6 Simple Habits That Will Help You To Take Consistent Action Towards What You Want

by Henrik Edberg

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Image by Shermeee (license).

.“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.

If you found this article helpful, then please share it with someone else by using the buttons below. Thank you! =)





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{ 31 comments }

Elizabeth Ann Stewart March 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I really like what you said about taking small steps on the days when big steps seem daunting. I think the 2 biggest enemies of consistency are not seeing results and failing over and over again. People used to tell me to go for big goals without fear but then didn’t tell me that I needed to take smaller steps and have small wins for me to stay motivated and feel like I am on the right track.
Setting myself up to win was one of the hardest lessons I learned, but knowing it has made my life MUCH happier.

Daphne Gray-Grant March 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm

This is a great post! Point # 5 particularly resonates with me and the authors I work with. People often feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing a book. But when I point out that they have to produce only 307 words per day, five days a week, they quickly relax.

The big scary monsters are actually pretty easy to tame into submission!

Lucy March 30, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I love this. What a positive way to focusing on getting what you want. It’s so easy for me to focus on my failures rather then focuse on my accomplishment. Thanks for the reminder focus on the process and not on the overal picture. You’re such a motivator. I always look forward to your posts. shared it :)
http://findyoursparkle.blogspot.com/2012/03/cute-spring-apron-giveaway.html

Ani March 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Very useful ! I am just starting. hopefully things will become easier soon…

Tajalli Rahman March 31, 2012 at 6:14 am

This is such a great article. I have read many articles and self help books that tell me how to take the first step of getting motivated and deciding to take action when trying to get something you want. I read these books and articles because I sometimes find myself slacking at work or school. I already know what I want in the future; I want to finish my undergrad and move forward to medical school eventually. I also know what I have to do and I have several days maybe weeks of hard work and then I get worn out and lose that consistency. I really feel these six simple steps will help me stay on track this time around so I can finish this spring semester strong and carry on these new habits to the next semester.

Dennis - selfhelpURLs April 1, 2012 at 3:59 am

Thanks for the advice!

I love the 3rd step: “Every day, remember why you are taking action.”

I believe that’s huge motivator for us to put more effort and focus on things we are doing to reach our goals.

Now I remember, whenever I think because I want to provide a better for my the other half, usually my productivity will increase by at least 300%. (smile)

Great share! Thanks!

Regards,
Dennis

Ben April 1, 2012 at 6:44 am

Hi,
It’s definately good to build habits, one important step that i’ve found that can go along with any of those steps is actually letting go of what is stopping you from taking these steps, taking action, doing these things that you want to do.

Because if you want to take action on something and all these emotions are stopping you in your subconscious mind, you can use willpower for a while, but in the end these emotions and past programming your holding onto will win out.. until you learn to let go of it.

After using several different things I now regularly use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and it’s different variations for it. One thing i’ve been doing recently is focusing on a certain thing I want to do, but my emotions don’t want me to (such as exercise which I worked on through the week.) I noticed all the stuff coming up inside, emotions.. sensations etc.

And tapped it away with EFT, and if any memories come up I then worked on them.. and back into exercising again after putting it off. :)

The memories thing is more advanced, but is a powerful application!

-Ben

Tez April 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Great advice, as always. I especially agree with following a morning ritual and breaking big tasks down into smaller, more manageable blocks. Two great ways to feel empowered through tiny rituals.

kiapop April 2, 2012 at 4:19 am

Thank you for another superb article. Now to put each point into practice. Baby steps is the first step I hope to take.

Love and light

Tony April 2, 2012 at 6:48 am

Good article and so many points to identify with, especially #6. – Celebrate what you did today. My personal take on this is to “Enjoy the process.” Many focus on the end goal and forget about the process that happens in-between. Without the process, there is no end goal. When we enjoy what occurs between point A. and B. we’re more likely to achieve our desired goal. Thank you

Tia April 3, 2012 at 6:01 am

Thank you for the amazing article. Taking action always presents a big problem to me.

Jeromy April 3, 2012 at 7:53 am

Love your points! They can really be applied to anything. Laying out the process, observing and working with the possible negatives, and moving forward through the process are all essential. Realizing that it will not all be easy, and consider taking smaller actions towards the end result can make it less daunting. It is so important to celebrate the accomplishments and apply that positive energy to the next task at hand. Just keep it going and keep moving forward one step at a time.

Thanks for your post!

Marien Perez April 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Great post!

What I most like is your advice on reminding ourselves why we are doing what we are doing. What’s the point?

I find for me this works best when I do it at night, before I go to sleep. What’s the most compelling reason for me to get out of bed tomorrow?

Then, when the alarm sounds at 5.15 and all I want is hide, I remind myself of that compelling reason. And that’s it, I’m off.

Holly April 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Oh your opening quote is so true. However when I was like I used to be, stuck in my child state/my ego, I always knew best.

I hope you don’t mind me sharing this inspirational film about the women who dragged me kicking and screaming into my wonderful happy adult and away from my addictive and destructive patterns.

