Take action

Why you can’t seem to take action (and what to do about it)

When you know you want to take action and you’re not sure exactly how to start, how you would do it, or if it would work, it can be really easy to think it to death.

This amazing thing you want to do might be the best idea ever. You may be talking about it, and even planning it out in your head, but you’re never quite ready to take action, never ready to do like Nike says and “just do it.”

I get it. It’s hard to take action when one minute you think it’s the best idea ever and the next minute you’re thinking: Maybe it won’t work; people will think it’s stupid; Yeah, right. Me?.

That’s resistance holding you back.

And at the heart of resistance is fear … fear of rejection, ridicule, failure. (“Resistance” is wonderfully addressed in Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. Click here for book review.)

Fear plays a tremendous role in what we do and a huge role in what we don’t do. Instead of getting started and taking action we think about it and consider it over and think about it more and in all that time of thinking, we do nothing.

Here’s an example. I’ve had this blog for a few years. It’s changed a lot in that time, especially as I’ve shifted my focus to writing novels. In the Spring of this year I got very involved with my second book, A Song for Love and was in the revise/edit mode for a while, wrestling with the manuscript. I felt like I really needed to focus on that, which I did.

Maybe that was an excuse, but I stopped blogging and focused on the rewrite and publishing. I published the book and then, instead of getting back to the blog, I started another project.

It’s hard to admit this, but I’ve been thinking about this for months and every time I started writing a blogpost, even if it was in my head, Resistance shut me down. I’d think, I don’t have anything important to say. And besides, who cares what I say? Do my thoughts even matter?

I wanted to get back to it and I thought about it a lot, but no idea was good enough, so I did nothing.

I’ve thought about my inaction a lot (too much actually. That’s one of the pitfalls of being an analytical person.) and thought maybe what I’ve learned from this most recent experience can help someone else.

These are a few lessons that helped me and may help you, too.

Get started already!

I often wonder which is harder–starting or finishing? It depends, I suppose. But I do know that you’ll never finish if you don’t start. And you have to start from where you are. It’s okay if you have to start small. Little by little adds up to a lot.

Aim for progress over perfection.

Most first attempts are awkward and far from perfect, but don’t let that stop you from working to improve. Celebrate your victories and all you’re learning along the way.

Nothing says commitment like action.

Thinking about and planning your way toward your huge, audacious goal is important and necessary, of course. But at some point, you have to stop talking about it and DO IT!

Give yourself a chance.

This idea is a little harder to communicate, so please bear with me, but it relates to the notion that whatever it is that you feel like you want to do was put in your heart for some other purpose. In other words it’s not really about you. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about resistance and how something flashes in your head, you get an idea, and then you get a surge of resistance that just makes you think, Oh that’s a stupid idea and you kill it before it has a chance to come alive. He gives the example of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, those first four notes, Duh, duh, duh, dah. Three of those notes were the same. That must have seemed silly on some level. He could’ve said, That doesn’t even make sense. But he didn’t do that.

Not convinced?

I was watching a story about the creation of the soundtrack to the movie, Jaws. When John Williams first presented his idea to for the soundtrack, Steven Spielberg thought he must have been joking. It was only two notes … Duunn, nuh, Duuun, nuh. It wasn’t until they matched those same two notes with the film of the circling, man-eating shark, that they were like, Holy cow! It’s perfect!

The Jaws soundtrack became iconic. It still is. You hear those two notes in that sequence, Duunn, nuh. Duunn, nuh, and you know that means something bad’s about to go down.

So the point here is that even though you may not think you could create something as amazing as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or the soundtrack to Jaws, no doubt, neither did they.

So what are you waiting for?

Stop waiting for the perfect moment. Identify what is holding you up and keeping you from taking action. Then please put those reasons, excuses, and obstacles aside and start were ever you are. Take the first step because that is the only way to gain momentum, to move forward. You never know where it will go and what you can do.

Time is relentless. It just goes and goes. Think about this: If you take action toward your goal today and do a little something every day toward your goal, how far would you get in a week? A month? A year? Crazy, right?

Now, think about not acting and what it will be like a year from now when you look back and think about today, this very moment as you’re reading this. Will you be saying, If only I would’ve started. Where could I be now?

Cue “Jaws” soundtrack and get moving.

Need more motivation to help you get started? Read You have to start somewhere on the blog.

Photo by Mark Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

If not now, when?

If there’s something you want to do in this life, something you think you’re meant to do but just haven’t gotten around to doing for some reason, I encourage you to start.

You may have had reasons, really good, legit reasons for not doing the thing(s) you know you’ve always wanted to do, the 2 most all-encompassing reasons are: not enough time or not enough money.

I was reading a “Dear Heloise” column recently in which a reader wrote to say that Heloise suggests that people should travel to different countries but how can he do that when it’s so expensive and he doesn’t have the money?

Heloise proceeded to make suggestions about how the reader could save and/or earn more money for his trip. She ended her advice with, “Make your next trip your priority.”

And that’s the most important advice: Make your (insert word or phrase for the thing you want to do) your priority.

That’s the only way to make it happen.

Which leads me back to the question: “If not now, when?”

Will you start now? And if not now, when will you make those things you’ve always wanted to do your priority?

No one’s saying you have to forget your commitments and responsibilities. Not at all. But how can your goals and dreams become a reality if you don’t put those goals and dreams in the forefront of your mind and make them your priority?

