Last time we looked at setting the sort of goals which give you that fire in your belly. The next step is taking that passion and turning it into that initial step of focused action.
A big deterrent to getting off your bum / twitter / facebook / the phone / Amazon and doing something productive is having a list of things to do that you quite simply have no true passion in completing.
Hopefully you are looking at a list of dreams that make you buzz inside and wipe out traces of apathy.
Except that the road is long and hard, and not only for those who like country music.
Taking action can be scary, and hard, and tiring, and make you wonder if you weren’t just better having a little nap.
Do not do this (yet). If every action brings a reaction (be it good or bad) then inaction certainly brings with it…nothing.
Well, that’s not quite true. Inaction tends to bring with it boredom, frustration, and an energy-sapping existence.
But you know this, you have a list of goals, you want to get started on them, it’s just that there are usually a few things making that nap look very very appealing (and believe me, it doesn’t take a lot to make a nap appealing).
One of the problems with making a list of goals is that you see everything there in front of you on one page.
Your dreams are staring back at you all at the same time screaming “Pick me! Pick me.” You are team captain about to play the game of life and every goal wants to go out for the debut match.
With everything seeming as important as the other, it can be a nightmare knowing how to start climbing that mountain.
Take a deep breath, relax, and then:
Pick one of the most important goals
Don’t waste too much time trying to decide which one this should be, if you’ve got two or three real biggies, just pick one.
Set reminders to look at the rest and then put them away
Use your diary, use an online calendar or use your mobile phone to remind you in a few hours, days or weeks to look again at your list of goals.
Then hide the list away, the longer you look at one big list, the more you’ll get overwhelmed with all those exciting things begging for your attention.
Take immediate action
No more plans, this has to be something which could potentially result in a favourable reaction. And the quicker you can implement it the better.
Say for example one of your goals is to get a better job, redo your CV and finish it. If it’s to get in shape, go for a quick run and write down your distance and time, if it’s to write a book, write the first page.
These early stages of action aren’t supposed to be perfect or yield the best results, they’re supposed to start you on the momentum of action and get you into the habit of taking action which is directly related to your goals.
Do it – go do it now (or read the rest of this and then do it ;-))
We are surrounded by distractions. There’s the TV, the Internet, your email, your friends, the newspaper, text messages, sunny days, alcohol, naps, etc. Some of these distractions, in their own right, are an important way to keep you happy. What’s the point of slaving away all the time if you never get to enjoy yourself?
The more you work towards your dreams, the more likely you are going to enjoy what you’re working on, however there is going to be a lot of hard work. But of the good kind, the kind where you know it’s going to be worth it.
The kind where you write religiously every day through tiredness, illness and writer’s block and then one day have a book completed.
The kind where you wake up at 6:30 to run in the wind and rain to one day be able to complete a marathon.
The kind where you start off with only your mum reading your blog and then one day you have a captive (and growing) audience.
The key is to knowing when your activities are a form of essential relaxation and when they are encouraging you to turn your back on your dreams.
Do you have an occasional TV show you like to watch, or are you a total soap addict clocking up 2-3 hours of viewing a day?
Are you checking your email, texts, twitter in short burst of downtime or every 5 minutes for 3 minutes at a time?
Do you see your friends when your work is done and you can relax or are you out all the time, only to feel guilty that you haven’t done enough?
Combating distractions will work differently for different people. Some people can use sheer will power and self-discipline, others might have to make a few preparations in order to minimize the temptation of distraction.
I find the following useful for me:
Develop a clutter free zone for your action
I have to have my desk free from rubbish if I’m to think and act with focus. As a master daydreamer it doesn’t take a lot for me to zone out. A clear space and only the things I need to work on the project at hand help me immensely.
Set a short deadline with a promised rewards
Deadlines are good, they add a little pressure and make us focus, but this can’t always be sustained for long periods. For me I need a couple minutes after half an hour of non-stop work. Even if it’s just to make a cup of tea, I aim to achieve something small like 200 words of a story, rather than “complete short story” and then have a micro-break. It keeps up the momentum and breaks the project down into manageable chunks.
Turn off your phone or put it in another room
If something is really important and needs your attention, don’t let that lovely little gateway into your social world get in the way.
Work without the internet if possible
As above, if it’s not your mobile texting away, it’s twitter, or facebook or your online bank balance, or your inbox. If you don’t need the internet to work then find a way to disconnect yourself, or alternatively look for an online programme which can do a similar thing (something I’ll be looking at in the resources article coming up shortly!)
Promise someone else what you are going to achieve by a set time
If you need an added incentive to get something done, you might find it useful to tell someone close to you what it is that you hope to achieve, and by when. Hearing it out loud can reaffirm what it is you want to achieve and now you’ll also have someone asking you how you’re getting on with things…
If there’s one thing I want to stress in this post it is this:
TAKE ACTION NOW
Don’t believe that you will live forever, or that somehow, one day, you will get round to doing that thing you’d love to do, but for the moment you’re just going to watch another episode of Friends, the one where you’ve seen it a thousand times and know all the words…
We only have this moment in time, don’t take it for granted.
I remember talking to a girl who hated her job and really wanted to set up her own business, but wasn’t going to take the leap just yet. Despite her job being miserable and hating it every day, she said she was going to wait one more year because:
“If you stay still, everything moves around you and changes around you, so in one year, even though I’ve stayed still, things around me will still have moved on, so in essence I will have moved on.”
This is nuts.
Do not do this.
Do something for your dreams, and do it now.
They’re calling out to you.