Do you wonder why is it so hard to stop planning and take action?
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Do you feel like there just isn’t enough time to get started?
Or you lack the energy and feel exhausted from everything you’re already doing every day – from your job, kids, family responsibilities and already busting at the seems schedule.
You’re not alone!
You’ve planned, you’ve set goals, you’ve even researched the heck out of this idea of yours, you KNOW what you need to do in order to change your life for the better, but you don’t.
Instead of taking action in your life, you hit the snooze button. You think, maybe later when things are better, less messy, and more perfect that you’ll take action. That you’ll get started when you’ve got free time and more energy.
But, more time rolls by and you still haven’t gotten started.
Why is it so hard to take action?
I feel it too, there are times that it’s such a struggle to even get started on something so simple. Ironically, writing this post about taking action was like giving birth. Instead of just writing it already, I decided to go to detangle my curls, post some pics to Instagram, and then make coffee, and a few other useless actions.
Oh and that was after “researching” and drafting three plans for this post.
That’s the thing about plans, even the best-laid ones can lead you absolutely nowhere.
This is Part 3, of a 6-Part Series on How to Actually Achieve Your Goals.
#GoalSlayerSeries breaks down the honest unfiltered truth about what it really takes to achieve your goals. Each post explores one major mindset shift that you need to make in order to become a goal slayer (aka someone who achieves their goals without apology or excuse).
In Part 1, we learned why we need to stop setting goals and start setting intentions instead. Then in Part 2, we learned why we need to understand the fears that prevent us from taking action.
Speaking of taking action, let’s explore how you can take action in your life today. It’s not as complicated and as overwhelming as it may seem.
What Does Taking Action Mean?
Every single day we act, we do stuff, and we get things done. We wouldn’t be so busy and so tired if you weren’t, right? We eat, we work, we watch TV, all of these are actions.
So, how is “taking action” different?
Taking action is a deliberate movement towards a predetermined end. When you take action in your life you move with intent. You are taking intentional action towards your goal, dream or desires. It’s active, not passive.
It’s the moment when you stop planning and researching, stop making excuses, stop letting fear stop you, and you move forward. And yes, even taking the tiniest step forward counts as taking action.
You are taking action when you stop planning and start moving.
Think about it as if your life was a play. Taking action is the moment you when the director of your life should “AND ACTION” and you do the movements you’ve planned, debated, envisioned, and dreamt about in your script. Where you step off the pages of your plan, outside of your mind, and into reality.
Taking action requires you doing something that matters, that serve your goals, intentions, plans, dreams or desires. It moves you that much closer from where you re right now, to where you want to be.
And take a step towards that change, you want so badly in your life that maybe even scares you. Taking action means accomplishing something, no matter how small, that brings you nearer, not away from or avoiding it with inaction.
When we’re talking about action… It’s probably close to what you think about when you think “I’ve got to dosomething about this!” It’s guided action. It’s purposeful and it’s conscious. – Kyle Eschenroeder
Let’s see the difference in action (pun totally intended):
- When I was washing my hair that was me running away from the taking action.
- Even when I researching and planning this post, that was me avoiding taking action.
- But, the moment I started typing this post is when I started taking intentional action.
All that’s required for you to take intentional action is to get started, it’s those first few moments.
What simple intentional action can you take today? It only takes a few moments to take action, just like it took those first few words of this post, “Are you struggling…”
Why Is It Hard to Take Action?
There are so many reasons we tell ourselves that we can’t take action, from not being ready all the way to not having the time. Sound familiar?
Beneath all the explanations and excuses lives what I believe to be the real cause of inaction in our lives – that it matters the most to us and we just don’t feel confident enough to achieve it.
Clearly, we have NO PROBLEM doing things that have zero impact on our lives, don’t shake the boat too much, and cannot challenge our concept of safe (which we discussed in Part 2 of this series, on understanding our fears).
It’s so difficult to take intentional action BECAUSE we want it so badly it scares us, we’re shy to approach it, afraid what it means if actually can. That fear caused by a lack of belief and confidence in ourselves causes us to not take action.
So, instead of taking action, we:
- Overthink it and replay all the reasons why we can’t do it
- Research it to find out more and keep learning
- Plan it out in extreme detail to the point where we’re burnt out
- Set goals and write to-do lists because “hey, this is doing something right?”
- Are indecisive and focus on making the right choice
- Are perfectionist making perfect plans looking for perfect timing
- Procrastinate by doing anything but what matters the most
- Are distracted by everything that helps us forget about taking action
- Get overwhelmed by the big picture and how impossible it all feels
Does any of this sound familiar? What does your inaction look like?
I’d say I’m mostly a productive procrastinator, who gets a kick out of getting stuff done that doesn’t matter. Yes, checkmark!
Why You’re Not Taking Action
If I think back to earlier this afternoon when I wasn’t taking action to write this blog post, the real cause was a lack of confidence for a variety of reasons.
So full disclosure time, let’s take a look at my thought process, as it might resemble your own.
- This is part 3, in a 6-part series, it marks the half-way point. Then, once I make it through this series, it means I’m up against an even bigger challenge, that in all honesty maybe I don’t feel ready for? I’ve never done this before.
