Taking Action: Living Your Intentions & Reaching Your Goals
You’ve created some goals and even married them with some really grounded intentions. Are you now wondering how you’ll actually start DOING THE WORK?
Taking action is a tough next step. It almost feels as if you’re free falling. Step 1 and 2 are setting intentions and goals. Understanding what could potentially hold you back from achieving those goals and dreams is step 3. Step 4 is ACTUALLY DOING THE WORK, and it feels like a giant step!
Isn’t there a step 3.5 before actually doing the damn thing?
You’ve planned, researched, and are ready to actually DO THIS…. but maybe you procrastinate. Or feel you aren’t quite ready, more planning is needed. Or worse yet, you’ve talked yourself out of the idea because of [insert your excuse here].
THIS IS PART 3 OF A 5 PART SERIES ON THE MAGIC SAUCE IN ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS & DREAMS. CHECK OUT PART 1 and Part 2!
This series explores how to REALLY (LIKE FUH REAL!) conquer your goals. It takes a clear, honest and fresh approach to traditional goal setting. If you’re like most people, setting goals is fine and dandy, but the money is in the mastery, and I bet many of us fall short of accomplishing that list of goals. Each part of this series explores a fresh new perspective on achieving your goals.
I’m so ready to learn how to do the work, start living my intentions and reaching for my goals. Where the hell do I start?
We take action each and every day. We get up, get out of bed, go about our morning and begin scratching tasks off our lists. This is taking action, as simple as can be!
Taking action is deliberate. It’s movement from where you are now to your intended destination. I know I need to be up early to help get the kids up and off to school. Taking action is me doing all the steps required to make that happen.
I’m not sitting around THINKING about doing the work…. even though some mornings I stare at the ceiling and wonder why life is so unfair and I swear I just closed my eyes and I could strike up a pretty mean bargain to just stay in bed for another hour and….
Taking action is movement from here to there. The steps in between can be large or small. You can break down the journey into a series of small steps, each one propelling you ever closer to your destined goal.
Seems simple enough, yes? But breaking this down into its simplest form is important because taking the first steps is often where the system first breaks down.
Let me tell you what taking action IS NOT. Taking action is not continuing to research your goal/idea/dream. There is a distinct difference between the planning phase and the execution stage. If you’ve already done the work in the planning stage, I’m here to give you a little kick in the ass to MOVE TOWARDS ACTION.
Look, I’m the world’s best planner. I get stuck in the hamster wheel of planning and researching. It’s MY JAM. It’s comfortable. It piques my Type A brain and provides a really addicting feedback loop: Idea - Research - Good feels about how I’ll make this a reality - Fear About Starting - More Research - More good feels….
See how it’s easy to get stuck “in the loop?”
Why Taking Action is Really Flipping Hard
Fear. Perfectionism. Distraction. Overwhelm.
There are so many ways we get in our own way. We dug into fear and other ways we get in our own way in Part 2. If you haven’t read it, be sure to give it a go because it really hits home on why we sabotage ourselves from moving from PLANNING to taking ACTION.
Instead of acting, we usually keep our minds busy to make us feel like we’re actually DOING. I love you, and I’m going to call you on your bullshit.
Instead of taking action, we:
Plan - we continue to plan out, in detail, how we’ll reach our goals.
Research - we continue to research, thinking more info is better.
To-Do Lists - we create endless “to-do” lists without actually scratching items off the list.
Indecision - we get lost in the process because we can’t make definitive decisions on which step to take next.
Perfectionism - we push back taking action until we GET IT JUST RIGHT.
Procrastinate - we find anything else to do other than THE WORK.
Distraction - we spend too much time on shit that doesn’t propel us towards our goals and living our intentions…. Mindless scrolling on instagram or facebook IS NOT taking action.
How to Start Taking Action NOW
First off, you need to focus on NOW. Your goals are likely destinations in the future. Your intentions are set in the here and now. Who do you want to be NOW? How do you want to feel? You need to focus on LIVING your INTENTIONS. That’s the magic to achieving your goals!
Focus Your Energy
You probably already identified a few goals and intentions. You CANNOT and SHOULD NOT attempt to focus on all of them at once. Repeat: A jack of all trades is a master of NONE. Like, NONE. Ask me how I know…
Look through your list of intentions and goals. What’s 1-3 goals that you really want to focus on first? Which one makes the most sense in your life right now?
Now, choose the accompanying intention and set it for the day, week, month, quarter, year, etc. For instance, let’s say you really want to focus on your goal of exercising 3x/week. Your accompanying intention is to feel healthy and strong in your body. You REALLY want to be consistent in the gym all year long. So, you’ve chosen to tackle this goal first, because you know it’s going to take you AT LEAST a month to make this a new habit.
Why don’t you set your intention, “I want to feel healthy and strong in my body,” for the next month? Keep it on the top of your mind each day. Maybe you journal about it. Maybe you write down gratitudes each day, and be sure to include how grateful you are for the opportunity to start implementing your new workout program.