Shirley Yanez-The Brutal Truth

Henrik Edberg April 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Thank you all for your kind words, great insights and added tips! :)

April April 3, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I love this! Good tips!

Sandra / Always Well Within April 3, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I really like these suggestions because they are not superficial in any way. Like you, a morning routine works great for me. I also love the idea of focusing on the process and not the outcome. Focusing on one change at a time, I also find very effective. Thank you.

Grady Pruitt April 4, 2012 at 6:27 am

I really like the last two. When I do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Month) and am trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days, I’m always trying to reach a daily goal of 1667 words. But there are days where this seems to be a challenge. But by doing at least some work, and celebrating even that tiny success, I’m able to keep the momentum going that I need to be able to reach the 50K mark by the end of the month.

In the last two weeks, I’ve been working to overcome the procrastination of the previous 3 months, and I have been doing the same thing: At least doing something and celebrating what I was able to achieve. It has been helping reach my minimum goals for the week, which, in turn, will help me get to my minimum goals for the month.

Thanks for sharing these great strategies!

The Writer @ Furries and The Happy Club April 4, 2012 at 11:41 am

This is the most realistic and doable blog post I have read in a long time.

I congratulate you on writing about reality and not just Self-help for perfect people ( they don’t exist anyway).

This is what we try to do in The Happy Club.

Do you have a Furry? Everybody should have a Furry!

Tiffani April 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm

#2 and #3 are the ones that I have the most trouble with, although I can’t say I have the other tips completely down. However, the two mentioned above are my weakest points. Losing focus of the big picture, and also losing myself in the process, but not in a positive aspect. I get overwhelmed and do the work, but maybe not focusing on it enough to yield potentially good quality results. I want try, like you, to focus, not on the outcome, not on finishing, but the work itself, and let it happen naturally. Easier said than done though!

Any case, great posting, a good reminder for those who have a wandering mind and don’t engage enough in the moment, for better or for worse.

Justlife April 5, 2012 at 9:11 am

Very useful tips, Henrik! I normally stick to #3 – “remember the reasons for pursuing that goal” to keep me going. But not just to remember, I try to ‘feel it’ once in a while as if I’ve already achieved it. This is to reignite my passion to attain the goal.

clement sadjere April 6, 2012 at 1:08 am

I am inspired by the depth of content here. So glad i found these amazing tips.

Janice April 6, 2012 at 3:06 am

Interesting post. I like the 6 steps you use. Many people think they know what they want in life and when someone asks them they have difficulty expressing what they want in words. A suggestion: find a quiet place, meditate to clear out all the stuff in your head, then feeling relaxed write down what you want to achive over the next week. Break each goal down into smaller steps ot chunks. Each day write a to do list and start towards your goal. Just take one small step at a time. At the end of the week, stop. take a moment and reflect on all the small wins you have! Remember failure is only feedback :)

Anurag Sharma April 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Awesome article. The second point about Focus is very nice….

Pat April 8, 2012 at 12:21 am

Dear Henrik!
I apologise in advance for my comment being a bit “off track” but I discovered your blog just a couple of hours ago, and I am reading, reading, reading and smiling, smiling, smiling and feeling my eneregy rising with each entry!
So – this comment is mostly about a GREAT THANK YOU!
Pithy and meaningful entries shared with such warmth and sincerity!
You prove to me that happiness indeed is contagious!
Tusen tack and love from Pat in Malmo.

Melissa from Quotes for a friend April 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm

These are great! I love number 6! So often we forget to celebrate the small things that lead up to the big things. This is also something I am discovering for myself.

jessie April 12, 2012 at 2:41 am

This is a great blog. I used the morning routine to help me achieve amazing weight loss results. I found that people are basically habitual and it is easier for us to have a routine to follow. I think this was a major factor in my success.

Rad April 12, 2012 at 5:51 am

I love #2. I think our ENTIRE LIVES are a one big process. We’ve been conditioned to look at the future, the results; instead of focusing on the present moment. I’ve been making a commitment to being happy in my daily life, instead of seeking satisfaction in the fulfillment of a goal.

Ali Davies April 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Great points.
One I would add to the list, that I have found extremely powerful, is to have an accountability buddy. I speak to mine every Monday. We have a short call about what each of us is going to do that week, any potential obstacles, brainstorm ideas etc. Knowing we have to report back the next week is a powerful incentive not to mention helping keep momentum gonig.

Carlos Marin April 17, 2012 at 3:00 am

Thank you for this amazing article. One of the main keys to success is taking action. Like Tony Robbins says, “Breakthroughs can’t occur until action is taken”. I appreciate the quick reminder!

Radhika April 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I just happened to stumble across your blog and it is wonderful. I have been reading some Buddhist Meditation books and attending a Bhagavad Gita class and it’s helped me get through my breakup. Your blog simply reinforced the whole concept that really in the end, you are in control of your life and it’s up to you to put a positive spin on it. Thank you so much for your positive words.

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