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The art of taking action (DW#574)

As we said yesterday, keeping busy is different from being engaged in meaningful work.

Gregg Krech puts it well in The Art of Taking Action.

He says: "The Art of Taking Action isn’t simply about keeping busy or checking things off your to-do list. It’s about choosing what to do, how to do it, and the development of character."

So come on. It is time to come clean. At least to yourself. Answer these two questions:

What are you procrastinating on? And
Why does it matter? In other words:
What is the cost of procrastination for you? Why is this a problem?
What would it do for you if you get this task/project done? How would it impact your life in a positive way if this task or project would be done?

Getting crystal clear on your WHY is really really important to push through the times when your inspiration leaves you.

 

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Productive procrastination (DW#573)

Can I share a secret?

When I am working on a creative project, such as writing, planning or working on a presentation, I get very productive. I clean out closets, cook up a storm, get my filing done, find great deals on Amazon, clean out more closets and drawers, organize the pantry . .

Anything to keep busy and stop feeling the anxiety that comes from producing meaningful work. . . .

I call it productive procrastination. A lot of stuff gets done.

Except what really matters.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Just because we are busy, it does not mean that we not procrastinating.

We need to make sure that we are doing work that really matters rather than merely busy work.

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The bad news about inspiration (DW#572)

A couple of days ago we said that the good news about inspiration and motivation was that we all experience it from time to time.

Now here’s the bad news: inspiration and motivation does not last. Meditation teacher Eknath Easwaran puts it this way: people are often heroes at the beginning (the Sanskrit word for this is arambhashura) of a project and take it up with a fanfare of trumpets and enthusiasm but they soon find that their enthusiasm soon "tiptoes down the back stairs."

What this means is that it is perfectly normal for inspiration and motivation to wane over time. The problem is not that we lose motivation for a task but that we stop moving forward when this happens.

So, while inspiration is great to get a project going, it is not a good idea to count on inspiration to help us complete a project.

When inspiration and motivation abandon us (and they will), we do not have to abandon projects that matter. This is the time when we need to remind ourselves about our...

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The law of diminishing intent (DW#571)

Last week we talked about how we need to get into action when we feel inspired.

This week let’s explore this idea of inspiration a little more.

Jim Rohn (who happens to be Tony Robbin’s mentor) talks about what he calls the law of diminishing intent. The law of diminishing intent, he explains, is that the likelihood of doing something diminishes the further away you get from the initial moment of inspiration.

In other words, if we don’t take action when we are feeling inspired, and delay it, it becomes much less likely that we will take action in the future. Our intention to take action diminishes with the passage of time.

This applies whether we are talking about working on our relationship,

starting a new project or doing something that we have always wanted to do.

The more an idea sits on our "someday list" the less likely it is that it will actually get done.

So here is what we need to do on capitalize on inspiration and motivation when it does strike: get in...

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The good news about inspiration (DW#570)

You have moments of inspiration, don’t you? Moments when you feel really really motivated and inspired to take action on your task or project. The good news about inspiration is that we all experience it from time to time.

It would be wise for you to capitalize on this inspiration. And start taking action immediately. Today. Not in the future. Now.

Experts in motivation tell us that the longer we wait between feeling inspired to do something and actually doing it, the more our own image of ourselves erodes. Along with our confidence in getting the job done.

So the moment you feel inspiration, please don’t delay, over analyze it or second guess it. Or try to do it perfectly.

Simply get up and get into motion.

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The bad news about the future (DW#569)

Have you ever told yourself that you don’t have time this week to do what matters but you will for sure next week? Next week you will be organized and have more time. Next week, things will magically work out and what distracts you today, will surely sort itself out next week.
 
It turns out that this is a very common human tendency. We tend to overestimate the time that we will have in the future.
 
The line from the musical Annie comes to mind: Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow. You are always a day away . . .
 
As lovely and positive as that thought may be, the reality, it turns out, it quite different. We are no more organized the next day than we are today. Tomorrow is likely to be just like today. We will be busy and distracted and have a long list of urgent things that will crowd out the important.

So our future will be just like our present. Unless we do something different. And start taking action on what matters. Not tomorrow and not...

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You can take action despite your fears. (DW#568)

Can I tell you a little secret?

The most successful people in the world have the same fears that you and I do. Fears regarding failure, criticism and not meeting standards set by themselves and others. 

Really and truly. 

The only difference is that they take action despite their fears and their anxiety. 

The strength of their purpose is greater than the fears and the doubts that they experience. 

Really. 

You and I can also choose to act despite how we feel. 

Repeat after me: 
Feel the fear and take action anyway. 
Feel the fear and take action towards your goals. 
Feel the fear and take action towards your goals. 

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The anxiety of taking action (DW#567)

I really like how Neil Fiore explains our tendency to procrastinate in his book The Now Habit.

He says that procrastination is our way of coping with the anxiety that accompanies starting or completing any task or making any decision. 

According to him, we procrastinate to deal with feelings of low esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure (and of success), indecisiveness, an imbalance between work and play, ineffective goal-setting, and negative concepts about work and ourselves. 

It makes sense right? Think about something you are procrastinating about. And check in with yourself. What are the underlying feelings you are trying to deal with? 

Are you concerned that the task or project will not be done perfectly? Are you scared that once done, people can criticize your work (or worse, YOU)? Are you concerned that you will not measure up to your own (perhaps unreasonable?) standards of perfection?

Naming your fears and concerns is the first step to taming...

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Taking action is rather risky (DW#566)

One of the risks of completing any task or project is that once it is done, we realise that it is not perfect. Despite our best efforts we may still not succeed fully at what we tried. Moreover, people may criticise our efforts or our project. Putting ourselves out there makes us very vulnerable. 

Also, when we are in the process of doing one thing, we cannot do other things. Once we start taking committed action on one thing, we are losing the opportunity to do other things. At least at that time. We can experience major FOMO (Fear of missing out).

In other words, if we do not take action and we do not complete projects we save ourselves from the risk that accompanies any action. We are safe from failure, criticism and from having to decide on priorities. 

The ship of our life is safe in harbour. 


But here is the thing about ships: yes, ships are safest when they are docked in the harbour. 

But that is not what ships are built for, are they?

When we are out there in...

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Have you heard of procrasti-pain? (DW#565)

Did you know that you can feel physical pain when you think about doing something that you are procrastinating on?

Barbara Oakley shares some fascinating research about procrastination in her book A mind for Numbers.

She claims that you can take people who hate doing math and scan their brains and actually SEE their pain centers light up as they contemplate having to do math! In other words, when they think about math, they feel physical pain. Weird right?

But it gets very interesting. When her research subjects actually start doing the math (rather than thinking about it) those pain centers turn themselves off!!

In other words, the anticipation of doing a task which they thought was unpleasant caused the pain. But the pain went away when they actually started doing the task.

This point is worth reading again and again and memorizing:

PROCRASTIPAIN IS THE ANTICIPATION of doing something unpleasant. And the cure for procrastipain is to start doing the task.

...

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