Focus on Action, Not Inspiration – Tool #7

This month, we’re talking about tools you can use to make healthy changes in your life, especially changes you find hard to make. Yesterday we talked about expecting to encounter resistance and learning to overcome it.

Today, I want to encourage you to focus on action and not wait for inspiration to strike.

Remember what we said about resistance, that it’s a series of feelings, thoughts, and actions that kick in automatically, as soon as you start to make any kind of positive change in your life. Resistance can take the form of negative feelings (“I don’t deserve it”), thoughts (“I can’t do it”), or actions (“I might as well just take a quick look at Facebook…”) – and it can be blatant or very subtle. It affects everyone to some degree, and no one can avoid it completely.

But, you can outsmart it. Or at least set it off to the side, and refuse to give it any power to derail your efforts to live a healthier life, create a happier marriage, pursue a goal or dream, or make any other kind of positive change. (Includes affiliate links)

And one of the most powerful ways to overcome resistance is to focus on action, not inspiration. 

If you’re like me, you probably want to be inspired to try something new or create something different. Inspiration just seems so…. lofty.

And there’s nothing wrong with feeling inspired to make a positive change – it’s kind of nice to experience the inspiration you need to start eating healthier, exercising, building a business, writing a book, or pursuing any other big goal.

It’s nice, but it’s not enough. Because inspiration is fleeting and fickle. Some days you may experience it in spades, and then for weeks (or months!) it’s nowhere to be found. And when it disappears, resistance opens the door and walks right in – “See, you really don’t need to make those changes.” “That’s too hard for you.” “You aren’t the best person to do that.” “Why did you think that would work?” “It never works when you do that.” “What about your family?”

And on and on.

And that’s why you should enjoy inspiration when it shows up, but not worry about it when it abandons you.

Instead, you need to focus on action – taking the steps you know you need to take, one at a time, to reach your goal. Because the thing that will get you where you want to go is action – actually hundreds of little actions, taken over weeks and months, that move you forward one step at a time.

In the book “The War of Art,”   Stephen Pressfield talks about a famous author who was asked if he writes on a schedule or only when inspiration shows up. He answered, “I write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at 9:00 sharp.” In other words, the author did not wait for inspiration to strike. He set a schedule for taking action and followed it regardless of inspiration.

And that’s what you should do too. You need to set a schedule, create habits, and/or make changes in your environment that will allow you to move forward with your goal or dream, regardless of inspiration. The specific steps you’ll take will depend on the change you’re trying to make and your life and family situation, but they might include:

  • Reserving time in your schedule for the actions you need to take.
  • Saying “no” or “not now” to other people’s requests.
  • Developing a new habit and practicing it every day.
  • Removing things from your life and environment that prevent you from taking action.
  • Ignoring the voices – your own and those of other people – that encourage you to do anything but take action.

For me, with my goal of consistently eating a very healthy diet and losing 10 pounds and keeping it off this year, action looks like this (ideally – it’s still a work in progress!):

  • Make a weekly meal plan, make a grocery list, and order or shop for groceries on Saturday
  • Prep food on Sunday – cut up salad vegetables for the week and make healthy lunches to take to work
  • Use an app to track meals and snacks
  • Walk 10,000 steps per day
  • Do strength and flexibility exercises 4 days a week
  • Eat almost all meals at home.

If I commit to doing those 6 things, and if I keep doing them over several months, I will reach my goal – regardless of whether or not I ever become “inspired” to do any of them.

And if you commit to doing those kinds of things – taking steps that will lead you toward your goal or dream, regardless of how “inspired” you feel – you’ll get where you want to go too.

Use the Tool – In the next two days, take a look at where you are on the “inspiration vs. action” continuum. Find areas in which you’re waiting for the always-elusive “inspiration,” when in fact you just need to be taking action. Then make an action plan that will help you move forward toward the change you want to make or the goal you want to reach this year. List specific actions that you’ll take consistently (every day or every week) to get going and build the momentum you need..

I’d love to know how taking action works for you – or if you tend to wait for inspiration! Leave a note in the Comments, or email me at hello @ healthylifetoolbox.com.

You can find all of the tools in the Healthy Life Toolbox here.

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