.“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Maybe the biggest problem people have when trying to improve something in their lives is that they never take much action at all.
Perhaps the second biggest problem is that they don’t take consistent action over a longer time period.
Now, consistency isn’t really the sexiest or most exciting word in personal development. But it is, coupled with time, what will give you real results in your life. Sticking with the program and doing something consistently – and not just when you feel inspired or something like that – is very, very powerful.
This is something I have struggled with a lot in the past. And on some days I still do. But over the years I have found a few things that really help me with this.
So today I’d like to share 6 steps and habits that really help me to take consistent action instead of just taking action when I feel inspired or when the weather is sunny.
1. Follow a morning ritual.
This is perhaps the most powerful tip I have found so far in this area. You simply set up a routine in the morning that you do as soon as you wake up. This works so well because what you do early in the day often sets the context for your day.
As humans we have a strong tendency to want to be consistent with what we have done before. That’s one big reason why a bad start often leads to a bad day and a good start often leads to a good day.
So find your own good start to your day, one that helps you. Mine is for example very simple and includes a couple of glasses of water, a good breakfast, some light decluttering in my workspace and getting started with the most important task of the day right away after those first few morning activities.
By doing so I do not get lost in busy work, I pretty much always get something of importance done each day and my day starts out in a creative and inspiring way since my most important task is almost always writing an article or something for a book or a course.
2. When you are taking action, focus only on the process.
I use this, for example, when I workout and when I write. I don’t take responsibility for the results in my mind. I take responsibility for showing up and doing my workout/the writing. The results come anyway from that consistent action. And this makes it easier for me to take this action when I know that is all I need to focus on. Instead of using half of the energy and focus I have available on hoping that I “reach my goal real, real soon”.
Focus on the process and you will be a lot more relaxed and prone to continue than if you stare yourself blind on the potential results that never come as quickly as you want to and puts you on an emotional rollercoaster from day to day.
3. Every day, remember why you are taking action.
Find your top priorities and reasons for why you are doing what you are doing.
It could be to provide for your child, to save up for a big purchase or for traveling, to get the job you really want or to raise your self-esteem. Or something else.
To not lose track of why you are taking action, to stay focused, take a few minutes and write down the top reason(s) and put that note where you can see it every day. Like for example in your work space or near your bed so that you see when you wake up every morning.
Now, on some days it isn’t so easy to use the steps above. So here are two more steps that I use at such times to start moving forward again.
4. Quickly remind yourself that you don’t want to hurt yourself.
Realize that when you disappoint yourself and don’t think and do as you really deep down want to you hurt yourself by lowering your self-esteem.
Whatever you do during your day sends signals back to yourself about what kind of person you are. Do the right thing like being effective, kind, going to the gym or simply rest and you feel good.
Get lazy, negative or just plain mean and you tend to feel worse after a while. You don’t get away, there is no escaping yourself. And there is always a price to pay. This is a powerful motivator to become a better person.
5. Take smaller steps on the days when the big ones seem to daunting.
On some days getting started with that most important task of the day or doing any of the big tasks may seem daunting and you start to procrastinate. When that happens, one thing that has worked for me is to be kind. To nudge myself forward instead of beating myself up.
So at such times I focus on doing a very small and simple task or two. Or I may make a deal with myself to just work for 5 minutes on a bigger and more difficult task. Or if that feels like too much I make a deal with myself for 2 minutes of work.
Sometimes that results in a few dents put into a big task, a couple of smaller tasks being completed and many breaks being taken throughout the day. And sometimes the easy start or restart to the day is all I need to get going again and to have a good and very productive time before the evening arrives.
Either way, I move forward instead of standing still.
6. Celebrate what you did today.
Finally, one habit that you can use at the end of your work hours or before going to bed. When you appreciate your good work you feel even better about your life and yourself and over time taking more action with less inner resistance becomes possible and associated with even more positive emotions.
So take two minutes at the end of the day to think about what you can appreciate about what you did today. Or write down a couple of self-appreciative things in your journal. Have a tasty treat or a bigger celebration. Tell someone how nice something turned out, how you learned a good lesson or how proud you are over something important you did today. Reward yourself for the things you did right today to strengthen your action taking habit.
And remember to be kind to yourself for the things you may have missed or not gotten done. No point in trying to beat yourself up. No point in trying to be perfect. See what you can learn from it and perhaps try another solution tomorrow instead and see if that works better.
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