The point is to have laser-focus on 1-3 goals at a time. I am NOT GREAT at multitasking… ask Trav, I attempt to cook and do all kinds of other shit in the kitchen to feel more productive. I burn my sweet potatoes EVERY. DAMN. DAY. I happily scrape them out of the pan, stick them on my plate and dub them, “Country Potatoes,” like, somehow adding the title “country” makes up for the fact they are charred little cubes of carbohydrates.
This is where you are going to need to sift through your goals and intentions. Which ones are you going to focus on FIRST? Now, find the accompanying intention you’ve already set, and let it GUIDE your laser-focus on that goal.
Ok, but when do I begin switching it up and focusing on other goals?
You can refocus on other intentions and goals when:
A) You feel feel you’ve been living your intention the MAJORITY of the time.
B) You feel you’ve created the necessary habits to live that intention.
C) Your habits are directly putting you on the pathway to success to reach your goal
If you cannot meet the above criteria, you need to continue focusing on that particular intention and goal. Remember, a habit takes at least 30 days to form, often longer. Don’t abandon your intention and goal if you haven’t quite created the habits necessary. You may just need to focus a bit longer.
Small Bites at a Time
Trav always tells me the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I don’t know why we’re talking about eating elephants, but whatev. I get what he’s saying:
“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”
Take out that list of intentions you wrote down from Part 1. Start breaking down the intention and goal into ACTIONABLE STEPS.
Intention: I want to feel healthy in my own body.
Goal: I want to implement a whole foods way of eating into my life at least 80% of the time.
Action: Write out a shopping list that includes far more fresh produce than packaged goods.
Action: Shop the outer aisles in the grocery store as much as possible.
Action: Focus on changing ONE meal of your day at a time. Create the most nutritious, delicious, whole foods based breakfast, lunch or dinner you can. Really focus your energy on creating ONE meal you can be proud of. Don’t worry about the other meals just yet. Get this one down first, then you can focus on another meal.
Action: If faced with a tough situation that feels it could derail your goals, stay present and work with what you’ve got. For example, if you find yourself needing to travel for work or eating out often as part of your job, you can still keep your intentions in the front of your mind. How can you feel healthy in your own body while navigating these tougher situations? Can you request the restaurant? Look at their menu ahead of time if you know where you’ll be dining out. Can you choose a lean protein, veggies and small portion of starchy carbs? If traveling, can you find a grocery story and stock up on good food for you hotel? Call ahead and request a microwave and small refrigerator for your room. You can reheat chicken, cook sweet potatoes and veggies all in a hotel microwave!
See how I took my intention and my goal and began creating action steps that marry the two? Your action steps WILL NOT be perfect or totally inclusive. THIS IS NORMAL. These are just starting points to BEGIN. You will add to that action list as you do the work. Your action list will change and evolve over time.
These small steps also serve as MINI GOALS. These mini goals allow you to feel success way before you even accomplish that big goal. You can find ways to create small steps each day by creating habits.
It’s important to begin creating new habits to support your intentions and goals. You can sift through your action list above to help you get started with the necessary habits to make your goals a reality.
Consistency is the magic behind creating habits. Consistency is what drives you towards your goals. Our brains are hardwired to take the easiest route possible. For your new intentions and goals, this means your brain won’t automatically change it’s way of thinking just because you’ve decided you’ve got some new goals in mind.
You are going to need to work to create HABITS that will then recreate new neural pathways in your brain. These habits will allow you to rewire your brain so that the habit eventually becomes ROUTINE. The only way to successfully change those pathways: consistency.
Here’s an example:
Intention: I want to stay present.
Goal: I will not use my phone during family time.
Action: I will answer all emails prior to 4pm, when the kids get home from school
Action: I will be mindful of my social media consumption.
Action: I will silence my phone for all calls, texts and notifications. (If it’s an emergency, I have my phone set up so that certain numbers or numbers that call twice in a row will notify me.)
Action: I will put my phone in a designated spot during family time, so I’m not tempted to “check in.”
I can create habits out of the actions above. The easiest way to create new habits is by attaching them to already established habits and routines.
Whether we are aware of it or not, habits are formed with this simple structure loop:
Cue - triggers your brain to initiate a behavior
Action - the actual habit you wish to form. Can be a thought or action.
Reward - the end goal of every habit
In order to form new habits, you need to create cues that trigger the habit loop. Your cues should be OBVIOUS.
If I want to create a new habit of answering my emails before 4pm, I can start looking to set up cues. Because I work from home, I eat breakfast every morning, then typically practice meditation and journaling. I can designate "email time” after breakfast OR after my daily meditation/journaling. Eating breakfast and meditation is an already established routine. I KNOW I’ll be doing it daily. I can then check my email right after I clean up from breakfast or finish meditating. My breakfast or meditation routine serves as my cue to begin my NEW habit of checking my email earlier in the day.
Taking action is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where we move from planning to DOING. There are plenty of ways to get started and taking action. Focusing your energy, small bites at a time and creating habits are the most influential actions in living your intentions and reaching your goals.
Now, you’re ready to DO THIS. At some point in time, your system will break down in some way. Habits won’t stick, motivation will wane, and goals will become pies in the sky. But worry NOT, because we’ll be deconstructing setbacks in Part 4 of our series: The Magic Sauce In Achieving Your Goals & Dreams.