“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”
What is it that makes dreams become reality?
I believe that perhaps the most important – and an often ignored – thing is simply taking action.
It was something I struggled with when I was younger.
I used to get stuck back then.
I was unable to let go of my dreams about the things I wanted to do.
Analyse paralysis was a result of my tendency to overthink things. I became stuck in procrastination, and in pessimism.
But things have changed a lot. I’ve developed many new habits that allow me to take more action than I did before.
I hope that this week’s article will inspire you to do the exact same.
1. Do the most important things to get your day started.
This is what I learned when I was a computer salesman 20 years ago.
The boss told us that if we took care of the most important task of the day – often one of the more difficult ones too – right away in the morning the rest of the day would be a lot easier and lighter.
That was exactly what he said.
When that first and most important task is done you don’t have to worry about it. It won’t weigh down on your day. It will make you feel good about yourself.
And you’ll have less inner resistance to taking action for the rest of the day.
2. Take responsibility for your actions, and for the entire process.
This quote is from the ancient Sanskrit Hindu scripture Bhagavadgita that I love:
“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.”
It’s because I feel a sense of freedom and relief every time I see it or think about it.
This quote helps me understand that I can’t control the outcome of my actions. I can’t control how someone reacts to what I say or what I do.
It reminded me of the fact that it is easier for me to remain motivated to do what I enjoy if I do what I really enjoy.
In essence, I do my best and it is my responsibility. The rest (the possible outcomes) are not my responsibility.
It was gone.
It is easier to take action when you can only assume responsibility for doing what you believe in.
3. Don’t feel like doing it? Start small.
It sounds great in theory to get the most important things done first thing in the morning and set yourself up for an action-packed day.
However, in reality, you will be unmotivated for days.
Days when you feel emotionally low or when you are confronted with having to do something you don’t want to do.
That’s life. That doesn’t mean you should let it sink your day into inaction or feel sorry for yourselves.
For these situations, I believe that it is best to start small. To just…
- Write for no more than 1-2 minutes
- Only a few repetitions and you can lift weights free of charge.
- Spend 1 minute to get started on something scarey.
I then have the option to choose to do another thing.
I rarely do.
I need an easy way for me to get started. Then, once I am moving, I often continue taking action for quite a while.
4. Don’t hurt yourself.
This is an important motivator for me.
If I don’t do what I deep down think is the right thing to do then I hurt myself and my self-esteem. What I do – or do not do – during my day sends powerful signals back to me about what kind of person I am.
You cannot escape yourself. You will always pay a price for not doing what is right.
5. A reminder for focus.
If you don’t remind yourself often about what you need to focus on and why you are doing it then it is easy to let days slip away or to spend too much time on less important things.
Make a simple reminder note on a piece if paper. You can write:
- The top 3 priorities you have in your life right now.
- For the next 30 days, your most important goal should be to develop a new habit.
- A quote or motto that you can use to keep your mind focused and help you live life well at any given moment.
6. Be accountable for the people in your circle of influence.
A buddy to help you keep on track can be a great way to motivate yourself and continue working towards your goal.
As readers, you help me to keep my word and provide useful content. Every day I receive feedback about whether I am doing things in a useful or not. I get tons of encouragement.
I am able to rely on my family to help me keep track of what I eat, how much exercise I do and not doing too much.
Online or in person, find someone who would like to be in better physical condition. Start a business online. Get to know each other.
You can hold each other accountable for taking action each week.
7. You can cycle fully focused work and completely relaxing rest.
Use your smartphone’s stop-watch function to access your kitchen timer.
The timer should be set for 45 minutes. For 45 minutes, focus only on the most important task or small step forward. There is nothing else. No distractions.
Take a break after the 45-minute mark is up.
If you want, you can distract yourself from your work space by using Facebook. You can also take 15 minutes to get away from your desk and go for a walk, stretch, or eat an apple.
By working these fully focused periods of time you’ll:
- Do more and get better work.
- Concentrate for longer periods of your day or week, and you will feel less tired.
- Focus on one thing at a given time and not get distracted by work, relaxation, or building up stress.
- You can enjoy your rest periods and not feel guilty.
Are 45 minutes of work too long?
You can also try 25 minutes.
Half-way through your 25-minute period, are you procrastinating?
Set the timer to start at 10 or 5 minutes. Over the next few weeks, you will be able to fully concentrate on the work.
8. You should be more focused on the how-to and less on what-ifs.
If you find your thoughts spinning and your thoughts are focusing on taking action, then stop!
Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the negative spiral of analysis paralysis.
While it is smart to think before acting in most cases, overthinking can lead to a tendency to control situations you cannot control or to avoid action out of fear.
Stop thinking about the negative things. Now, open your mind to the possibilities.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What is the smallest step I can take to make a difference in my life?
- What’s one thing you can take away from this situation?
Take the time to write down all the answers that you have and then take action.
9. People don’t care that much about what you do so don’t let that hold you back.
I let people’s opinions and comments about me when I was younger. If I did something, it held me back. I became stuck in inaction.
It was more self-centered than a true belief.
In reality, people are busy with their own lives.
They think about their children, spouses, pets, jobs, and where they are going to be when they get home.
You are probably not the main character in other people’s lives. Even if that is what you do in your life.
It can be disappointing to realize this, but it can also free you from any self-imposed obligations.
10. Tap into enthusiasm.
When you believe in yourself and get started on something new, your enthusiasm pours out like a river.
It may be down a lot a few weeks later. Don’t let that lead you to quitting if you think this is something you want to continue doing.
Instead, find your passion in the world around you.
- You can let the enthusiasm of your accountability buddy flow over to you.
- Listen to audiobooks or podcasts by inspirational people.
- Read blogs, websites and take courses that help you to get a dose of enthusiasm every week.
- Allow the joy of your friends, family members, and pets to flow over to you.
- Enjoy music and videos from Youtube to increase your joy for living.
Bring the joy of the rest to your life.
11. Add some fun.
Some tasks are simply too boring or difficult to enjoy.
To add some fun, you might try this:
- Music that is energetic and inspiring can be added to your playlist.
- You can make it a team game in which you and your friend compete to finish the task first.
You can change your perspective and make it easier to do something about what you have been putting off.
12. Today, celebrate what you have done.
You can take 2 minutes to reflect on, celebrate and appreciate what you have done today. No matter how small, the action you took was important.
- Motivation to motivate you to take action tomorrow.
- You can increase your self-esteem.
- You will feel better about yourself and others.