out words. The problem with this is: I spend way too much valuable time trying to be perfect and less time focusing on the real goal. Half the time, I give up on writing the list, then have nothing to refer to at the grocery store! Focus on the goal, not on how perfectly you can get there.
  6. You can always re-evaluate/reorganize. Here is where trial and error is useful! You might not have all the answers, you might not have a perfectly foolproof plan, and it might be messy, but you will learn from doing. We already know that doing something is better than nothing. The first week of exercise might teach you that working out in the evenings is not for you. No problem! Next week, try working out in the morning! Edit and rework your course of action until it best suites you.
  7. Planning is overrated. Some planning is inevitable and can allow our actions to run smoother. However, becoming obsessed with planning the future prohibits us from moving towards actions in the present. I am all too familiar with getting burnt out on planning before I start actually doing. Somtimes, planning creates a wall, leading me to feel stuck, intimidated, stressed, tired or overwhelmed. Focus on the goal, create a plan, and move on to implementing that plan.
  8. Baby steps count. If you’re anything like me, you love instant gratification and seeing immediate results. I hate waiting. Sometimes, though, we fail to realize the power of progress. Maybe we haven’t completely achieved the goal or end result, but look at the progress that’s been made! Each baby step counts as taking action and moves us closer to the end goal. Tracking each baby step on paper helps when visualizing progress. Smart phones have several fun options for progress trackers, as well!
  9. Act with intent. Actions are deliberate. All too oftem, we get caught up in the daily grind and act out of habit. We go to work, take care of kids, cook dinner, etc… However, if you know what you want and put forth a conscious effort, you can intentionally achieve that thing you want. For example, if weight loss is my goal, but I haven’t exercised in years, then I am most likely not going to habitually start exercising and eating clean. Rather, I am likely to think about working out briefly, if at all, only to find myself scrolling through Facebook while eating chips on the couch. If I truly intend to lose weight and start exercising, I have to put forth much more mental effort and take intentional steps towards that goal. Living life in a passive way, out of habit, might be easier than living an intentional, active life; but, it rarely gets you what you want in terms of goals and achievements.
  10. You may or may not want to work alone. I consistently see people partnering up to make gains and hear people claiming that they are incapable of “doing it alone”. Finding your tribe and linking arms with like-minded people is fabulous! However, don’t feel like you have to take this route to begin your journey. Some people do better and stay more focused when they work towards their goals solo. Support from friends and family is always beneficial, but this doesn’t mean these people need to be doing exactly what you’re doing. Do you and do it well. I noticed that when I try to work with a friend on a common goal, I end up obsessed with comparisons on our journey, which only hinders my progress. Sometimes working in pairs or teams is suitable, but not always. Don’t get hung up on finding someone to join you, because you may find it actually slows you down.

If you feel like you are spinning your wheels and getting no where fast, go through this list and see if anything applies to you. Taking action isn’t always easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be so exhilarating when we achieve what we want! This doesn’t mean that all is lost, though, as these tips and tricks are easier than you may think. Always remember, you can accomplish anything, especially if you tweak your mindset a little! Have faith in the process and take action!

Until next time,

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