Start now. It’s okay to start small, but don’t wait.

Working at my desk.

Time goes and goes.

Where has the beginning of 2019 gone? I’m amazed that April is just days away. I have a lot on my goals list this year. Time to re-focus and prioritize.

And I have to ask myself these questions:

  • What do I really want to do?
  • What am I doing to work toward that goal?
  • If nothing, why not? When will it be a priority?

The point is the same as what Heloise explained to her reader.

People can offer numerous creative solutions to help us overcome obstacles in order to reach our goals, but unless we make them a priority they’ll continue to be a thing that will happen “someday”.

If we wait for the perfect moment the path is clear and no obstacles stand in our way, we’ll be waiting for a long time.

Until we make our goals a priority and take steps to make them a reality, those obstacles sound a lot like excuses.

So what is it you want to do? What are you doing now to work toward your goal?

If not now, when?

Read Waiting for “someday” puts dreams out of reach for my own “If not now, when?” moment.

Stretching in Autumn photo courtesy of Pixabay published on strong-woman.com

It’s November! A Great Time to Commit to a Healthy Lifestyle

November is here! Leaves are changing, mornings are brisk (for some), and Thanksgiving is only weeks away. It’s a great time to commit (or re-commit) to a healthy lifestyle, to choose nutritious food and be active every day.

“What?!” You may be thinking to yourself. “The holidays are coming up and that means lots of food, parties and crazy schedules! Commit to a healthy lifestyle? No way! It’s a terrible time to start. I’ll start right after the holidays!”

Fall orchard picture courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
Apple Orchard in Fall

Nope. Do it now. Carpe diem. Every day’s a great day to do something good for your health.

A healthy lifestyle is something you strive for every day. It isn’t temporary. Even if you have a long way to go, start small and build up to where you want to be. Small steps make a big difference in your mental and physical well-being. And remember, no one’s perfect and you don’t need to be perfect either.

Not sure what to do? Need directions to the Starting Line?

Here are some suggestions in the area of nutrition and exercise you can do to start your healthy lifestyle now.

Make good nutrition choices

  1. Cook at home. If holiday schedules mean meals on the run, plan ahead and be prepared with frozen vegetables, jar sauces, quick cook grains, etc. Choose minimum ingredient foods when possible. (Read “How to Read a Food Label” for more information.) Even a little bit of meal prep will go a long way to get dinner on the table faster, healthier, and less expensive than going through the drive through.
  2. Eat healthy snacks. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are excellent choices. This can help prevent you from getting over-hungry which can keep you from making good food choices.

    Salad phot courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
    Choose healthy snacks.
  3. Practice portion control. Rather than completely cutting out your favorite not-so-healthy foods, serve yourself a small amount and enjoy it. This will keep you from feeling deprived of the foods you love.
  4. Avoid “saving yourself” for the big meal. You may think it’s a good idea to “save yourself” for the big office potluck or holiday buffet. You’d be better off eating nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day so that you’re in a better frame of mind to continue to make good choices.
  5. Be mindful of your beverage choices. Sugary drinks, juices, and ciders are high in calories. Drink water throughout the day. Try flavoring water with lemon, mint, lime, or other fruit.

    Mineral water photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
    Flavor water with lemon, lime, or other fruit.

Stay Active

Make it a lifestyle. Do it for you and those you love.

Recent research confirms that lack of physical activity increases risk of chronic illness like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control:

“Regular physical activity helps improve your overall health and fitness, and reduces your risk for many chronic diseases.”

Here are some suggestions to get you started:
  1. Take the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator.

    Stairway photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com
    Take the stairs.
  2. Track your steps and set a goal of 10,000 steps a day. Most smart phones have a built in step tracker. There are many wearable fitness trackers such as Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, or pedometer. Work up to your goal by starting small and gradually increasing your steps. Do what you can, even if it’s walking for 10 minutes a day. Remember, something is better than nothing
  3. If you sit a lot during the day, stand up and stretch and/or walk for a few minutes every hour. Set a reminder on your phone or watch. There are exercise and stretch reminder apps for mobile devices for free or for a minimal fee.

    Stretching in Autumn photo courtesy of Pixabay published on strong-woman.com
    Take a minute and stretch.
  4. Park in the farthest parking space and walk to your destination.
  5. Get a work buddy and walk before or after work. During the fall and winter months, daylight hours are short so be safe and walk in a well-lit and busy area. If you work in a building, try walking the halls and staircases.
  6. Join an exercise group. When you find an activity you enjoy and join others who like it as much as you do, you’re more likely to stay committed to it. Read here for benefits of joining a group.
  7. Get an accountability partner. Share your goals with a trusted friend who’ll hold you accountable and encourage you to keep at it. Select some one who understands your challenges, but won’t let you off the hook.

Get started now.

There’s no time like the present to take that first step. Commit to doing one thing at a time and then build from there.

If you already exercise, keep it up. Be flexible and stay as consistent as you can. Remember, something is better than nothing.

Yes, it will soon be the holiday season and it’s as good a time as any to taking steps toward a healthier you. It’s always a great time to take care of yourself so you can do the work you need to do – so you can take care of who and what you need to take care of.

Do you have any strategies to help you stay on track through the holiday season? Please share in the comments below.