- And this is a blog post about taking action, and although I know how to take action, I was nervous about explaining this to you. What if you think I’m full of shit, what if I can’t articulate it properly? What if this article isn’t helpful?
- So, that lack of confidence led me to spend time researching instead of taking action and planning over and over rather than just getting started.
- And all of this compounded my original feelings of inadequacy. Hello, imposter syndrome my old friend. How can I compete with the loads of “how to take action” blog posts out there?
What about you? Why are you not taking action?
Now tell me, why are your REALLY not taking action? Be honest now, I was with you.
It’s okay to be afraid that you can’t deliver, follow through or to even feel like you’re unworthy of reaching your goal. It’s understandable to feel intimidated by what others will think of you, whether they’ll judge or dismiss you. It’s more than okay, it’s actually completely normal to feel this way.
Even better news for you: no matter the cause or form your inaction takes, you can learn how to take action. Taking action is a habit, and like any good habit, it starts by doing it once, and then again, and again.
Each time becomes easier and less painful to get started. And for me, that means less time wrapped in a blanket with noise-canceling headphones, more time just writing.
How to Learn to Take Action
You need to create your very own get started, take action ritual. You might need headphones and a blanket like I do, but you might not. It’s all about knowing how you focus best.
When you’re focused on the now, you can drown out your thoughts, the distractions and everything else around you. You can even think about this as a form of meditation if that helps you to focus on the now.
So much of our planning and goal setting is focused on the future, all of this dreaming about tomorrows can lead us to believe that we need all this time for major moves. And the bigger our plans get, the longer we set goals and think about taking action, the harder it gets to actually get started.
This consequently leads us to subconsciously place more space between ourselves and taking action. And we conclude that 5 minutes and the time we have right now couldn’t possibly be enough.
We need to focus on the now, to snap us out of inaction.
- Step 1: Take a few breaths, focus on right now. Tell yourself, “there is power in the now.”
- Step 2: Remember and focus on your intention (or your goal if you have one).
- Step 3: Ask yourself, what tiny intentional action can I take right now towards my goal?
- Step 4: “And action,” say it out loud to yourself if you need to, but take 5 minutes to do that tiny action right now.
- Step 5: Seriously, why are you still reading this? Go do that tiny task right now.
I know you might seem like small actions don’t matter, but they’re all that matters when you can’t start.
“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” ― Jim Rohn
It’s a series of tiny choices over time that set your course, and it’s as simple as one decides to take action today. There is power in today, there is potential in now, and your progress begins at this moment.
Easy Ways You Can Take Action Today
I know what you’re thinking, it can’t really be as easy as that. But what about my plans, what about if this or that happens?
*exhale* Seriously, if you catch your mind spiraling back to all the reasons you can’t take the action you need to, just breathe. Close your eyes and focus back on your simple intention. Remind yourself that to be this right now you do not need your plan.
But if you’re like me and want practical examples as to how you can take action today, I got you covered.
Let’s review those intentions vs. goals examples from Part 1 of this series.
#1. To be brave and courageous:
- You could come up with a plan for how you’re going to conquer your greatest fear, maybe even see a psychologist, research it from every angle, read every book on fears…
- OR take intentional action now by doing something that makes you feel brave like asking someone out on a date, or speaking up about something you care about in a Facebook post or on social media
#2. To put yourself first and practice self-care:
- You could journal about how much you want to spend time on yourself, talk about how much you need it, look up expensive spas you’d need to save for, plan trips and getaways with your girlfriends…
- OR take intentional action now by choosing a meal you want to eat for dinner, go get your nails done, take a time out to meditate, tell your family you need them to help you and how
#3. To be free from your job or change careers:
- You could spend time researching every possible career option, take tests and meet with a career counselor, you could write a business plan or even go back to school for something…
- OR take intentional action now by speaking with a supervisor/manager about available positions, work on a hobby you enjoy, go to a networking/career event, send an email to a mentor, ask a friend about job openings
#4. To be strong or to feel healthy:
- You could join a gym and schedule all the classes you’ll go to in your calendar, buy ten cookbooks, research nutrition, see a nutritionist, hire a trainer, go buy workout clothing you’ll never use…
- OR take intentional action now by choosing a healthier snack, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the train station instead of busing it, find a quick workout video on youtube and just do it
#5. To be happy and feel successful:
- You could psychoanalyze yourself and dissect your life to find out what’s wrong, you could plan an elaborate trip around the world, could train for a marathon, work hard for a promotion…
- OR take intentional action now by doing something that makes you happy and feels successful now like enjoying time with a friend, treating yourself, doing what you love, accomplish a to-do item on your list, get started on a goal.
You’ll notice that every intentional action idea above requires little to absolutely no planning, they are actions you can just take. If given license to plan and take forever you will.
Forget about the elaborate schemes, for now, look for the first opportunity, in those first five minutes and take it.
Remember the simplest solution is usually the solution you need. Don’t overthink it, don’t overcomplicate it. Just think it and go do it right away.
All I needed was to be brave enough to write a few words, and all you need to be brave enough for is to take that first step.
What are you brave enough for right now?
What can you do at this moment?
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How are you going to take action today?