When you want to do those things you never do: 12 tips to action: Part Two

Last week, I started to write about what helped me get unstuck and take action on the things I have always wanted to do. Taking the active steps I outlined: create a vision board, make a list, don’t hide the list, schedule what matters, maximize your time, find a partner in crime are real things you can do to get started.

One main aspect to consider is your mindset. I find doing the actions listed above helps me get into the right, motivated mindset. Mindset is tricky. There is no magic potion you can drink or pill you can swallow to give you internal motivation and a can-do/must-do mindset. But, if you engage in making a vision board or making a list, this will help get your brain jump-started.

Honestly, even daydreaming is a good start. If you can visualize in your head, you can record those feelings and thoughts as a means to move in a new direction. When was the last time you allowed yourself to look out the window and just let your mind wander? Maybe this is common in our current circumstance but let it happen and write down what comes to mind.

Talking to others can trigger something. No need to be all inside of your head. Bounce your thoughts off of others. Even if Whiskers, your cat, is the only one around, tell him. While he can’t give you advice (or, if he could, he would tell you to go back to sleep like him), he can be another being you can verbalize your thoughts to. Writing down ideas helps to crystallize. Vocalizing ideas out loud, even to your cat, can help spark other things.

I know my household probably thinks I am nuts because I talk to myself. I don’t hold conversations with myself (that would be more concerning) but I do vocalize certain things to help me get clear. I record myself on my phone as well because it helps me think of the next step or related thought.

Once you get your thoughts out of your head through writing or verbalizing, there are many other actions you can take to push yourself forward.

7. Knock out the first time. The first time doing anything is the hardest. There is no way around it. Cutting out sweets, beginning that resume, starting that project plan, exercising, remodeling the basement, minimizing TV — all of these are so hard to do. Why? Because we have been doing (or not doing) them for a long time. Staring at your vision board, having your list in front of you, using your partner to push you, all will help you start. If that doesn’t do it, think about what it will feel like if you don’t take this action. How will you feel then? Worse…I suspect. I finally told myself that if I spend one more year not writing, I will be so disappointed in myself. That did it for me. I couldn’t stand spending more of my life not doing what I wanted to do. I couldn’t think about planning for another year without actually doing something about it. I didn’t want to stare at any more old lists that didn’t have one checkmark on it.

8. Find the value in a checkmark. When you have that list in front of you, physically check things off. There is nothing more satisfying than completing a task. If you are a list maker, this is what you live for — the chance to cross something off or put a green checkmark by it. This sense of accomplishment is its own reward and helps push you to keep going. Even if you’re not a list maker, completing something feels good. It gives us a sense of purpose and some level of achievement. This can lead to other checkmarks. Pretty soon, a sea of checkmarks gets you to your goal. There is nothing more dissatisfying than seeing a list look pristine. Clearly written actions without a single checkmark. Checkmarks beget other checkmarks. Start crossing off your actions.

9. Build tasks into habits. Habits start with that first time. One of my secrets is to not just create a list for the first time you want to accomplish something. This is where I see a lot of people fall down. They get up the nerve to start but that action doesn’t become a habit. It ends up being one checkmark on a list but died after that one time. Create to-do lists for every week. If you want to do more hiking, have that on your list every week! If you want to find a new job, have that plan spread every single week until you achieve your goal of a new job. I find that after a month of doing something, I actually feel guilty when I don’t do it. Take exercise. When I skip kickboxing, I feel terrible. I know this is important to me. I let myself down when I don’t do it. When you reach this point, you know you are good. You have hit a stride and have formed a habit that will stick with you.

10. Cut yourself a break. Now, as I mentioned above, things happen. Schedules are not always 100% predictable or go as planned. So, while you may feel guilty about not starting that book, knitting that scarf for Aunt Rose or eating more vegetables, cut yourself some slack if you miss one time. If you didn’t start your resume on Monday as planned, then start it on another day that week. Likely, you have a good reason for not being able to do it. If you don’t have a good reason, then think about why you skipped it. Did you just not feel like it? I get it. Maybe Monday wasn’t the best day then. But, try for Tuesday. Have some grace for yourself but don’t let yourself off the hook for next time.

11. Celebrate success. Oftentimes, we forget that we did a lot of new things. We took action and we see results. We are with ourselves all day, everyday. It can be difficult to stop and think that we had some success. The checkmarks help but take breaks to reflect. Just like people who rarely see you can tell when you’ve lost weight when you can’t really see it. The same applies here. When you are in the middle of it, it is harder to see that we really did something pretty cool. Make time to be cool. Recognize you are cool and ask your partner to celebrate your coolness with you.

12. Create momentum. Doing all of these things can help create momentum. Don’t rest on your laurels. After patting ourselves on the back and basking in our coolness, keep moving. We don’t want to get caught in the trap of success and stop. Success breeds success. Action breeds action. Take a break but don’t let that break be permanent. Move on to the next thing. We all have many gifts to share and we must share them. Never stop planning, dreaming or creating visuals and lists to motivate ourselves.

I mentioned last time that I have read several personal motivation books over the last couple of years. They are sometimes called self-help books. Whatever the name of the genre, I believe reading or hearing others’ words can help us get out of our head and get inspired to act. Those books helped me get unstuck and realize that I had more to give, more to do than my job. Even though I love my job, I can do other things.

I hope you find what your “thing” is that must be done in 2021. Visualize it, write it down, share it with others and take action. Make the act of doing a habit. Cut yourself a break from time to time and celebrate your little wins. Every checkmark is a win. Checkmarks will help you build momentum to change your routine, change your life. Good luck!

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